Golden key to success.

Michael Dell began building computers in his dorm room at the University of Texas and turned it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. That success was the result of extraordinary entrepreneurial drive combined with timing and market demand.

But you likely started your business not planning to turn your bakery into an international chain of stores or your transmission repair shop into a franchise system. In my work with hundreds of small businesses, the principal typically has a special skill, talent, niche product or some other differentiator that becomes a business because they were encouraged to “make money at what you do best.”

So you began a part time business. You got so many referrals that you become overwhelmed with requests. For a while, you are making enough money to see a return on your time investment. Then, the inevitable question becomes “do I quit my day job and do this full time?”

There are many workshops and support groups for startup entrepreneurs. Most are very well intentioned with helping you learn the basics of running your own business. The fatal flaw in learning how to raise capital, open a shop, create a marketing plan and sell your product or service has absolutely no relationship to “what you do best.” You may make the most incredible chocolate cakes ever baked, but you have little or no core skills in business finance, building an infrastructure, marketing, sales, insurance, products liability and volume production.

There are often friends, family and members of entrepreneurial groups who want to pitch in and help, but do they have track records of successfully growing a business? Do they have a history of creating scalable business growth, minimizing costs, creating marketable price points and inventory control? Likely not. Your days become consumed with activities that are so far from “what you do best” that you may be questioning your sanity in starting the business.

The next hurdle is that you are maxed out as a sole proprietor. You are paying the bills and, if you are lucky, you have a few dollars left over for yourself. So you need employees. You search for those who have the skills you need plus the entrepreneurial drive to work for meager wages as you jointly grow the business.

You start interviewing people whose first questions are about paid time off and a 401K plan. You are not finding potential workers who share your standards and drive. There is a new truism that I hear all too often: “I interviewed so many people I wound up hiring the best of the worst!” The right people are out there, but you are likely looking in the wrong places. Successful recruiting is also likely not in your core skill sets.

Your dream of making a comfortable living, doing what you do best, may have become a nightmare of problem solving issues for which you haven’t the training to deal with. I have helped companies avoid and fix these entrepreneurial business killers. The following five tips are seldom taught to would be entrepreneurs but MUST be learned and embraced as every bit as important as creating their products or services.

  1. Creating Your Vision – What is the definition of the best possible scenario for your business? What level of customer service reflects you and your values? What are the steps you see to reaching your end game, whether it be selling the business or making it your life’s work and endowing it to your heirs? This MUST be a written vision that, from day 1, you live and communicate to your customers, suppliers and potential workers.
  1. What is the Mission Plan? – What is the documented plan for you achieving your vision? What are the steps and milestones? What are the metrics and indicators that validate that you are on your plan or when you should modify the plan? Again, everyone involved in the creation of your mission MUST be working this plan just as diligently as they are doing their jobs.
  2. What are Your Values? – What is your definition of acceptable quality? How do you determine customer satisfaction? What conduct is acceptable and unacceptable for your organization? Your values MUST be documented, communicated to everyone and lived every minute of every day, by everyone. Yes, you too!
  3. What are Your Processes? – Regardless if you are a web designer or house painter, your business success depends on repeatedly executing processes with little or no variability. In other words, you have to document the steps of your business in work instructions with measurable milestones and quality checkpoints. You also have to create roles and responsibilities that are required to make the processes successful every time and compensation must be based on error-free projects and measurable customer satisfaction.
  4. Living the Vision and Mission – If you do not work #1 through #4 with the same passion that you dedicate to your products and services, you will likely never create a large success for your small business. None of these are easy and you cannot do them all on your own.

So what to do? Surround yourself with experts who “do what they do best,” like business finance, process excellence, creating a healthy learning work environment, quality management and marketing.

If you live these five steps of business success, you will attract other entrepreneurs to your inner circle who share your passion and will work with you in providing the support you need for turning your dream into a viable business. And you will likely be able to teach them these five steps, plus the lessons of your own success, to help them create large success from their small business.

Oh yes, if you do have the dream of creating a larger business enterprise, these same steps apply. When I was a senior consultant to Dell Computer, living these business fundamentals helped them by adding even more millions to their bottom line.