Advertising
Advertising

10 Ways to Build a Successful Business

10 Ways to Build a Successful Business

Ever wonder what it takes to build a successful business? Many people have the talent, but not the right motivation and application. Very smart people with ambition often limit their success through simple mistakes. Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful enterprise!

1. It’s About People

The path to business success is built on personal relationships. If you think the most valuable aspect of school is the information or training, you may have missed many opportunities already. Look around when you’re around colleagues and form meaningful relationships. Take your colleagues out to lunch and dinner. The sooner you form these relationships, the more they can grow. Professional relationships will support you in down times and create opportunities that can make the difference between average and great success. Don’t think of relationships with colleagues as just professional either. Form personal bonds. Invite new colleagues over to your house, get your kids together. Personal relationships are the most meaningful to people, and you may make some great new friends in the process. I can’t tell you how many folks I met in graduate school that said they wanted a future successful business but turned down most opportunities to form relationships with their peers. Don’t confuse ‘professional’ with ‘impersonal’. Personal is professional. The world runs on emotional and personal connections. Much great professional success can come from the bonds you form with others!

2. Don’t Skimp on Marketing

Many new organizations use core staff to market the business even though those individuals don’t specialize in marketing. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs market themselves and do not consider outsourcing the job. Assuming you’re operating along principle 3 (below), bring in pros as soon as you can. Dedicate a percentage of all proceeds to professional marketing. Growth is an engine you need to sustain your business. A few things to keep in mind, however. Much of what is offered in the way of marketing services is overpriced and overrated. Sort through the run of the mill outfits and find someone with above-average talent. Verify best practices by interviewing more than one marketing outfit every year. Effective strategies can change quickly due to evolving technology and social practices. Don’t get caught thinking that your core staff, who may not have specialized training, don’t attend leading marketing conferences, and probably wear too many hats already, are up to the task. You’re probably limiting your success by having non-specialists handle one of the most important aspects of building your business!

Advertising

3. Hit the Pavement

In addition to hiring marketing pros (see above), you need to engage in your own marketing. As the principal figure in your business, marketing yourself will help you to properly evaluate the folks you hire to market on your behalf. And as the core from which your message to the world emanates, engaging in your own marketing will help you refine what you stand for and the value of what you’re offering.

Make brochures and go from business to business talking about what you do. Give free talks at the local library. Design your own business card as an exercise. If you don’t know how to sell yourself, your team will be much less effective. Anytime business gets slow, go back to the pavement and engage in some down-home, grassroots marketing yourself. Put up flyers in coffee shops and bookstores advertising your services. Create a free study group on an area of expertise. Write articles. Do some social media messaging. You should understand the value of your business so well that you can convince anyone in less than a minute that they need what you offer. Rinse and repeat until business picks up.

4. Increase Your Knowledge

Professionals can set themselves apart from the competition by increasing their knowledge in key areas of their field. Knowledge is power, and currency. You can use it to market your advantage over competitors, and to sell clients on the value of your product or services. The most advantageous knowledge is the type few others have. You may need to go outside your local area to find sources of knowledge that is uncommon in your community. Knowledge gets exponentially refined as expertise increases. Top experts will have a quantum grade over others. Knowledge also buys you credibility and access to others with similar knowledge, powering up the size and influence of your network.

Advertising

5. Be Tenacious

Building a successful business often takes sustained effort over time, a tireless belief in the value of what you’re offering, and a refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer. Entrepreneurs find ways through and around any obstacles in their path. They are not deterred. They turn failures into opportunities, and successes into greater successes. You’ll have down days and up days. Treat them like a roller coaster and keep on going. Remember, the weak give up. Don’t be in that group.

6. Seek Advice

You don’t know most of what you don’t know. Then there are the things you know you don’t know, and then the few things you know. Pollinate your mind constantly by seeking sources of inspiration and wisdom. Seasoned elders in your trade are often honored and willing to help if you ask for guidance. Many folks in senior positions want the world to be a better place and a chance to pass down lessons they have learned along the way to eager listeners.

