4 Keys to a Successful Business
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my business, Newberry Executive Solutions. If you’re doing the math, you’ll realize I launched right before the U.S. economy tanked in 2008—impeccable timing to leave a highly paid executive position at Deloitte!
I’ve learned some invaluable lessons along the way and want to share four with you.
1. Define Success
When you start a business, it can feel like so much is at stake. You might feel pressure to prove that you made the right choice with self-employment or to meet someone else’s definition of success. But no matter what anyone else thinks, start by defining success for yourself (quantitatively and qualitatively).
In my first few months in business, I recall thinking, “I’m not where I thought I’d be in my business. I’m just not there yet.” Then I realized I hadn’t defined where “there” was. In addition to defining my goals for the first year, I needed to define shorter-term milestones (e.g., for each month or quarter). These milestones should include what’s important to you personally and professionally, and will help you better gauge your progress and results.
2. Shift to an Investment Mindset
No matter what challenges the world throws at you, your mindset can be your biggest asset or roadblock to success. For example, how often do you frame business decisions in terms of making investments versus. minimizing costs? If you’re more of a cost-avoider, you may take on too much yourself. How much do you think about the short-term vs. long-term implications of your choices? Even if a single task will only take you five or 10 minutes, the opportunity costs add up over time.
To broaden your mindset, ask, “What is the highest and best use of my talent and skills?” When I answered this question, business development and service delivery bubbled to the top. I knew I had to find affordable options for the rest of the work. Fortunately, technology puts a world of resources at your fingertips. The technology partner that just developed my leadership development app leverages people in the Philippines; my graphics person lives in Singapore; and my virtual assistant lives in Florida.
To accelerate business results, focus on where you can have the biggest impact on your business.
3. Go Ahead and Wing It
Over my 14 years at Deloitte, I developed many strategic and business plans for clients. However, in my own business, I took a different approach. I allowed myself to experiment, using my firsthand experiences to quickly shape my strategy.
In my first six months in business, I evenly split my time across individual and corporate clients not really knowing what was the best fit. Experiencing the sophistication of each type of buyer, the business development strategies required for each, and what it felt like to serve this client mix helped me make the right choice. So, I shifted my focus to Fortune 500 companies and have served that market ever since.
In month one, I developed a list of product and service offerings but only created them when I had client demand for them. This might feel risky, but offered huge advantages. I avoided the perfectionism trap and got to market more quickly, and my development work focused on what my clients really wanted versus what I thought they did.
Giving yourself some flexibility to shape things as you go can give you insight and help you make informed decisions quickly.
4. Keep the Client Front and Center
As a business owner, it’s easy to fall in love with your own ideas, products or services because you know how they add value. Although your passion can be powerful, stop and put yourself in your clients’ shoes. What problems do your clients need the most help solving? What are they really worried about? Thinking through this will allow you to develop new offerings and better position what you already offer. At the end of the day, clients want to know that you “get it”—that you understand their problems and have the expertise to solve them.
Whether you’re a new or long-term business owner, these four principles will serve you well. Ten years and 12 awards later, I’m still using them to evolve my coaching business and having fun doing it.