A challenge to succeed in your small business

If a survey were taken, I suspect that every business owner would state that he wanted to succeed. I seriously doubt that many people start a business with the intention of failing.

Yet, statistically less than 1% of businesses live to celebrate their 10th birthday. If I were a betting man, I would wager that you will not be one of them. If I made that bet I would win 99 times out of 100.

The above statistic is an average. It does not tell us anything about a particular business. It does not tell us if your business will fail or thrive. It does tell us that most business owners lack and do not obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for business success.

With the Internet the necessary information is easily and abundantly available. This availability of information and resources makes business success easier than it has ever been. Yet, businesses continue to fail at a meteoric rate.

In Texas we have a saying—“Big hat and no cattle”. This phrase refers to someone who talks big, but in the end has nothing to back it up. He dresses the part of a successful rancher, but lacks what actually makes a rancher successful.

Over the past 10 years I have met, spoken with, worked with, and emailed hundreds of small business owners. Most have big hats—they talk about the kind of business they want to have, but they do nothing about it. They acknowledge the need for systems, but do not develop systems for their businesses. They admit they should develop a marketing plan, but they do not do it.

They complain about low priced competition, insufficient leads, and the difficulty of finding good help. And they repeat these complaints year after year, until finally they join the list of business failures.

For many years I struggled to avoid their fate. I did not have the Internet,  or similar resources. I learned from the school of hard knocks. In retrospect, I made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be.

There is no need for that today. The resources are available. The knowledge is readily available. In my opinion, there is no excuse for failure. Yet, statistics say that you will fail.

Honesty is a remarkable virtue. It defends those who practice it, and destroys those who deny it. It can be a powerful ally, or an unremitting foe.

Business success demands honesty. It requires that you be forthright with customers, vendors, and employees. But more significantly, business success demands that you be honest with yourself.

You must honestly scrutinize your strengths and weaknesses. You must be honest about your goals and desires, and your willingness to put forth the effort to achieve them. You must be honest with yourself that building a successful business is not easy.

And then you must have the courage to act. The failure to act is a sign of fear. Fear is the path to failure.

An old proverb states, “Take what you want, and pay for it.” Your business can provide you with virtually anything you want. You must simply pay the price. You must obtain the knowledge and skills necessary. You must pay the price—both financially and in effort. You can make your dreams a reality.

There are many resources readily available. But resources without effort are simply a potential. You must put forth the effort to utilize those resources. You have the choice to be a big hat, or to be the rare business owner who celebrates his 10th year in business.

I challenge you to take what you want, and pay for it. I challenge you to be a success.

Book Review: Three Feet from Gold

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a business classic. Published during the Great Depression, the book provides an inspirational look at perseverance and the qualities of character that are necessary for success.

A recent book from the Napoleon Hill Foundation modernizes Hill’s book. Relating the stories of dozens of successful businessmen, Three Feet from Gold provides an abundance of pithy nuggets of wisdom. The title comes from the story of a prospector who abandoned a mine. Though he had found a small amount of gold in the mine, he eventually concluded that he had found the small amount in the mine and sold his property. The new owner dug three feet in a slightly different direction and discovered a huge deposit of gold. The original owner had literally stopped three feet from gold.
It is often the case that we abandon our dreams too quickly. Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it can be easy to give up. And often success was just another step or two away.
This does not mean that we should never abandon a goal. There are times when doing so is the rational thing to do. However, such decisions should not be made lightly or in haste. Anything of value requires effort and perseverance when times are tough.

What do you want?

What do you want from your business? Why do you put up with the stress, hassles, and long hours that often accompany owning a small business? What do you want your business to provide to you and your family?

These are some of the most important questions you can ask yourself regarding your business. The answers (or lack thereof) determine the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Our business is much like a blank canvas, and we get to choose what we paint on it. If we have no final image in mind, but simply begin slapping paint on the surface, we will likely end up with a mish mash of colors that is meaningless. However, if we identify our final product, plan our work, and then implement our plan, our results will be meaningful.

Too often we get absorbed in the daily grind and lose sight of our final destination. Too often we lose focus of why we own a business and allow the business to own us.

While mundane tasks are a part of owning a business, if they dominate our activities we can easily stagnate. We fail to move toward our long-term goals, and the result is frustration and disenchantment.

To accomplish our long-term goals we must cut to the chase—we must identify those goals and then remain focused on them. We must be pro-active in their achievement. To do otherwise is to allow our life and our business to drift aimlessly.

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