Having interviewed thousands of Aussie business owners and entrepreneurs over the years, My Business editor Adam Zuchetti shares his observations on what separates success from mediocrity.
It’s four years pretty much to the day since I took the editorial lead on a brand that quickly became my world. I lived and breathed everything to do with small and medium business.
The one thing that has stood out for me more than any other is the sheer volume of self-employed people who are inspirational role models for others, even though most don’t realise it themselves.
The woman working all night, every night to keep her business afloat while caring for her terminally ill husband so as to pay the family bills; the multiple individuals who have used self-employment to overcome homelessness and built thriving enterprises in the process; the man who lost everything — his home and his business — to a natural disaster, but worked continuously for several straight days to protect others from facing the same fate.
These are extraordinary actions by people who — at first glance — appear to be very ordinary. Their stories fill you with the full spectrum of emotions, but for them are simply their every day lives.
But there are a few more everyday traits that are common to business owners and entrepreneurs who are happy, prosperous and have a business of which they are proud.
NEVER forget that you work for your customers
I can tell you that pretty much every business out there says they have “great customer service”. Yawn!
If you have to say that, then perhaps you’re not really delivering it. Actions speak for themselves, and if your service is actually great, customers will become raving fans — you shouldn’t have to say your service is great, because customers will see it for themselves.
But service is only one part of that. I guarantee you would be surprised by how many businesses out there forget the core premises that they only exist because customers buy from them. They get comfortable, they potentially continue to get new customers coming in based on their old reputation, all the while their existing customer base are rushing for the exit. At some point, new customers will stop coming in, and then what will they have?
If you take your customers for granted, if you don’t adapt to their changing needs and wants, if you don’t deliver what you say you will, or if you push a product or service on them that you know isn’t really for them, you will lose them — perhaps permanently.
Successful business people know this, and make it their mission to always deliver for their customers what is relevant in the here and now. They know that just because a product or service worked well at launch five years ago, doesn’t mean it’s as great as it could be today. They continue to seek and respond to feedback, and place customer retention — not necessarily growth — ahead of everything else.
Go all in
We’ve all seen the well-worn and repeated stats that the majority of businesses don’t survive their first few years. And for some people, it takes multiple goes in business to find the winning formula.
But the ones who have built strong businesses, that deliver them healthy incomes and healthy, happy lifestyle are always the ones who jump in fully. No sitting on the fence with indecision; no tinkering around the edges or doing things half-arsed.
By all means, they do their homework, research and analysis to test an idea before putting it into action, and rely heavily on customer input and feedback throughout the process. Yet once the decision is made to start a business or launch a new offering, they back themselves and give it their absolute all.
Hard work is, by its very definition, hard — but it’s commitment, resilience and tenacity that make that hard work pay off.
Be good to others
The business world sadly has more than its fair share of dodgy operators and nasty acts, all greedily seeking to pocket as much as they can, as fast as they can.
For the most part, the real achievers in business, though, are the ones that people look up to, respect and admire just as much for their persona as their accomplishments.
They are humble, down to earth, warm and friendly with whoever they meet. And they know that what goes around, comes around — a smile, a kind word, a piece of advice leave a lasting impression. And you never know when you may in turn need that person’s help for something, or if they may become a loyal customer if they’re not already!
Get your house in order
This one is perhaps self-explanatory. Be organised. About everything.
People who have their s**t together find it much — and I mean MUCH — easier to see opportunities as they come along, and to be free from clutter and chaos to orderly develop their plan of attack in seizing said opportunities.
So, to really succeed in your business or professional pursuits, first take stock of how you live and work, declutter, get organised, and then approach the task at hand with an uncluttered mind. If you can’t do that yourself, outsource it — book a cleaner, seek out a professional organiser, hire a PA. Whatever it takes to get you spending your time on where you can add the most value.
As people who’ve come before you can attest, it’s a worthwhile investment, as you’ll be putting more of your time — and better quality time — into actually working on your business goals.
Value your people — all of them
Behind every successful person is a great team. But I’m not just talking about employees here (although they are a crucial part of the mix).
Having a great team around you means people who work for you, people who work with you — think mentors, partners and suppliers, business coaches, industry bodies etc — as well as a strong personal support network of family, friends and personal mentors.
Great leaders acknowledge that they can’t do everything by themselves, and lean on the support, wisdom, skills and experiences of others to help them reach their goals.
Ask for help — always
I’ve seen first-hand that most people are willing to help — and I mean really dig in and help — when you need it. But people aren’t mind readers, which means we need to ask for help.
Regardless of whether that be picking someone’s brains for advice and insights or getting some bodies on the ground to chip and get something done, most people are open and willing to help if they know that their help is needed.
You’d be surprised what you can actually get by asking the question, or offering to buy someone a coffee to have over a chat!
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.