As a long-time business adviser and mentor to entrepreneurs, I've always been impressed with the few who seem to always come out ahead, no matter what the challenge. It seems to be a function of mindset and principles more than education or natural ability.
I'm convinced that we all have a similar potential, if we practice the right principles and persevere through thick and thin.
We have all heard of examples of people overcoming physical odds to achieve success, such as Richard Branson with dyslexia, causing him to get low marks in school and communicate poorly as a young business person. He learned to use a positive set of principles and his personality to overcome these disadvantages, and now he is a self-made billionaire, leading over 400 companies.
Here is my assessment of some of those key principles that I find practiced around the world by successful business people in today's rapidly changing business environment.
1. Show that you are willing to lead, as well as follow.
People are always looking for leaders in tough situations, but not egos unwilling to bend to new learning and expertise from others. It's important that you communicate your expectations to people around you, and provide feedback and rewards for the contributions from peers and team members.
2. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Your future is bound by the relationships you keep. It may feel good initially to have people around who wait for your requests, but they can't always help you. You need to learn from friends who think independently, have been there and done that, and live in different business domains.
3. Don't be afraid to take risks, but seek to limit your losses.
Whether you are a professional in a team role, or an entrepreneur looking for a new startup, you never get anywhere unless you take a chance. On the other hand, closing your eyes and jumping blindly into an abyss is not smart. Always push your limits, but leave enough to recover.
4. Stop thinking, make a decision, and take action.
Some people are all about new ideas, but hesitant to commit and implement a specific plan. In today's rapidly changing world environment, you can easily loose an opportunity by not moving quickly and decisively. There is always room to learn and pivot as required, and things change.
5. Play to your strengths, and acknowledge your weaknesses.
Your strengths are your real competitive advantages, so focus on them. Recognize your weaknesses, and find help in filling the gaps, rather than trying to do everything yourself. A successful business requires a team of strong people, rather than one hero. Build a complementary team.
6. Always maintain and express a positive attitude.
It's easy to see every challenge as a problem, instead of an opportunity. The mindset and attitude you adopt will impact what you can accomplish, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as how other people see you. Others need to count on you as one who is willing and able to tackle the hard challenges.
7. Deliver value to your customer, to accrue value in you.
Too many business professionals I know spend more time advertising their own value, rather than making sure their team and their customer recognizes value and becomes their best advocate. Value to a customer means you are solving their problem, not highlighting yours.
8. Approach success with small steps, rather than a 'big bang.'
We all dream of that big event or opportunity that will propel us to success, but these rarely happen. Smart people will tell you about all their little steps forward and the many failures they have enjoyed and endured in life. Celebrate small wins to build a mindset for long-term success.
There comes a time in every career when more education and planning have to give way to actual participation and performance in business. I recommend that you start early in overlapping these activities, and gradually switching your mindset to how you deliver, versus what you know.
In my experience, that mindset, and the delivery principles you follow, is the overriding key to your ultimate success.