8 Elements of a Successful Business

Table of Contents:

Step 1: Visualize Your Goals

“You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet,” said Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University for 35 years. He was talking about the necessity of vision. In your business, your vision should be your rallying cry. Without it, you, your employees, and your company’s success will falter.

What is a Vision Statement?

Every business should have a vision statement that creates a clear picture of where the organization is heading. Vision has to do with the future. It outlines where you want your company to go, and then you can push forward to make that happen.

Your vision statement should be grounded in your values and priorities for your business. So although it is future-oriented, its roots should tie into the reason that you started your company or the fundamental purpose of your organization. Or, as Theodore Roosevelt more eloquently put it, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”

Why Create a Vision Statement for Your Company?

  • Right decisions become clearer: Your vision outlines your business goals. When you are clear on what you want your company to accomplish, it’s easier to focus on what needs to be done to achieve those goals. A clear vision helps bring a business plan into focus.
  • Employee engagement increases: Research shows that when employees find their company’s vision statement meaningful, they have a level of engagement at work that is 16 percentile points above most workers’.
  • Your commitment is deepened: Being an entrepreneur is tough–really, really tough. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. A well-crafted vision statement can keep you going. To learn more, watch this video in which Steve Jobs talks about sticking it out.

How is a Vision Statement Crafted?

Crafting a quality vision statement isn’t an overnight affair. Don’t skimp on this investment of time and mental effort. As you go through the process, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Let yourself dream. Your vision should be big–bigger than you think might be possible.

2. Keep your values front and center. They should guide your vision.

3. Statements should be short, clear, and succinct creating a picture for those who hear them.

A clear and powerful vision dreams of what your company’s future could be and then provides the motivation to make the dream a reality.

Step 2: Know Yourself

When you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you’ll spend much of your time trying to figure out your market, audience, day-to-day operations and company success. The challenges surrounding your business can often be traced directly back to you as the owner. If you are struggling in your business, a little self-knowledge can go a long way towards figuring out what’s wrong.

Hard to be the Boss

Business is incredibly complicated. There are many reasons that you’ll be successful and a few reasons why you could potentially fail. You are only one person, so it’s vital that you learn where you’re lacking and shore up those skills with more knowledge or skills. You could also hire employees who can help fill in the skills gap.

Many business owners don’t want to look at their weaknesses. They believe that they shouldn’t acknowledge them. Successful business owners will admit their weaknesses and take steps to fix those weaknesses.

Words of Wisdom

Gary Vaynerchuk is a business owner who took his family’s wine business from a few million dollars in worth to approximately 60 million.

He says, “Stop trying to fix the things you’re bad at and focus on the things you’re good at.”

Gary Vee is currently worth approximately 50 million dollars and spends most of his time encouraging others to be successful.

Acknowledge Weaknesses

Most business owners believe they are as good as their strengths, but like a chain, they’re only as good as their weaknesses. This is why you should take the time to understand and acknowledge weaknesses. You don’t need to improve them. Once you admit that they exist, you can hire a company or employee to fill the gap.

For example, you might be horrible at managing your time. Hiring an assistant will ensure that your time is managed properly. When you can’t answer your phone, you can hire someone to fill in that gap. These are obvious weaknesses in knowledge and skills that can be filled by employees or other businesses. While you can take a course to fill gaps in your knowledge, some soft skills can be harder to gain.

Potential Areas That Might be Lacking:

  • Self-motivation
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Innovation
  • Time management
  • Understanding of technology

You’ll need to assess your strengths and weaknesses before you can decide how fixing them will benefit your business. In some cases, you might want to gain more knowledge yourself, or you might want to hire an expert. Without honest reflection, though, you won’t know where to start fixing your business or improving yourself.

Step 3: Getting The Help You Need

A growing company cannot be a one-man show. To serve an ever-increasing number of customers–and do it well–you must have quality employees on your team. These people will be responsible for carrying out tasks and conveying your brand’s image, so it’s important to hire well. Here’s how to attract and select the best candidates.

Look for These Qualities

1. Soft Skills
Also known as social skills, these are personality qualities, such as how a potential employee relates to others and how he or she communicates. In the video “Hiring Skills for Employers and the Job Application,” HR professional Lourdes Ortiz explains how leaders can use the job application to help evaluate an applicant’s soft skills.

2. Passion
To find people who fit into your company’s culture, look for people who care deeply about your mission. Stephen Covey explained passionate employees this way: “Their fire comes from within, not from without. Their motivation is internal, not external.”

3. Attitude
An employee with a positive attitude can learn just about any skill set, so it’s important to evaluate a candidate beyond the abilities and accomplishments listed on the resume. Find employees who are flexible and open to learning new things, and then equip them with the knowledge and skills to be successful in your company. Consult references to get a feel for a candidate’s attitude. Conducting role plays in the interview process can be beneficial, too.

How to Attract Strong Candidates

Employees with exemplary soft skills, deep passion, and a can-do attitude are some of the top candidates for any job position, so how can you interest them in your company? Make your job listings appealing to potential hires by doing the following things.

