As someone who has worked for nearly two decades with very successful entrepreneurial clients, I started to ask myself if there were some typical traits that connect entrepreneurs who have achieved impressive results. Business owners come from all different backgrounds and display a wide variety of characteristics and personality traits. However, the most successful among them do seem to have some things in common. From my experience, here are the three traits in business owners that are especially important in determining long-term success.
1. They’re Adaptable
Adaptability is a trait you need every day if you want to get consistent results. At the simplest level, it’s being aware that there’s always room for improvement. In some cases, it means being willing to completely transform your approach even if it means ditching a product, overhauling your whole website, or rethinking your marketing strategy. Even the largest companies in the world understand the importance of adaptability. A while back, we looked at how FAANG stays adaptable (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). Adaptability includes:
- Tracking customer preferences. As attention spans get ever shorter and new trends appear at the speed of tweets, you need to keep up and make changes when appropriate. You also have to realize that your own preferences aren’t necessarily those of your customers. Never get so attached to a product or way of doing things that you cling to it despite contrary evidence.
- Staying up to date with the latest technology. In this category, I’d include trends involving the internet, social media, software, and devices as well as more general trends. If you’re marketing online, you need to keep up with the latest social media trends. For example, if your customers are switching from Facebook to LinkedIn, you want to know about it. You also need to be aware of large scale shifts that could disrupt your industry. If you’re selling widgets that might be made at 1/4 the cost by 3D printers next year, it’s best to know about it sooner rather than later.
- Implementing an effective marketing strategy. I see many businesses making the mistake of overspending on ineffective advertising and marketing campaigns. It’s a basic principle of marketing to track and test your results. However, you also need to take appropriate action on the results you get. If you’re too attached to a certain type of marketing, you may miss the bigger picture and throw good money after bad. A survey by Rakuten Marketing found that marketers waste more than one-quarter of their budgets on ineffective channels and strategies. I think a lot of this comes down to inertia and an inability to make changes.
- Making the most of what you have. Another aspect of adaptability is making the most of limited resources. If you can’t afford your own office right now, run your business from home. If you don’t have money to invest in advertising, focus on content creation and SEO. In such cases, adapting is the only alternative to quitting.
2. They’re Customer-Focused
As a business owner, you only have one real “boss.” This is, of course, your customer. While it may seem obvious, I find that it’s a point that entrepreneurs need to constantly remind themselves of. I think this gets back to the independent and individualistic nature of many business owners. In this way, it relates the above principle of adaptability. We may have what we think is a brilliant idea. However, it’s only brilliant if it serves a real need in the marketplace. You can approach this in a number of ways.
- Do ongoing market research. You should do extensive market research before you start a business. However, it’s also an ongoing process that never ends. You need to study your own customers’ behavior as well as your entire industry.
- Stay engaged with your customers. Tools such as polls, surveys, and focus groups can help you stay current with consumer preferences. Interaction on social media also keeps you informed of your customers’ needs.
- Provide outstanding customer service. The quality of your customer support goes a long way in determining your success. These days, businesses of all types depend greatly on positive online reviews. Reviewers are often influenced as much by their overall experience in dealing with business than with the actual quality of the product or service (though these are obviously important as well). This comes down to the friendliness, helpfulness, and trustworthiness of you and your employees. It’s essential to ensure everyone in your business is dedicated to putting your customers first.
3. They Know When to Ask For Help
Entrepreneurs tend to be fiercely independent so it’s not always easy for them to ask for help.
Entrepreneurs tend to be fiercely independent so it’s not always easy for them to ask for help. Trying to do everything yourself, however, puts you at a serious disadvantage. If you don’t know when to delegate or outsource, you end up wasting many hours on busy work. You need to prioritize and decide what’s really worth focusing on.
There’s also the matter of knowing where your expertise lies and what can be done better by someone else. Even the most multi-talented business owner probably isn’t an expert in accounting, coding, web design, copywriting, and business law. Even if you can handle these and other areas yourself, you’ll quickly run out of time if you try to do everything. One of the most important lessons I learned over the years is that it’s far more efficient to ask for help than to spend a whole day struggling with something that’s outside my specialty. Before you start on a project, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there someone who could easily or affordably do this better than me? This includes an employee, business partner, or someone that you could outsource to.
- Would working on this task represent the best use of my time right now? Sometimes, even if you could do a great job at something, it still isn’t the most urgent or productive project you could be doing.
- Might there be a more efficient way to to do this that I haven’t considered? There may be a system, service, or software that could automate the task. You might need to do some research or ask a trusted source to find out.
These are three crucial traits that are essential if you want to succeed as a business owner. If you aren’t able to adapt, ask for help, or focus on their customers’ needs, you’ll find it difficult to build a successful business. Fortunately, these traits can be developed. Chances are if you lacked them utterly you wouldn’t be even thinking of owning a business. You may, however, need to take an honest look at yourself and consciously work on one or more of these traits.
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