Building a Successful Business Takes Leadership and a Team
One can’t exist without the other
Last week, I talked about a surefire way you can grow as a leader —volunteering. To me, leadership is one of the most important aspects of growing a successful business. Without good leadership, a business can never get anywhere. In fact, lack of good leadership is why most businesses fail…or fail to grow very big.
A leader’s role is a combination of visionary, cheerleader, and pit bull.
As a visionary, the leader must keep his or her focus on the company’s mission. As a cheerleader, he or she must inspire the team as it works together towards that mission, as well as herald the successes along the way. As a pit bull, he or she must be able to make the tough calls regarding issues that distract the team from achieving the mission. The unique ability to take decisive action while maintaining focus on the ultimate mission is what defines a true leader.
A leader needs a team
A leader doesn’t have to have all the answers, but he or she must be adept at pulling together a management team that can come up with the answers, and motivating them to provide those answers.
Your team should also include your outside advisors. Proper guidance from your accountants, tax advisors, financial advisors, and legal counsel is imperative for building a strong, successful business.
Although these advisors can be expensive, their advice can provide you with an incredible return on your investment by helping you structure a strong business while avoiding pitfalls along the way.
Money follows management
I often mention that “money follows management” in the world of business capital. Investors invest in management. They look at the team within the proposed business and want to see experience, passion, and commitment. To succeed, a business must have the proper expertise in key areas.
When you do not have the money up front to hire the talent you need, consider attracting the talent as members of an advisory board with the understanding that, once sufficient capital is raised, your team will come on board. Your chance of success is much stronger if your management team has a track record of success in the business or industry of your proposed business.
All of this means that, as a leader, you must be extremely good at working with people. Being able to cooperate with as many people as possible and helping people without crippling them are extremely important leadership skills..
If you’re looking to start a business, I encourage you to spend some time assessing whether you’re as good of a leader as you could be, and who you need on your team to succeed. Believe me, it will be time well invested.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair. When I was growing up my parents said to me, “Listen to your elders. You need to learn to respect their wisdom. Someday when you’re older, young people will listen to you.” So I listened to my parents and grew up respecting the wisdom of those older than I was. But that notion has been turned upside down: Nowadays, people my age need to listen to and respect the wisdom of people who are younger than we are.
Ideas from an Earlier Age In business, success often depends upon the relative age of your ideas. And today, people of all ages are in trouble because their ideas aren’t just old, they’re obsolete.
One example of an old idea is that of the traditional job. Jobs are a centuries-old concept created during the industrial revolution. Despite the reality that we’re now deep in the Information Age, many people are studying for, or working at, or clinging to the Industrial Age idea of a safe, secure job. Now people aren’t just losing their jobs — their jobs are migrating to foreign countries or disappearing altogether.
As Alan Blinder, an economist and former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, says, “A new industrial revolution — communication technology that allows services to be delivered electronically from afar — will put as many as 40 million jobs at risk of being shipped out of this country in the next decade or two.
In spite of such alarming figures, our schools still program kids to look for jobs. Advising people to go to school to learn to be an employee is as obsolete as advising young people to become peasants and work for a landlord. People need to be trained to be investors and entrepreneurs, not employees.
Obsolete Every 18 Months
My point is this: In a rapidly changing world, nothing is more dangerous than an idea whose time has come and gone. Just look at how Amazon.com has changed the world of brick-and-mortar booksellers such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, or how Skype is tearing down monster corporations like AT&T, or how Napster shot a torpedo into the record industry.
Where do you think the people who work for those Industrial Age employers will be in 10 years?
As I said, people aren’t losing their jobs — jobs and companies are disappearing. Most people today realize that knowledge is doubling every 18 months. Does that mean that we now become obsolete every 18 months? Maybe so. Personally, it makes me feel like I need to assign an expiration date to my ideas, and update them regularly.
Many people my age are in serious financial trouble because they have old, Industrial Age ideas that they never update — wanting job security, counting on a pension for life, relying on Social Security and Medicare — while attempting to survive in the Information Age. That’s a mistake.
Much of my company’s revenue comes from the web, even though I remain a technophobe. My company survives because I’ve learned to respect the ideas of people younger than me, and recognize when my wisdom is obsolete.
Timeless Business Ideas
Although many business ideas go out of date every day, there are some that are timeless and essential regardless of the era we’re in. Here are a few:
- Be passionate about your products and what your brand stands for. Brands die if the leader’s passion dies, or if the leader’s passion is simply to make money.
- Build a community. Good entrepreneurs are community builders, actively involved with their communities and dedicated to the community’s well being. If you’re dedicated to
- Communicate clearly. Speak in the language of your customers. Don’t attempt to baffle them with jargon in an attempt to appear smarter than they are.
- Tell it like it is, and don’t be a phony. In business, there are too many people who will say anything to get their hands on your money.
- Be human. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” or “Can you help me?” If you’re a good leader, people will be more than happy to help you build your business.
Now more than ever, we all need to be careful about whom we listen to. Just because someone is older than you no longer means they’re wiser. Their ideas may have been good yesterday, but tomorrow they might be obsolete.
Start A Business?
Moving beyond money when it comes to entrepreneurial motivation
I’m often asked in regards to money and business, “How much is too much?” or “How much is enough?”
The people who ask such questions are often those who have never built a successful business that made a lot of money. If they had built a successful business, they would never ask such a question.
Building a business is an adventure
When I formulated my plans to build my first business, my mentor was adamant about the spirit with which I undertook this new adventure.
“You build a business because of the challenge,” he said. “You build a business because it is exciting, it’s challenging, and it will require everything you’ve got to make it successful.”
Building a business builds spirit
My mentor wanted me to build a business in order to find my entrepreneurial spirit.
“The world is filled with people with great ideas,” he said, “but only a few people earn great fortunes from their great ideas.”
He encouraged me to start a business, any business, no matter whether I liked the product or not. He was not concerned about whether I failed. He simply wanted me to start. One of his favorite quotes from Albert Einstein was, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” He wanted me to start a business simply so I could challenge my mediocre mind and develop my entrepreneurial spirit.
Building a business takes everything you have
In all honesty, the risks in starting a business are too large for such a small amount of money. If you decide to start a business, don’t do it for pennies on the dollar. The risks are too high for a payoff so small. Do it for a much bigger payday. Why? Because building a business will demand everything you have to make it successful.
Building a business is a life of love
That being said, while money is important, it’s not the primary motivating factor for building a business. I think the question, “Why would you start a business?” can be best answered by asking the same question in another way. “Why would you keep playing the game of golf?” The answer is found in the spirit of the game.
Building a business is a life of love, powered by the entrepreneurial spirit.
Is your spirit pushing you towards owning a business? Don’t hesitate any longer.