Small business success is an attitude

Mike is a plumber. John is an electrician. Both have a reputation for doing good work. Both stay very busy. But that is where their similarities end.

John drives a new van with professionally designed graphics. Mike drives a 15-year old van with a tattered magnetic sign. John wears a polo shirt with his company logo. Mike wears whatever t-shirt happens to be clean that day. John works 40 hours a week, spends his weekends with his family, and takes regular vacations. Mike seldom gets home before 6 PM, works most Saturdays, and doesn’t know what a vacation is. John charges the highest prices in town while Mike is known for his low rates. Mike complains regularly about being underbid by the competition. John doesn’t know what his competition charges.

Mike and John are friends. Neither can understand how the other operates. Mike can’t understand how John gets away with charging such exorbitant rates. John can’t understand how Mike manages to stay in business.

The differences between Mike and John go way beyond the obvious. The differences are fundamental. The differences go to the very core of how they view their business and the world. The differences are philosophical.

To Mike, his business is the means to pay the bills. He views the world as limited in opportunity. He operates much like everyone else in his trade. He finds comfort in the status quo and refuses to take risks. When John tells him to raise his prices, Mike complains that customers won’t pay more.

To John, his business is the means to the type of life he wants to live. He views the world as full of opportunity. He continually looks for ways to differentiate himself. He believes that what was good enough yesterday won’t be good enough tomorrow. He regularly offers upgraded services and products, which his customers love and make him more profit.

Mike is afraid to stand out. He is afraid to act on his own judgment, and thus he embraces the status quo. John wants to stand out, to be different. He has confidence in his own judgment, and the courage to act accordingly.

Mike and John could just as easily be the owners of any small business. Indeed, they have many counterparts in virtually every industry. Their outlook on life ultimately determines what they do with they lives. Those who dream and take action will achieve their dreams. Those who seek to learn and grow will learn and grow.

In the end, each of us gets to choose whether we will be Mike or John. Each of us gets to choose what our business will do for us. Each of us gets to choose what kind of life we will have.

Long-term success requires a long-term commitment

I hear a lot of small business owners complain that they simply can’t find the time to work on certain projects. They want to develop systems and procedures, or improve their filing system, or complete some other project that will have long-term benefits. But they just can’t seem to squeeze the time into their day.

Brian Tracy offers some tips on how to make better use of your time.

Some people allocate specific 30-60 minute time periods each day for exercise. Many people read in the great books 15 minutes each night before retiring. In this way, over time, they eventually read dozens of the best books ever written.

The key to the success of this method of working in specific time segments is for you to plan your day in advance and specifically schedule a fixed time period for a particular activity or task.

Long-term projects require a prolonged committment– consistent steps in the right direction. By setting aside some amount of time each day or each week to work on a project you are able to make gradual, yet consistent progress.

Many highly productive people schedule specific activities in preplanned time slots all day long. These people build their work lives around accomplishing key tasks one at a time. As a result, they become more and more productive and eventually produce two times, three times and five times as much as the average person.

Like many time management tips, this is easier said than done. The daily demands of owning a business, in addition to family, friends, and hobbies, can stretch your time very thin. Focusing on priorities, rather than the interest du jour, keeps us moving toward your long-term goals. And to keep that focus, you must regularly schedule time to work on those projects.

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.

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