  • Put your listings online. They should be mobile-friendly, too. At least 28 percent of American job seekers use their phones to help them find new positions.
  • Make it about the candidate. Your job descriptions should focus less on what you expect from your employees and more on how a role in your company will benefit them.
  • Maintain your reputation. Candidates seek out information on what current and past employees have to say about working for you. If your current employees are critical, evaluate how you can improve their workplace.

A strong company is built on strong employees. Good hiring practices will help you attract and select the best candidates.

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Step 4: Who is Your Competition?

“Your most dangerous competitors are those that are most like you.” Those to-the-point words from Bruce Henderson serve as a reminder that smart business people learn who their competitors are and find out as much as they can about them.

Identify Your Two Types of Competitors

Most businesses deal with two types of competition:

1. Direct competitors: These are companies that offer the same products or services, or they offer ones that are quite similar to yours.
2. Indirect competitors: These businesses offer a different product or service, but they still fill the same needs.
Learn more about these two types of competition in the video “Assessing Business Competitors.”

Do thorough research to compile a list of both direct and indirect competitors. Doing a Google search and scouring the Yellow Pages are good places to start. Entrepreneur magazine suggests asking yourself, “If people didn’t frequent your store, where would they go instead?”

Learn About Your Competition Through Networking

After identifying your competitors, learn all you can about their business models, and stay apprised of what they are doing. Don’t just copy their approach, though. One of the best reasons to pay attention to your competition is so you can differentiate yourselves from the pack.

Networking is one of the strongest tools in your competition-monitoring arsenal. Some valuable resources for networking are:

  • Social Media: Follow your competition’s Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. Some companies post frequently about current specials and services.
  • Clients: Get to know your clients, so they’ll be comfortable chatting with you about their business habits and their experiences with your competition.
  • Suppliers: Savvy questions asked of your suppliers can help you learn what other organizations in your line of work might be ordering.
  • Industry trade shows, conferences, and meetings: Participating in these programs helps you build connections in the field and exposes you to what is going on in like businesses. You can learn about up-and-coming ideas that your competition may be adopting.
  • New employees: Hiring someone who used to work for the competition may prove to be a valuable source of information about how things are done at the other company.

The more you know about how your competition does business, the more successful you can be at creating a strategic plan that will lead you to the top of your field.

Step 5: Who Are Your Customers or Clients

Picture yourself on the archery range with a bow and arrow in hand. You lift the bow into place and set your sights on the target. Carefully aiming for the center, you pull back, release, and watch the arrow fly directly into the bullseye. Your absolute precision leads to undeniable success.

Just like in archery, there is a target for which you must aim if you want to find success in business. That target is your core customer base. Also known as your target market, this is the group of people to whom you tailor your services and your advertising.

Why Identify Your Customer Base

To Know Your Customers
Selecting a target for your business provides a specific group for you to learn about and understand. The more that you know about your target customers, the better that you can hone your services to their needs and desires.

To Focus Your Advertising
Your advertising dollars are limited. If you narrow your efforts to a particular demographic, you can use those funds more wisely by choosing the most effective forms of media and sending mailers only to those in your target group.

To Set Yourself Apart
When you focus your efforts on a particular segment of the market, you distinguish yourself from other businesses. In the video “Marketing Strategies – Know your target market!” entrepreneurial expert Evan Carmichael explains how targeting a specific market helps you stand out.

How to Identify Your Target Clients

  • Think about your competitors: Pay attention to whom other businesses in your sector are targeting. This may give you a starting point and can also help you distinguish yourself from them.
  • Consult your chamber of commerce: If your target audience will be specific to your community, your chamber of commerce can be a valuable resource. The U.S. Census Bureau can also provide information about the demographics of your area.
  • Consider who is already using your services: If you have an established business, think about who uses your services the most often and why.
  • Take your passions into account: You’ll do your best work and have the most in common with your customer base if you focus your services on things that are important to you.

Soon, the arrow of your business will be aiming straight toward your customer bullseye!

Step 6: Be Organized

You may have the world’s best vision for a business, but without proper organization, your ideas will go nowhere. Organization is the vehicle that helps you transform your dreams into reality.

Why Prioritize Organization

You probably instinctively know that there is value to being organized, but can you articulate why? You’ll be more motivated to get organized if you understand how it can help your professional success.

  • It increases productivity. Studies show that your ability to accomplish tasks is reduced when there are too many things–including visual stimuli in your work environment–competing for your attention.
  • It improves mood. Research has linked disorganization with depression. Learn more in the video “Decluttering Can Help If You Feel Stuck and Depressed.”
  • It saves time. When you’re organized, you can be in the right place at the right time, and you’ll know exactly where to find what you need.
  • It can help you delegate. When your business takes off and you can’t do everything yourself anymore, it will make your life a lot easier if things are organized and you can easily hand off tasks to an employee.

How to Be Organized

To maximize your organization, you must develop and maintain systems that work for you. You will spend less time looking for what you need and will be able to move through your tasks with greater efficiency.

