Especially when things in your business aren't going so well, it can be tempting to imagine that the most successful companies are simply a product of luck -- that they had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. While it may be convenient to place credit or blame on something that's by definition outside of your control, the reality is that the companies that rise to the top are doing the things that the rest of the crowd isn't.

Successful business leaders often point to personal qualities as the key ingredients to success. Vision, ambition, and determination, among numerous others, are frequently tossed around to justify why some businesses succeed and others fail. Though it's certainly true that these qualities can make for better business leaders, leadership also requires taking decisive actions that set a course toward lasting success. With that in mind, here are five steps you should take to help your own business reach its full potential.

1. Seek highly specialized knowledge.

Almost every business that ends up failing does so because of a lack of money, which can motivate some leaders to spend as little as possible. The reality, however, is that spending money on specialized teams or consultants can get you outsize results that you couldn't produce otherwise. For example, boutique SEM auditor Gauss & Neumann created its own specialized SEM tool, dubbed MASK (for Massive Array of Standard Keywords), which works to significantly grow your keywords with the aim of enabling your campaign to reach millions.

Working with consultants lets you reap the benefits of a specialized system without the investment of creating it in-house. Many companies have found consulting groups to be so valuable that they've actually acquired them, along with their technologies and specializations. Accenture is one example, having acquired creative marketing agency Wire Stone, and another is IBM, whose numerous acquisitions include Aperto, Bluewolf, and Resource/Ammirati, to name a few.

2. Use video to highlight your brand.

The days of video as an optional add-on are long gone. According to Chartbeat, the average consumer spends less than 15 seconds reading an article, while the rise in video production and consumption continues to be meteoric. According to Cisco, video will make up 82 percent of internet traffic worldwide by 2021.

These analyses may be on to something. "The Science of Social Video" survey collected input from more than 5,500 consumers and discovered that people watch video content on social media networks for an average of six hours each week. In addition, about 60 percent of survey respondents stated they were likely to further increase their video consumption.

Almost three-quarters of B2B marketers agree that video is a key driver of conversions for their brands, and the statistics appear to support this conclusion. On Facebook, for instance, video posts achieve 135 percent more reach compared to a post with a static image. You can draw your own conclusions. Producing video may be more effort than other mediums, but the possible reach is well worth it.

3. Hire the right people and put them in the right positions.

In his book "Good to Great," Jim Collins gives numerous examples of times his research showed that having the right people in the right positions makes a big difference. He explains that leaders of great businesses start with asking "who" rather than "where." They gather the right people before determining the direction in which they're heading.

Collins discusses the transformation David Maxwell was able to achieve at Fannie Mae when he became CEO in 1981. Taking the helm of a company losing $1 million each day takes a certain kind of person, but he knew that turning the organization around would take more people with the same attitude. Instead of focusing on setting the course, Maxwell focused on who would be coming along, replacing 14 executives who wanted out with some of the best in the business.

4. Improve what people already love.

Many businesses make the mistake of focusing so much on the future that they miss the present. Instead of only looking at what your customers will want later, pay attention to what they already love.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explains, "I very frequently get the question, 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' ... I almost never get the question, 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time."

For Amazon, this means delivering products cheaply and quickly. These pursuits are worthy of continuous investment as it's unlikely consumers will ever demand higher prices or slower delivery. Strive for a similar focus on improving what your customers already love about your brand instead of chasing current fads or new products.

5. Automate everything you can.

Making your business as efficient as possible should be a constant pursuit. Christian Valiulis, chief revenue officer at APS Payroll, points out why: "CFOs who use their systems to automate basic tasks enjoy freedom from unnecessary manual processes that plague many others. Automated processes also reduce transactional inefficiencies, eliminating duplicate work and decreasing reporting errors. The more automated workflows CFOs can build into their reporting systems, the lower the risk of errors or penalties from noncompliance -- and accurate data is the key to every CFO's process of making strategic decisions."

There are other advantages as well. Manual processes require proportional increases to input in order to increase output, whereas automated processes will prove much easier to scale as a company grows. For many brands, having an automated system as the first line in a consumer interaction can help direct the most relevant calls to a limited number of company representatives. Developing this system is an expensive and somewhat risky undertaking, but when executed properly, it can improve a brand's relationship with customers while cutting costs significantly.

None of these strategies should be mistaken for a silver bullet. When considered individually, they may or may not have an earth-shattering impact on the bottom line of your business. What they can do is point you in the right direction, and if you make a concerted effort to implement them in concert with one another, you're sure to see an upward trend, regardless of your product or industry.

Published on: Jun 21, 2018