You need tools and insights to grow your small business, but you’re too swamped to even look up from your To Do list.
If you’re like many small business owners, you barely have time for yourself. You’ve got products to develop, sales to make, employees to tend to, customers to serve, bills to pay, and books to keep.
That doesn’t leave a lot of time to search out, much less find, valuable thoughts and ideas to help you do what you do even better.
That’s where I hope to help. I research successful individuals and companies and provide tools and insights about what they're doing so you can keep your eyes where they belong--your business.
Time is valuable and as such you don’t need hype or hyperbole. You need truth. I therefore don’t waste your time with what others boldly proclaim to be the secret of success that’s really no secret, nor do I promote old, recycled platitudes repacked to make them look new and popular even though they didn’t work the first time.
As a small business owner myself, I’ve taken the hard road and more importantly, I continue to supplement my experience and knowledge with research in order to find out how successful people grow themselves and their organizations.
From my experience and research, here are some of the most important insights to grow your small business:
Jim Collins talks about authentic, Level 5 leaders in his book, “Good to Great,” which studied how successful companies make the transition from doing ok to outperforming their competition. Level 5 leaders, according to Collins and his team, are those that are self-effacing (they don’t take the credit when things go right) and humble enough to acknowledge their shortcomings. These are CEOs of large companies who aren’t afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses.
The more authentic you are, the happier you are because you don’t have to maintain a façade or put energy into promoting an image that’s not who you really are. That energy is freed up to do what you do best.
This applies to your interactions with employees, customers, potential customers, and with all whom you come in contact.
The most successful individuals I’ve met and interviewed all have one thing in common: They work hard.
They work hard when the outcome isn’t clear. They work hard on menial things. They work hard when others don’t. They work hard without worrying about working smarter because they’re too busy working hard and getting things accomplished to analyze the details. Mark Sanborn, an author and one of the most successful professional speakers of our day, put it this way: “I’d rather be splashing around in the ocean than sitting on the shore doing a strategic plan [for how I’m going to approach the ocean].”
These people simply work hard. This includes business owners, athletes, entrepreneurs, happy couples, etc. Whatever standards you use to define success, these people are successful because they have worked hard.
The story of John Simcox is a great example of someone who worked hard at whatever he was doing. He was an entrepreneur before he hit his teenage years, picking corn and selling it, a work ethic that carried him through his whole life. Bill Begal is also no stranger to hard work, having learned at an early age what it means to be an entrepreneur by working in his family’s dry cleaning business.
Follow the Flow
Of all the insights to grow your small business, this one can sometimes be one of the most confusing to grasp.
The successful people I’ve known follow the flow of life and don’t fight it. Does that mean they don’t have a direction and are just being blown about? No. Remember they work hard and putting forth work in any endeavor is a direction. As they work hard in whatever direction they’re facing (without worrying too much about whether it’s the right direction), good things happen and the next move is revealed at the right time.
These successful entrepreneurs and business owners talk about taking the next logical step in their progression. Shawn Kane, who owns a security and personal protection business, said, “I fell into the profession that I’m in and it became my passion.”Richard Zuschlag, founder of Acadian Ambulance, said, “I just worked real hard and the money making came by accident.” Matt Given talks about simply taking the next logical step in his business maturation process.
Following the flow doesn’t mean you always do what’s easy. I kept waiting until I had time and money to return to school to get my bachelors’ degree. Neither one materialized, but the flow of life nevertheless put me on track to get back in school. When the timing was right, I received insights and indicators that it was time and I was provided the necessary help and resources to do it even though I was the father of 4 children at the time, worked full time, traveled full time, and was busy volunteering.
Heidi Ganahl, who lost her first husband in a plane crash, is a great example of someone who just keeps moving. She tried and failed and tried again in both her personal and professional life. She’s authentic (the first of the insights to grow your small business) about those experiences and how they made her who she is and put her where she is in life.
Despite all of the challenges she faced, she didn’t give up. Was she ever frustrated? Sure. Were there times she was unhappy? You can probably bet on that. But she kept going, kept striving. She kept trying new things and worked hard at each one. Finally, she came back to something she and her first husband wanted to do and ultimately created the most successful doggy daycare franchise, Camp Bow Wow. She recently delivered a great TEDx talk on this very subject.
Lane Nemeth, the founder of Discovery Toys, is, along with Heidi, one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Lane worked hard through all kinds of MAJOR obstacles to create a behemoth of a business and even after that continued to experience challenges and setbacks. Guess what? She’s still on the move.
The last of the insights to grow your small business that I'll share is
So many success books, authors, and resources claim that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. ERR. WRONG.
Peter Vidmar, an Olympic Gold Medal gymnast, is adamant when discussing the fact that you cannot be whatever you want to be because there are certainly realities in life. He is fond of John Wooden’s definition of success. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” The best YOU are capable of becoming is different than what anybody else is capable of becoming because you’ve been given unique gifts, talents, and abilities and your life’s work is different than anyone else’s.
Luck will help steer you in the direction you are meant to go.
Steve Rosdal, who started Hyde Park Jewelers in Denver, said that there were a lot of others doing what he did and who worked just as hard but didn’t make it. Steve notes that he made a lot of bad decisions and mistakes, but had some good fortune.
Jeffrey Luftig, a former professor who created a multimillion-dollar consulting firm, openly acknowledges that his education and background came together in a serendipitous way he could never have planned for.
There is a divine force at work in the universe and what is meant to be will be. That means that there is an element of good fortune involved in creating financial success. The unique experiences afforded to you to become ALL you are capable of becoming may mean that success for you isn’t going to be monetary. Perhaps your successes will all come in other areas.
So how helpful is an article that offers insights to grow your small business and then tells you that you have no control over a critical piece? Remember the old saying, a favorite one of Vance Andrus, a successful trial lawyer and business owner: “The harder I work the luckier I get.”
As you are authentic, work hard, follow the flow, and keep moving, the right things in life will happen for you. You will prosper, even if not financially, and you will be fulfilling your unique life’s mission. And that, my friend, will bless the world more than you know.
From observing and interviewing hundreds of successful people these are some of the most valuable insights to grow your small business. Do you have others you would recommend? Please leave them in the comments.