Being an entrepreneur takes grit. While roughly 543,000 new businesses get started each month, more small businesses shut down than get started in the same time frame. Only about a quarter of these companies are still active after 15 years, and it isn’t hard to see why. The National Federation of Independent Business estimates that only 39 percent of small businesses turn a profit, while 30 percent come out even, and another 30 percent operate in the red.
What factors make the difference between success and failure among these companies? Usually it’s the person at the helm. As author Idowu Koyenikan once said, “The type of person you are is usually reflected in your business. To improve your business, first improve yourself.”
So how does a person improve? Recognize these traits that are common among successful entrepreneurs and try to make them your own.
Define Success For Yourself
Everybody has a different vision for what success means. Work out what your definition is, and then stick to it with single-minded determination. It’s tempting to let others — especially the well-intentioned — define your goals for you, but successful entrepreneurs take control and set their own targets.
Build a variety of different professional networks. Some networks are just for business purposes, filled with people who you can share career advice with and people who hold you accountable to your career goals. Others form a more emotional network, offering support to help you manage your personal and familial responsibilities.
Pursue an Education
Earning an MBA not only ensures that you will gain relevant skills, it also helps build confidence and a network of like-minded professionals. Many programs are designed to fit into the busy schedule of a business owner. Working with an intake counselor can streamline the process and get you started down the road to an advanced degree.
Develop Vision and Embrace Dissatisfaction
Leading change relies on a dissatisfaction with how things currently are, a vision of how they should be, a clear picture of how to get there, and a determination to make it happen. Whatever you want to have happen, pursue it. Don’t be afraid to admit when things aren’t the way you want them to be, and make the necessary changes.
Help Others Grow and Thrive
Keep in mind the old adage that it takes a village, and put that wisdom into practice as you build your business. Ask colleagues for their opinions before giving your own. Encourage employees to take appropriate risks and support them when they do, even when the results aren’t ideal. When things don’t go perfectly, evaluate what went wrong and encourage taking other, more appropriate risks.
Invest in Yourself
Invest time and money in your physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional health. Enjoy regular massages, pedicures, meditation, and exercise to maintain your physical well-being. Attend personal retreats, read books for pleasure, or take peaceful walks to maximize your spiritual wellbeing. Boost your intellectual capacity by attending workshops and learning new skills, or try your hand at puzzles and games. Don’t underestimate the power of emotional health. Visit with friends who nourish your mental health, give yourself pep talks, or do things that positively impact other people. Successful entrepreneurs prioritize themselves so that they can more fully give to others.
Find the Niche That’s Right for You
Growing a thriving business depends on finding a niche where you can do the most good. If a type of work or a new organizational structure feels right, it probably is. If red flags fly when you consider a change to the way you do business, there likely is a solid reason why. Successful entrepreneurs tend to listen to that small voice in their head to keep themselves out of trouble.
Ignite Your Passion
It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of daily life, from answering emails to attending meetings. Yet successful entrepreneurs don’t lose sight of what motivates them. Recognize what makes you happy and find ways to incorporate that into your professional life.
Contrary to the notion that nice people don’t get the corner office, kindness earns respect and makes others want to contribute to your success. Being friendly and generous shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness. While you should remain firm and direct about your goals and the terms on which you’re prepared to work with someone, reaching out to employees and colleagues on a congenial level encourages them to share in your dreams.
It’s also important to appreciate what you have accomplished and think about how you can give back. Whether you encourage other new businesses to grow, or offer your organization’s products and services to a nonprofit, helping others reminds you how fortunate you are as an entrepreneur and encourages you to go further than you otherwise would.
Starting a successful business takes more than attention to dollars and cents. Cultivate a success-friendly persona, accumulate the skills of an entrepreneur, and treat the people you meet on the way up with respect, and your odds of being in that top 25 percent are dramatically better.