As a group, entrepreneurs tend to prefer the tangible to the intangible. To launch and grow successful businesses, they usually favor facts and statistics over “squishy” personal growth strategies and leadership development programs. And why not? Running a business is tough. Depending on which survey you consult, as many as 50 percent of companies fail within the first five years. The number that never see their 10th anniversaries is as high as 96 percent.
Many Business Leaders Are Serial Failures
Thanks to odds like these, many would-be entrepreneurs never take the leap. Those who do sometimes fold the moment they encounter stiff headwinds. What these people often forget is that many high-profile business leaders have failed multiple times. The funny thing is we often only recall their successes because they don’t let speed bumps slow them down.
A significant percentage of successful entrepreneurs tank on the first try, and most expect to fail again at some point in their careers.
Here’s where “squishy” enters the picture. In my experience, there are five intangible keys to business success. These character traits allow some people to learn, and quickly recover, from mistakes that would prompt most entrepreneurs to throw in the towel.
High Energy. Although the hours, stress and hard work needed to create a successful business can drain you physically, high energy is something you must maintain. Start by eating right, and getting enough sleep and exercise. This allows you to inject more energy into everything you do. In turn, high physical energy feeds the mental and emotional attitudes required to run a business. If you keep a positive mindset – if you can always get excited and generate enthusiasm for what you do – you’ll pass this energy to your colleagues, employees and the company as a whole. Energy is infectious.
Desire to Learn. You can never know enough about business, your industry and the world in general. Those who think they know it all are letting their brains atrophy. A good leader should be a sponge – someone who soaks up knowledge about almost every topic – marketing, sales, finance, technology, etc. You do this by becoming a student of business. The 9-5 workday is for employees, not owners and executives. To be successful, you must live your business around the clock. To be a lifelong learner, you must continuously read, watch videos and take classes.
Competitive drive. Not everyone is born with this trait. But since you’ll be competing against companies that want to capture your market share and (ideally) put you out of business, competitiveness is a quality you must nurture in a hurry. This applies whether you’re a corner pizza parlor, a plumbing company or a tech firm. Business is about beating the competition. And you do this by being better than your competitors – providing better services, products and solutions. Always maintain the mindset that if you let up, your competitors will leave you in the dust. Knowing this will foster the competitive drive needed to reach the top – and stay there.
Enthusiasm. If you’re not enthusiastic – a cheerleader for your own company – then your colleagues and employees won’t be motivated. Regardless of any setbacks, you must set aside internal doubts and display an outwardly enthusiastic face. This will inspire your team members to rally around the company flag. It will also inspire the team to muster more energy and creativity. Enthusiasm coupled with energy is a potent formula for energizing and motivating the company as a whole.
Selective Memory. Although it’s vital to learn from failures, it’s just as important to throw away any emotional baggage connected with those experiences. This requires a certain amount of “perception modification” – the ability to draw positive lessons from past failures while filtering out the negative feelings and habits produced by those events. For some people, this is difficult. Especially when you’re just starting, you’ll make plenty of mistakes and encounter numerous failures. Accept the lessons taught by your mistakes and throw away any emotions that might negatively affect your judgment. This kind of “selective memory” will help you power through even the toughest times.
Ernie Bray is a high-energy, award-winning American entrepreneur, CEO, author and podcast host. Bray is a respected advisor in driving strategic impact in the areas of process improvement, strategy, management, social media, marketing and innovation.