Have you heard the old quip about overnight success taking ten or more years? Anyone who’s started a business knows it’s true. Think Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Though they’ve reached tremendous recognition now for their business acumen, they were once everyday guys. No paparazzi were following them — and they certainly weren’t carrying tickets to space. Nevertheless, they persevered and ended up at the top of the corporate food pyramid.
As an entrepreneur, you might feel like a decade’s a long time to finally get some respect from your peers. Plus, by the time you’re ten years older, you may not be any closer to success than you were. That’s a fair assessment and fear. However, the years will pass whether you take some risks or not. So you might as well reach for your dreams.
In the process, though, you don’t want to leave your likelihood of hitting the jackpot to chance. Instead, you’ll want to put yourself in a position to attract success like a magnet. How? Incorporate these strategies into your work and personal life.
1. Gain mastery of your mind.
Author and serial entrepreneur Mark Lachance talks about the idea of luck being a powerful force that you can harness in The Lucky Formula. Indeed, luck is a terrific asset to have if you’re bent on being successful. But as Lachance explains, it doesn’t happen until you master both your internal and external conditions. I especially want to focus on the former.
Too many founders allow other people to get into their heads. Those people could be well-meaning naysayers, like a spouse. Or they could be envious or spiteful, such as an angry ex-coworker. When you let other people control your thoughts and feelings, you have less ability to make clear, pragmatic choices.
Lachance writes that people who allow themselves to be influenced by others rarely experience luck — or success. How, though, do you stop giving other people rent-free space in your brain? It takes effort to start thinking for yourself. First, you have to know your goals and gather all the information you can about subjects you learn. Next, you need to stay flexible on most topics with a willingness to be firm on others. Finally, you have to practice the art again and again. Over time, you’ll find that you’re able to tap into your intelligence more easily and confidently.
2. Hire talented professionals and let them do their thing.
Just about all of us have been under the thumb of a boss who couldn’t delegate. As a TLNT piece reveals, nearly 60% of workers admit that they’d had the type of manager who just couldn’t let go. So even though you might claim you’d never micromanage, you might be surprised at how fast you can change your mind.
For instance, at the first sign of danger to your business, you might want to jump in and take over. After all, you assume that your people — even the high performers you respect and admire — couldn’t have the same passion as you. That’s where you’re wrong. If you empower and trust the people you’ve put on the payroll, you have a better chance of weathering ups and downs.
Is it tough to sit back and watch when you feel like you should be doing something? You can bet on it. However, your business will succeed if you act like a mentor instead of an ogre. If you’re not sure how to make a move to a coaching mentality, Gallup has some ideas. These include giving ongoing feedback, explaining why something should be done, and handing over ownership of projects. In time, your employees and peers will appreciate that you have faith in them, and many will exceed your expectations.
3. Take care of your physical and mental health.
Burnout is a real problem, especially among business leaders and owners. A Wall Street Journal piece written in early 2021 suggests around one-third of workers may suffer or have suffered from the condition. You can’t afford to let yourself get to the point of experiencing so much stress that you burn out completely in your position.
Remember, though, that burnout isn’t just having a few stressful days or even weeks. It’s a consistent, nagging state that presents itself differently in different people. Some become incredibly depressed. Others just “check out.” Plenty will struggle to check off even the most mundane items on their daily to-do lists.
To be sure, you’re going to be a busy person as a founder. That doesn’t give you carte blanche to destroy your health, however. Additionally, when your team sees you never take a day off, they get anxious: Should they do likewise? Are you modeling behaviors you expect them to follow? This can lead to serious communications disconnects within your organization.
Consequently, your best bet is to work hard but do good for your health. The main staples for good health that you must not skip are eating right, sleeping right, and exercising. Go on family vacations. You’ll be more refreshed and ready when you return to the grind.
4. Look for the silver lining.
Failures happen. Some are small. Some are big. Some are earth-shattering. After they occur, you can’t change the past. Nevertheless, you can learn from it. You can also use it as a teachable moment to help your team members see how to make different choices in the future.
Don’t worry: You don’t have to wear rose-colored glasses or do your best Pollyanna impersonation. It’s reasonable to be brought down by mistakes. You can show your disappointment and anger. The trick is not to dwell on it.
When bad things come your way, deal with them and then have a retrospective. Take a tip from agile project management principles that encourage constant review of everything. And never assume that what seems like a failure today couldn’t lead to an “Aha!” tomorrow. Most successful business people can talk about long lines of failures from their past. Their ability to move beyond backslides helped them reach their goals and find success.
5. Establish a strong, well-defined work culture.
When you build a business from your vision, you get a rare opportunity to build the culture you want. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs just assume that culture will build itself. It will — but it probably won’t be the nirvana that you envisioned when you opened your doors.
Right now, employers everywhere are having trouble finding and keeping superstars. A strong, attractive workplace culture will help you court and acquire top candidates. But, of course, what the culture looks like is up to you and maybe your executive team members. Yet you should know that recent studies show nearly half of all professionals want to work at a place where they can be themselves.
Are you worried that your culture is already heading into toxic territory? You can pull out of a nosedive fast. Start by gathering feedback from your current team members. Find out how they feel about their workplace environment. Then, use their responses to make improvements. Success is almost impossible if your workers don’t want to come to the office or log onto their computers. On the other hand, if your culture is irresistible, your employees will rave online, to customers, and to their friends.
6. Do right by your customers.
The customer doesn’t always have to be right for you to “do right” by the customer. Without customers, you couldn’t stay in business. Therefore, treat your buyers like gold. Anticipate their needs. Smooth out your clunky sales processes. Create loyalty programs that are something special.
Need some inspiration to rev up your customer-centricity? A couple of years ago, Forbes pulled together a piece on 100 companies that get customer service right every time. The list reads like a who’s who of successful brands: Warby Parker. Best Buy. Hilton. In each case, the company has invested tons of time and effort into wowing buyers through and through.
Be honest with yourself: Are your customer interactions as impressive as they could be? Do your team members have the authority to make decisions (within financial and operational parameters) to serve customers? Making any improvements will get your organization far. Who knows? The next time a 100-list is completed, your business could be on it.
7. Keep upskilling.
You founded a company because you were an expert in something. Bicycle making. Digital marketing. Veterinary medicine. Though you should keep driving hard to become an expert in your industry, you can’t be afraid to branch out. Branching out will keep you agile. It may also reveal ways you can evolve your company in exciting ways.
Imagine someone who started a business in 2000 and refused to learn anything about social media or online advertising. That person wouldn’t be running a successful company. Try, then, to stay on top of the newest aspects of the business. Although you don’t have to become super-knowledgeable about everything, you should have a working understanding of emerging technologies, competitors’ news, and possibilities.
Of course, you shouldn’t keep upskilling and reskilling to yourself. Instead, make learning a team sport by offering training to your team. Employees appreciate it when they get paid to develop their skill sets and build out their resumes. With the experience they gain, they can bring concepts to the table and fuel your brand’s momentum.
Success isn’t something that can only happen to everyone else. It’s within your reach. You just have to stretch a bit to grab it and bring it to you and your company.