If you meet business people who guard all their secrets, look elsewhere for mentors. Church can be a good place to find a professional mentor, or ask your friend group or family members. Identify the top ten people in your field locally and nationally, and see how many you can meet with to express a desire to learn from them. You should have one or two mentors you meet with regularly. A bonus: If they take a liking to you and if you impress them, they may also open doors for you or send you clients.

Advertising

7. Create Your Own Jet-Stream

Building off of tip #6, find a way to support the work of people you admire. It’s a way to learn from them by being around them and how they function. Talented individuals have a wake that follows their work because of the demand for their skill set. Be in their wake and model after them. You can learn an incredible amount from taking on the qualities of talented mentors, and you get a close-up view of how they operate by helping them in their work. The qualities of great people rub off on those around them. Make yourself useful and you’ll learn by doing. One day, if you become as successful as your role models, you’ll need those skills!

8. Tend to Every Aspect

Building a successful business requires tending to many disparate tasks and areas. This need to be good at different skill sets is one reason it is hard for many to succeed at their own ventures. Bring in consultants to support you in any areas that you don’t have expertise in. Consider this short list of key areas to tend to:

  1. Your content. What you sell, whether it be product or message. Make sure it is clear, relevant, useful and inspiring.
  2. Your self. You are the face of your business. Care for and tend to yourself. You are a walking billboard. Keep that in mind in terms of how you present yourself.
  3. Your audience. What good is a great message/product if no one knows you exist? Focus on building your fan base & database.
  4. Marketing. Includes online, print, PR, advertising, etc.
  5. Design. Makes a big difference, especially in this day of urban, aesthetic-savvy consumers. Get help.
  6. Branding. This matters a great deal. Your brand should be easy to understand and memorable, both linguistically and visually. Don’t muddy the waters with too many names for what you do, divisions, departments, groups, etc. Keep your name and mission focused and in front with everything you do, in-house and with the public.
  7. The technology side. You need to have an effective web presence and consider using technological tools to assist your business. This use of technology goes beyond the typical website. It includes software, analytics, algorithms, information capturing, automating processes, etc.
  8. The business side. We all need a good CEO. Someone with business expertise to consider how they would grow our company. Take a few seminars, consult with your local Chamber of Commerce, and consult experienced veterans. The business world has its own norms and language. You need someone who can speak that language, or teach you how, especially if you plan to partner or collaborate with other businesses.
  9. The legal side. Not be to be ignored. Keep things in order, and ask your attorney to help identify the areas that need attention first.
  10. Your team. As you start attracting quality professionals that can help you, identify a way to tend to them and keep the vision and mission coherent in their minds.

9. Leverage Opportunities

Sounds simple, but few people do it well. When an opportunity comes your way, you get a foot in the door, or a chance to speak to someone influential, it doesn’t just count as the one opportunity, you must think of how to leverage it to create other opportunities. The art of parlaying one success into another will definitely set you apart from folks who take the chances they get but don’t know how to make those part of a larger strategy.

Advertising

10. Make Use of Free Resources

There are many free resources that can help you become a success. Non-profits that support small business non-profits may offer free support. Your local Chamber of Commerce may offer free guidance and networking opportunities. Public universities often have department or office to support entrepreneurs. There are countless Meetups for like-minded business owners and to learn important skills. There are even private organizations that gather the collective wisdom of local executives who donate their time to support local businesses. Make use of the free support before you begin shopping for paid help and you’ll be more informed as to what you actually need.

These 10 tips will definitely put you on the right footing when it comes to launching a small business. Remember, put relationships with other professionals first (and make them personal). Prioritize effective marketing (decide on goals ahead of time, then run regular metrics to test what you’re doing). Seek out mentors and thought leaders, tend to every aspect of your business, leverage your opportunities and plug in to local resources. Now go get ’em!

Featured photo credit: 123RF via 123rf.com

More by this author

The Real Rules of Attraction We Should Stop Neglecting A Step-by-Step Guide To Picking Your Best Mate Common Meditation Mistakes You Can Avoid Now Are You in Love or in Lust? 10 Ways to Prevent Cheating in Relationship

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life 3 How to Develop Mental Toughness to Help You Stay Strong 4 How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious 5 How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

Advertising

In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

Advertising

2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

Advertising

When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

Advertising

One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

Read Next