Most of us are looking for the key to success. As I've mentioned in previous columns, I believe that the core foundation for a successful career is figuring out where your innate talents and purpose connect and creating a job strategy around that area of overlap. After that, there are countless other variables to consider. The biggest key to success is being able to weed through those variables, figure out what works for you, and ignore what doesn’t.
It's trickier than it sounds. We all have doubts about our ability to succeed. This is especially true when you are beginning to build a business. When you're stressed and vulnerable, you're susceptible to any information that comes your way. Savvy marketing ploys also play into our fears, making us believe that the key to six-figure success lies in reading a book or taking a seminar. To that end, here are some common "success strategies" that may sound like the right thing to do, but could actually lead you astray.
Myth: Get advice
We all want advice. We crave understanding and clarity, and if someone can give us something that will help unleash in us what is needed to get the job done, then we love it. The problem is that we often fail to see the difference between advice and support. Advice is what someone else would do in your shoes; support is when someone steps into your shoes and helps you make a decision based on what is best for you. Advice is what’s more commonly shared, so be wary of it. For example, your parents may warn you not to start your own business. They may not have the entrepreneurial spirit, and if they started a business it would probably fail. You, however, may be different. The bottom line: When you hear advice, listen to it. Does it make you excited? If not, then discard it. It’s not right for you.
Myth: Get an MBA
Getting an MBA is viewed in society as a ticket to a high-paid job or a lesson in how to run a business. However, most entrepreneurs will say they learned all that they know by building their business on their own. Getting an MBA may be right for some of you, but it’s not a magical solution for being successful. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs, such as Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, and Oprah Winfrey, are famous for not having business degrees. If getting an MBA excites you, then do it. Otherwise don’t.
Myth: Make six figures in the first year of business
We are impatient. That is one of the problems with listening to typical marketing slogans that are prominent in the "success" industry. Marketing can lead you to believe that it’s realistic to make lots of money fast if you hire the right person or follow the right formula. The fact is that 93 percent of small businesses have less than $250,000 in annual revenue and 57 percent have less than $25,000 in annual revenue, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. So making six figures is not common and certainly not an achievement that should be expected to happen overnight. You need to gauge your success based on other metrics: Are you consistently growing in a positive direction? Do you love what you do? Are you continually evolving? Are you able to pay the bills? These are the types of questions you should be asking, rather than setting up unrealistic expectations that may not be sustainable for an early-stage business.
Myth: Everyone is a customer
There's a misperception that if your business serves everyone, it will be huge. Once you’re at the size of, say, Amazon, these types of goals are more realistic, but if you are a small business trying to grow, nothing is more detrimental than not having an ideal client. Being able to offer a clear solution for a certain type of audience not only increases your likelihood that someone will remember you, but also bolsters your brand. You want to be unique and offer the best solution for a certain type of person, not be everything to everybody.