Most business ventures aren't lucky enough to start as a success. Usually it takes thousands of hours of sweat and tears and staying afloat through the survival years, considered by experts to be the first four to five years in business—when one in six businesses will close their doors.
How can you ensure that your business will be a success story? We’re constantly interacting with thousands of business owners, and we've seen our fair share of successes and failures. In our experience, there are four universal signs that an entrepreneur is running their business right and heading down the path of success.
One of the points that you might think to be an obvious selection didn't even make the list. “Showing a profit” is a product of the four points below and not necessarily a sign of success. 2013 was the first year Tesla Motors posted a profit in its 10 year history. Amazon didn't turn a profit until 2003, nine years after the company was started out of a garage in Seattle. Profitability is too variable these days thanks to crafty reinvestment strategies and clever accountants. These four points are true and much less volatile:
1. You Have a Vision and a Plan to Match
You’re a visionary. Stop being humble. You have a vision for what your company looks like in six months, two years and five years.
But according to Jeffrey E. Garten in The Mind of the CEO, “a vision without execution is a hallucination.” Your vision must have a plan to match. Get together with the most trusted members of your team, or your favorite pen and pad of paper if you’re a solopreneur, and map out the most detailed plan of your vision you can possibly create. The trick is to ensure every facet of your vision has a place in your plan. This includes making certain you have thought through the avenues you might need to take if all doesn't go according to Plan A.
If you have a detailed map of your entire vision with a plan to match, then you’re doing it right.
2. Your Team is on Board and They’re Exceptional
It’s not enough to have the map; you need an exceptional team behind you. This is one of the toughest challenges for young entrepreneurs because you see it as an expense not an investment. Keep in mind this is an investment, when you consider the time it will save you plus the revenue you can go generate with your free time.
Don't look for the cheapest look for the best. There is a time and place for sites like E-Lance, Fiverr and O-Desk. In most cases I would not suggest using them for long term support, it is about the quality!
If you've got the best watching your back, then you’re doing it right.
3. Passion For Your Product or Service
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” – Steve Jobs.
Mr. Jobs was right. Without passion for your product or service, you’re destined to flounder. Assuming you went into business for a cause or to pursue your talents, passion is a given: it’s your natural alarm clock, your motivation and the key to your success. But what if your enthusiasm for your business is all but gone? Well, hate to break it to you, but it might be time for a change of pace. As you read this, think to yourself if this work is what you’re truly passionate about.
If you can wholeheartedly say “yes”, then you’re doing it right.
4. You Live a Balanced Life
What are the millions really worth if you’re constantly stressed? A healthy life-work balance is the plague of many serial-preneurs. If you can pay the bills and still have time for your spouse, kids, and personal health, you’re doing it right.
Sometimes you just have to say “no.” This is where many business owners run aground. If you don’t know where to draw the line between your work and your personal life then you’re destined to be a “yes” man in all the wrong ways. It’s okay to be organized and structured, but take time and enjoy being list-free every once in a while. And make sure to take your vacation days and disconnect while you do so.
Do What You Can
These four benchmarks aren't mutually exclusive; a business can be successful without meeting all these goals. That being said, if you’re running a business that is “doing it right” in all four of these categories, congratulations… you’re Rockin’ it!