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What Is The Key To Business Success?

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By Steve Beseke, senior vice president at think2perform and Bob Voss, professor at Dakota County Technical College.

Success can be defined in so many unique ways personally and professionally. As my very good friend Bob Voss, a professor at Dakota County Technical College (Rosemount, MN) and an expert at small business development, says: Having the ability to stay resilient and overcome inevitable business obstacles may be the most important.

He explains in the following piece written exclusively for

It’s February and the snow is still falling in Minnesota (will it ever quit!)! February means we are in the middle of another semester at the Technical College where I teach some of our next business owners. One of the classes I teach is called Introduction to Small Business, which is a required course for a certificate or an AS degree. This class gives the students an overview of what it is like to start and own a small business. We spend a great deal of time in this class exploring why some businesses fail while others succeed.

As a starting point for the class, each student has to define for me what the words “failure” and “success” means to them, and at the end of the class they are required to turn into me a personal hand written quote on the subject of success.

Over the last eleven years, I have collected over 1200 quotes and I continue to be impressed with the insight and depth my students have about the topic of success.

One of the questions I always get asked from students is “what is my own favorite quote on success?” Well to be honest, I do have many favorites but one quote always stands out above the rest for me. The quote is from a southern gentleman who was an educator and civil rights leader named Booker T. Washington. He was born into slavery in 1854, was for the most part self taught, and went on to found Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. In his later years he even became an advisor to a number of US Presidents. His life is a testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit. His success quote is this:

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

When someone asks me about some of the most successful businesses started out of my program, I don’t answer with the business that now employs over 50 people or the one that just passed $3 million in sales. I tell them about Val, a single mom with four kids under the age of 8, who started a photography business and made enough money to buy a house for her family. Or I tell them about Conrad a returning vet with PTSD who is happily running a custom furniture shop. I have had students who have been in prison, addicted to alcohol or drugs, been homeless, or have been bankrupt that have started and are now running their own businesses. Why I love my job is that that no matter how much I give to my students, I always get much more back from them!

If you have a success quote that is a personal favorite of yours, I would love to hear about it. Please send me an e-mail with your favorite quote at



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