Business ownership is a journey that is unique to each entrepreneur. It attracts individuals from all walks of life and varying levels of experience. Some attempts fall short, while many lead to fulfilling and successful careers. So what's the secret to success?
Below are the top five habits of highly successful business owners and what they feel is important for anyone considering business ownership. While it's not always possible to fully adopt all of these practices, this list can serve as a helpful guide to your journey as an entrepreneur.
1. "It's important to take things seriously, even as a small guy. It might seem like a lot to talk to [professionals], but at the end of the day it could save you thousands of dollars." -- Tyler Deike, owner, Blackhawk Fiberwerx
Ask for help. Successful business owners aren't afraid to seek professional assistance--they accept that you can't be an expert in everything. Whether through the buying process, selling, or refinancing, an expert opinion from a trusted professional can make a significant difference in the long run. As your personal ownership journey evolves, establish relationships with an experienced group of professional partners to help along the way. When the most difficult parts of the process are in good hands, the entire journey is smooth and low stress. Then, as a business owner, you are free to focus on higher-value tasks that require more direct involvement and ownership expertise.
2. "One of the biggest things I underestimated was how much the community was rooting for us to succeed." --Alison Tocci, owner, Bull Run
Own with integrity. Successful business owners focus on offering customers true value. However, as your company grows, it can be tempting to cut corners or blur lines to keep profits up. Financial gain certainly is necessary, but it shouldn't be the ultimate goal. Your reputation as a successful business owner hinges on providing consistent value; when customers find it, the money will follow. Show integrity and provide value by involving yourself and your business in the local community: support schools, charities, and social groups to build your reputation and show that you care about more than just the bottom line.
3. "The key to my success is that I was able to find a business that I am super passionate about. I think that makes everything so much easier--it's not work when it's something that I love so much." --Rick Schmitz, owner, Rock Snow Park
Have passion. Successful business owners are motivated by passion, not profits. So when that feeling fades, it might be time to pursue another means of income. Those who are most successful in their business are those with a drive for what they do and a desire to do it well--which is usually what entrepreneurs lack in their previous careers. That doesn't mean there will always be a life-changing "aha!" moment, but excitement for the business you are building translates directly to others' perceptions.
4. "[Selling a business is] a series of tough conversations, but ones you must have in order to best position your business to live on once you can't keep up with it anymore." --Nancy Forster-Holt, Shaw & Tenney
Plan ahead. Sometimes it's hard to see through the excitement of opening a business, earning your first dollar, and settling into a routine. However, successful business owners think to the future amid the excitement and growth. A strong financial foundation and a well-organized plan keep businesses prepared for emergencies big and small. In addition to crisis planning, you should also form a succession plan to make your eventual business exit easier for heirs, employees, or any other stakeholders. It also ensures the business doesn't fall into the wrong hands or crumble without your involvement.
5. "Our ultimate goal is to hire people to run [the store] so we can go to Europe and find more product. But we want employees that we trust, so when we are gone, we know the business is in good hands." --Tom McMurtry, Europa Fine Gifts
Make time for yourself. Owning a business isn't easy, so for long-term stability, business owners must work to avoid burnout. If what was once your passion is now making you miserable, it's time to reevaluate. While it can take years to feel fully comfortable stepping back for an extended vacation, make an effort to separate work from play. Current business owners know this is not easy. Begin by setting hard stops to working hours to ensure plenty of time to relax at home, with family, or doing other hobbies. Also, make an effort to hire more employees when it becomes necessary. Don't burn yourself out; most tasks can wait until the morning.
There's no guaranteed roadmap to business success. However, with these helpful habits and your own personal strengths as a business owner, a roadmap to success can take shape. Old habits die hard, but new habits can transform the future of your business.