For many years now I have visited a small coastal town once twice a year. In this town I have seen businesses start up with enthusiasm in the New Year and by the time I get back on my next visit they have disappeared. Yet there are success stories of new businesses that have been introduced into this community and despite people thinking that they are going to fail, they continue to do well.
This town is like a small incubator for new ideas. I have also seen several businesses that are resilient and have continued to thrive over many years.
You know what, you can do a complicated analysis of which businesses succeed and fail and yet ultimately you will find that there is one ingredient, apart from passion or energy, that almost guarantee is business success? I’ll come to that success ingredient in a moment but I first want to touch on something that I find interesting when business consultants, advisers and coaches talk about small business owners and building a business.
If you had to consider the many tasks that you need to perform in just one day, you’d probably wonder where you get all the energy from to do what you have to do. You do all these activities day in and day out sometimes without even thinking. It’s like when you turn your engine on in your car, you just want to drive. You don’t think about all the various processes that need to happen inside of the car such as the various systems such as the internal combustion engine, the mechanical systems for the drivetrain, transmission system, hydraulic system for braking, electrical system and cooling system.
The issue is not that you have to know all the systems but it is really that you have an idea of them and this means when something is not working you have a general idea of whether the fault is the electrical system, fuel system, exhaust system or braking system.
The same applies to a small business. If you had to break down the systems required in a small business, you would find it overwhelming. Some business advisers, coaches and consultants go on and on about all the systems that you need – and yes, such knowledge can be helpful – but is it necessary to be your own mechanic, auto electrician and drivetrain specialist?
If your business has a problem, you can bring in a specialist to diagnose what the problem could be, when you are not able to solve it yourself. Should a part of your business be too complicated or unprofitable to do yourself, you can outsource it. Tom Peters was talking about super subs way back in the early 1990s. Back then, he advised businesses to get super sub suppliers who could take various parts of your business and make them better than doing it yourself. One example of this was a hotel that was run almost 100% by outsource suppliers.
I agree that it’s important to periodically check up on your small businesses “engine” and would like to add that even if you do so, don’t let the consultants and experts overwhelm you with stuff that they don’t apply in their own business anyway. I agree that many businesses don’t make it past the first year and yet that is why many mall business owners are successful. They know about this and plan and execute accordingly. Which business person doesn’t know about the upfront risk in any business they are getting into?
That’s why many businesses know that the success or failure of their own business is going to land up squarely on their shoulders. I know business owners who have practised long in the field and have acquired much expertise, gone on business courses, spoken to consultants and other small business owners before they have taken the leap into running their own business.
The key ingredient, that I promised to tell you earlier, is the business owner. I have seen businesses that I thought would fail but through the determination, street smarts and passion or enthusiasm of the business owner, they have been able to succeed despite the odds.