2020 has been a tumultuous year for employers and employees, with layoffs, closures, shutdowns and 57 million Americans filing for unemployment. Business success is tough in this environment, and the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has touched everyone. There is one potential economic silver lining with all this upheaval—entrepreneurs have been launching more businesses than ever.
The task now is to help these new businesses succeed.
Launching a successful business can be tough even in a “normal” environment, with 20% of small businesses failing in their first year and 50% failing after five years. When things are “good,” only about 30% of small businesses make it past the 10 year mark. We are now living in an environment that is far from “normal,” which presents with obvious challenges, but also endless possibilities.
When it comes to business success, you’ll often hear that you need to be organized, creative, and connected. That’s true, but traits such as honesty and transparency are just as important. Focusing on these qualities, and building ourselves up in a positive way, will help us find more success whether we’re a business owner, or working for someone else.
Character in business success
Business owners have been complaining about not being able to find qualified workers for the past 100-plus years. It’s nothing new. In the early 1900’s, this qualification was related to character. Today, this has morphed and changed to where education is weighted more heavily in our society, with even the most seemingly mundane jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree to even apply.
That’s a mistake. Character qualities like persistence, determination, and confidence should be considered at least as important as formal education, sometimes even more. For those looking to achieve business success, studying and exercising the following qualities can go a long way in finding it.
“The man who underestimates himself is generally underestimated by the world. The man who overestimates himself may also succeed in fooling the world for a time, but sooner or later will be found out.
The man who knows his true self and makes the world know that same self will find a safer, surer, speedier journey on the road to success.”William Ganson Rose
With all the distractions constantly pulling us in a thousand directions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to think and become acquainted with ourselves. And often, when we do have a few moments of quiet time, we can’t handle the silence and spend it searching for ways to fill it so we don’t have to be alone. It’s unfortunate that we now equate being alone with loneliness. The fact is, being alone with ourselves is a powerful tool in being happier, less stressed, and more successful.
Only when we truly know ourselves can we make the most of ourselves.
If we never take the time to become familiar with who we are, we will never have the opportunity to grow as individuals. We need time to focus on our personal qualities (what do we want to improve on, what are we happy with) and work through concerns, issues, and problems without any external feedback. If we don’t make this a priority, we’ll never know exactly where we stand on anything, always looking for answers, confirmation, and a sense of value from someone else.
Own up to your mistakes
Thanks to the “life-is-always-perfect” highly-curated posts that now make up what is social media, a lot of us feel like we can only put out our good qualities. We can only share our successes with the world, never our failures. (If we don’t share them, they never happened right?) We spend hours putting together posts that show a picture perfect idyllic life, too willing to overlook our failings in hopes that others will do the same. The reality is, all of us make mistakes every day (if you don’t think you do, you’ve got some serious work to do), and the fact that we avoid owing up to them supports the idea that we don’t truly know ourselves.
4 steps to grow and be successful
Being comfortable with who you are can be painful, takes time, and is a lifelong project. There are no shortcuts or apps to streamline the process for you. All you need to begin a more meaningful relationship with yourself is time alone, quiet, no distractions, a notebook and a pen.
Know where you’re going.
Defining business goals is critical. The more detailed and specific, the better. Weak goals equal weak motivation. To be successful, we need to have a clearly defined direction we are heading and an unmistakable path on how we intend to get there.
We need to be asking ourselves, “Where am I going?” and “Am I doing what I need to be to get there?” on a regular basis. If we don’t, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the unimportant daily mundane tasks that do nothing more than keep us busy, but do nothing to actually move us toward our goals.
Only in rare occasions is business success the result of luck or something else we have no control over. The amount of success we have is dependent on the amount of progressive activity we participate in each and every day—the amount of work done that advances our goals. It’s not busy work. We need to be in control of ourselves, always actively thinking, engaged in our work, and maintaining the attitude that we are always working to move ourselves forward.
Regularly checking-in with ourselves and pondering if we’re doing all we can to consistently move ourselves closer to our goals continually reminds us of where we’re trying to go. To be successful, we need to see ourselves as an active agent in our own success. Being frequently reminded of where we’re trying to go paints an ever-present, crystal clear picture in our mind that serves to keep us motivated.
Know who you are.
Once a year, evaluate the qualities of your character. Be sure to do this when you are alone and have no distractions for an hour. Use the same list of traits each year and rate yourself on a scale from one to ten. Don’t look at the previous year’s results until after you’ve scored yourself for the current year. Use this as a way to check in with yourself each year, compare results with the previous year, and identify those areas where you’re doing well and where you need to improve.
- Higher scores are better with these:
- Lower scores are better with these:
Know who you work for.
Quite often, we spend all week complaining about how tired we are and how much energy we need to put into our work. Then, when the weekend rolls around, we expend twice as much energy (or more!) pursuing sports and activities that we love. We tell ourselves, especially if we work for someone else, is that work is done for someone else, play is something we do for ourselves. That’s not a good mindset to have.
A successful mindset recognizes that whenever you are working, and regardless of if you work for yourself or someone else, you’re always working for yourself. Being efficient, competent, and taking pride in your work either results in your business growing, or advancing at your job. You need to put just as much energy into your work, your health, your home, and your relationships as you do into your play. This will ultimately cultivate more success for you not only in business, but in all aspects of your life.
Know how to find enjoyment.
Far too often, many of us lose our sense of enjoyment when the novelty of something new wears off—a new job, new car, or even a new relationship. This is also true when it comes to a new business. For some, the excitement and enjoyment of a new venture slowly slides into a joyless grind. For others, the pleasure they find in their work never fades. The key to being successful is to maintain the correct mindset so that we continue to discover enjoyment in our work.
If we tell ourselves to “buck up” and force ourselves to continue to do work that we don’t thoroughly enjoy, we are less likely to be successful. The pessimism and bitterness that we feel at work will also seep into the other areas of our life. If we don’t enjoy the work we’re doing, we must make it a priority to change to a field that we do like. Take advantage of any opportunity to improve our skills or become more proficient. This will help prepare us for bigger and better opportunities that may come up.
A record number of entrepreneurs are launching businesses every day, even as our economic environment continues to transform and change. By recognizing the essential value that character plays in our overall success, we can become happier with ourselves while finding more enjoyment, and prosperity, in our work.