Given that 80% of new businesses fail in their first five years, most of today’s entrepreneurs aren’t managing to grow sustainable companies. Complacency has become the standard in many workplaces, paralyzing workers with powerlessness and indecision. Entrepreneurs who want to achieve “sustainable success” need to take risks and chart a new path to profitability and service to their customers and their communities. For lasting success, pay more attention to your inner voice and less to external opinions. Don’t balk in the face of challenges; instead, create resourceful solutions to problems. Pursue a fulfilling career path. You can find alternatives to safe choices if they make you feel compromised.
To gain the clarity of mind to be a successful entrepreneur, avoid these negative mind traps:
To become a more courageous entrepreneur, decide if you need to shed the comfort of complacency in order to develop your confidence and sense of responsibility. Complacency takes several forms, including settling for something – be it your job or the product you’re selling – that falls short of your vision. People often settle because they think it offers more security than challenging the status quo. Avoid business practices you don’t believe in – or see as wrong – even if everyone else follows them. And don’t repeat other people’s business mistakes by being afraid to change past practices. Craft a compelling vision for your company by clarifying its intentions, identity and ideals. To discover your personal vision, focus on your strengths. Consider what you want to accomplish in your career or business. Set specific goals that align with your ideals or “core values.” These core values could include “integrity, courage, love, compassion, contribution, community, fulfillment, dedication to excellence” and “reliability.” Once you craft your vision and identify your values, take concrete steps to implement them in your business plan. For instance, if you want to value each customer as an individual, encourage employees to make a personal connection with each customer and to avoid scripted sales conversations. Reinforce your integrity by practicing what you preach as an entrepreneur. Otherwise you’ll find yourself “living out of alignment” and that leads to stress, tension and confusion for yourself and your organization.
Don’t fall into the “entrepreneurial traps” of procrastination and indecision. People often fear that they’ll find it impossible to recover if they make the wrong decision. You can find success down many different paths. Embrace “the corridor principle,” the understanding that a decision can lead you in an unexpected – yet still successful – direction. If you face unanticipated challenges, adjust your course. Remember that refusing to make a decision is in itself a decision. Inertia can keep you from advancing as an entrepreneur.
To overcome procrastination and indecision, take these action steps:
In the Industrial Age, business owners treated employees and customers as a means to an end. Now, society is progressing into the “Age of Connection.” Companies are responsible for fulfilling their customers’ and employees’ personal expectations and for using their brands to form value-driven local and global communities. Entrepreneurs also must have solid interpersonal skills. Good leaders form meaningful connections with their teams, rather than giving them orders. To build relationships, cultivate a fun, playful workplace. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability to your team. Take the time to get to know your employees, your target demographic and your clients’ real needs. You can’t define people by their official roles and job titles. To form meaningful bonds with people, cultivate a friendly curiosity about their lives outside the workplace. Focusing on the present moment, rather than fixating on your stressful inner dialogue, will help you create stronger connections with colleagues and business partners. While many entrepreneurs focus single-mindedly on their careers, avoid becoming so consumed by your work that you neglect the important personal connections in your life.
Developing strong conflict-resolution skills plays a major role in building potent business connections. Exercising the essential ability to control your ego and your emotional reactions to conflict will enable you to see discordant situations more objectively. You want to understand each participant’s point of view so you can foster collaboration. When your emotions flare, they can undermine your ability to analyze and pacify a situation. This leaves you at a disadvantage. Instead of focusing on your desires, try to understand what motivates the person with whom you’re in conflict. This will help you come to a resolution more effectively. Don’t stubbornly insist on fighting for only one option. Be open-minded about alternate plans of action. Today’s “new entrepreneur” has standards and practices that differ from older norms. Rather than attempting to destroy competing businesses, today’s entrepreneur works collaboratively with the competition to create sustainable growth for all. This cooperative ethos extends to the workplace, where colleagues seek innovative ways of working together to create change for the business, rather than blindly following order from a CEO or supervisor. Customers can be collaborative partners; businesses can find value in their ideas and reviews of products and services.
To create a successful business, connect with people who represent certain human archetypes and bring different skills to your company:
Companies that succeed in the Age of Connection facilitate human interaction and help people feel in touch with one another. Creating a more connected world requires organizations to embrace sustainable growth and to nurture workplace innovation. To make room for innovation, companies will have to change in several areas, such as marketing, management style, corporate culture and, often, ordinary business models.
Many companies have embraced the “results-only work environment” (ROWE). In this setting, supervisors don’t micromanage the amount of time workers spend on the job, but instead reward staff members based on their productivity.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from artists, and vice versa. The idea that entrepreneurs and artists have opposing natures – with the former relying mostly on their left brain and the latter relying on their right – is a myth. In reality, the best entrepreneurs tap into both sides of the brain, coming up with innovative solutions to challenges and recognizing the spirit of creative innovation in others. Once you create an innovative product or service, capitalize on it by attracting consumers with a “long-lasting, unique, relatable, enticing impression” – your “LURE.” Craft a LURE by focusing on six factors related to your offering: the perception it creates, how people connect to it based on their feelings, an emotionally compelling reason for people to buy it, clear communication about its value, a well-crafted brand identity or personality, and positive customer experiences.
A successful business must sell a value-added experience, not just a product. Ingredients like flour, milk and coffee beans alone aren’t worth the price of coffee and pastry. Customers buy the experience of being served and sitting in a cozy, inviting environment. Enhance the value customers see in your product by connecting with their needs and desires. If you want your business to grow, show your customers that you’re grateful for their patronage and be of service to them.
Entrepreneurs pass through six growth stages to achieve “sustainable success”: The first time people launch a business, they are often “clueless,” due to a lack of knowledge, and incompetent, due to a lack of experience. Don’t be afraid at this stage. Even failure can lead you to the second stage, being “awakened.” Once you learn how much you don’t know, you can educate yourself. In the third stage, being “deliberate,” market yourself positively and take on new clients and contracts. After you gain needed practice and can perform more efficiently, you enter the fourth stage, “flowing.” This leads to “mastery,” in which you make the conscious decision to be the best professional version of yourself. Your work brings you satisfaction. When your work affects others positively on a global level, you will achieve “artistry.”
Society needs entrepreneurs who create innovative offerings that serve three kinds of needs: philanthropic, profit making and public sector. This “hybrid value chain” benefits everyone. As social enterprises succeed, they can expand their reach and influence. They can generate jobs, give people a path out of poverty, stimulate the economy and perhaps even elevate life in their communities.
Author: Mel H. Abraham is a CPA with two decades of experience as a business adviser and financial expert. He founded the Business Breakthrough Academy and the Thoughtrapreneur Academy and has worked as a director and adviser on several boards of directors.
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