Although you’ll have to find the systems that work best for you, many productive entrepreneurs find organizational success by putting the following suggestions into practice:

  • Keep your desk clear. In one survey, 77 percent of people admitted that clutter hinders their productivity, and 53 percent said that it reduces their motivation to get things done. Instead of letting clutter get you down, limit the number of items on your desk. Store everything non-essential out of sight.
  • Use a calendar. You might think that you can remember everything, but you probably can’t. Maintain one calendar on which you record all upcoming events, meetings, deadlines, and plans. You may want to be quite detailed with your calendar and assign various tasks to specific blocks of time. When an event comes up, immediately add it to your calendar.
  • Make lists. David Wallechinsky said, “Lists help us in organizing what is otherwise overwhelming.” Whether you record your tasks on a paper list or an electronic one, writing them down and checking them off provides a visual record of what needs to be done and what has already been accomplished.
  • Categorize tasks according to urgency and importance and time needed. Do the tasks that are urgent, important and don’t take too long first thing. Next, do the tasks that are urgent and important but will take longer to complete.  Finally, finish the urgent tasks and move on to the important tasks. If your urgent list is so long that you’ll never get to the important list, set aside an hour a day to work on things that are important but not urgent.
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Step 7: Delegate

You want your business to achieve remarkable accomplishments, right? Then you must learn to take John Maxwell’s advice: “If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

You can’t do everything yourself, and you shouldn’t have to. Delegation means that you take tasks that used to be your responsibility and assign them to others. You also empower them to carry out those jobs. Learn more about the concept of delegation in the video “Richard Branson’s A to Z of Business: D is for Delegation.”

The Benefits of Delegation

Distributing the workload among your team members keeps you from being buried in tasks. Effective delegation can lower your stress level and keep you from putting in so many long nights.

But don’t think that delegation is only for your own good. It is beneficial to the company as a whole and to individual employees.

The Importance of Skills Matching

Your team is likely comprised of people with different strengths. A delegation will be most successful if you pull back from jobs that don’t play to your strengths and assign those tasks to people who do excel in those areas. When you are willing to delegate responsibilities, you can divide up the workload based on which team member is best suited for a task.

Coaching Opportunities

When you give tasks to others on your team, you provide chances for them to refine their business skills. Although you must empower and release them to carry out the delegated tasks, you don’t have to step out of the picture entirely. By maintaining a presence and an open line of communication as your employees work, you will have the opportunity to provide helpful coaching that will develop and refine their skills.

Tips for Follow-Up

Successful delegation is more than just handing out jobs. The process will be most effective if you:

  • Give feedback. Evaluate your employee’s job performance and share your findings with them. Point out areas of both strength and weakness.
  • Ask for feedback. Be open to hearing your employees’ thoughts on how you are doing at delegating and empowering them.
  • Keep delegation in mind for future hires. When considering new team members, choose people who will be able to handle responsibility. Look for people whose strengths complement yours rather than people who are just like you.

Step 8: Balance

Children understand the concept of balance. It makes sense to them that for one end of the teeter-totter to go up, the other end must go down, and they work together on the playground to achieve the proper balance for an up-and-down ride.

Strangely, it seems that adults have a tendency to lose that understanding. What was once common sense gets pushed aside in the quest for a new approach: the do-it-all approach. Unfortunately, just like an unbalanced teeter-totter, an unbalanced life doesn’t work. To find success in business, you must learn to practice the idea of balance.

Balance With Your Home Life

First and foremost, you will be the best version of yourself–and therefore, the best businessperson you can be–when you make space for both home and office in your life. Many people neglect home in favor of office, assuming that that is the way to get ahead. It may work for a time, but the end result of that approach is rarely favorable.

Business expert Richard Branson explains, “It is important to build a strong family life: It helps to give you a better perspective and balance in business.”

Some of the following ideas may help you strengthen your home life:

  • Silence your electronics. Have times in your day when you don’t check your work phone.
  • Exercise. Invite friends or family members to join you.
  • Take vacation days. Gary Vaynerchuk encourages this in the video “How Do You Balance Work and Family?

Balance With Your Work Pursuits

If you pull away from the office in order to spend more time with family and friends in the outside world, will something at work get left undone? Perhaps.

That’s probably not the answer that you wanted. You probably wanted to hear that you could do it all. But that’s unrealistic.

How to Decide What’s Most Important to Focus On

  • Identify your mission
  • Do what best aligns with that
  • Prioritize tasks into urgent/non-urgent and important/not important.
  • Talk things through with someone who cares. Sometimes we get stuck in concentric thought patterns. Talking through what’s on our plate with someone who is a good listener can help us break out of these cycles and give us renewed focus.
  • Make a to-do list every day. Make sure that your list reflects the kind of balance that you want to create. Make “take a walk” or “reach out to an old friend” tasks if that is what it takes.
  • Get perspective. This is your one life. How do you want to live it?

By focusing on your vision, you can streamline your efforts, which helps you balance the amount of work that you face. This, in turn, allows you to achieve a greater balance between the office and home so you can give your best effort at work and at play.