An entrepreneur shares his views

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by Al Wahnon

Watching new businesses start up, flourish and expand often impresses us and sometimes fills us with awe. To the casual observer it appears uncomplicated, even simple. Of course, we marvel at the successes and pay little attention to the fledgling enterprises that fail. From personal experience I can tell you the early weeks and months are fraught with stress and anxiety, but the most numbing emotion is the uncertainty that gnaws at your brain. When survival is a threat and perseverance resides on you alone, the battle is on and your only ally is time. You know every day you go forward brings you closer to success. Eventually you arrive. Victory is yours. You are an entrepreneur.

This arduous pursuit was brought to mind recently when I read an article about an entrepreneur who gladly shared his formula for success. While the current thinking in business schools holds that all someone with an idea needs to succeed are focus, clarity and a good business plan, this is not necessarily so, said the writer. He has found that bringing together a great team that’s united by strong motivation, determination and bravery is much more important. To support his theory, the author offers Four Tips for Entrepreneurial Success.

First: Find good people. The success of every new business is enhanced, virtually assured, by a great management team with a vision, passion and a real sense of ownership. Specifically, look for leaders who have the ability to listen to feedback from employees and customers—this is crucial to keeping a service or product fresh and innovative. Often, when there is a glitch and something goes awry, staff members feel they are being ignored and good ideas are not bubbling to the top. Leaders must be strong enough and smart enough to make tough decisions and they must have the passion and skill to inspire their staff and carry them through difficult times. Successful CEOs are unconcerned about the size of their office or the thickness of the carpet.

Second: Realize that the employees are the business. A successful company isn’t the product or service it sells, its supply chain or its corporate culture. It is a group of people bound together by a common purpose and vision. One CEO claimed his products and services were equal to his nearest competitor, “but what separates us from the pack? Our employees.” The best designed business plan will come to nothing if it is not carried out by an enthusiastic and passionate staff.

Third: Always look for the best in your people. Lavish praise; criticize sparingly and sympathetically. Rather than focusing on mistakes, a leader must find someone doing something right every day. If this culture of fostering employee development through praise and recognition starts at the top, it will go far toward stamping out the employee gear of failure that can stunt a business, particularly in its early days. When something goes wrong, find out what happened and why; never place blame. The important thing is to prevent the mistake from happening again.

Fourth: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try to find the fun in your business and that will convey a sense of warmth and affection to your employees and customers. To reinforce that feeling, it is crucial to ensure that everyone who works with you enjoys what he or she is doing. It is imperative that employees are proud of their company to build lasting success and give you the competitive edge. There is no substitute for a happy workplace. But what will put a smile on every face is fair compensation, an adequate benefits package and a pleasant ambiance. That marks the successful entrepreneur.

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