My last name is not “Gates” or “Zuckerberg”. However in the last week my small business passed a fairly significant financial milestone. This event caused me to stop and reflect on what I have learnt in the last 16 years and why my business has kept it’s doors open when so many small businesses are not able to do so.
So I humbly offer my steps to business success from a moderately successful business
1) Show up.
Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. (He also dated his adopted daughter, so we should be careful what we pay attention to) However in this case he has a point.
I won a new, fairly significant client last week. When we sat down to sign the agreement I asked him why he chose my company. I know he met with my competitors, so I was curious why he chose my company over them. He said, “You kept calling me so it was clear you really wanted my business”. No mention of product quality, no mention of price, no mention of service. I won the business because I kept calling him. He knew as a client he was valued. I showed up.
2) Family First
I have unapologetically put my family first. I have, most of the time, been home shortly after the kids came home from school. I program my work travel wherever possible around their schedules, not the other way around. I have taken time out from work to watch interschool sport, gone to every ballet concert, school play etc, that I could.
Once a year I give the kids a surprise day off. I pretend to take them to school and then take them out somewhere fun for the day. My phone is off. For that day, nothing else matters. They are my top priority. Then, when I do happen to be away for work they know they are a priority.
Why is this a business success? If your family is in disarray your life and your business will suffer. Everything is upside down. Family First
3) Choose your Business Partners Carefully.
I originally had two business partners. Our partnership just didn’t work and in the end thanks to a very generous offer from them I was able to buy them out. They were both great business owners and men of integrity. I don’t have a bad word to say about either of them. However our “team” didn’t work. We went about things in different ways. In the end the only choice was to break up the team for all of our
sanity. Choose your partners carefully.
4) You don’t know what you don’t know.
No business owner can know everything they need to. I knew there had to be a way to continue to grow my business further so I joined a network of business owners to learn everything I could. Turns out there was a LOT I didn’t know. I chose Business Blueprint and it has been pivotal in the growth of my company. I have learnt so much that I didn’t know I didn’t know.
5) Bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell.
We boast several national companies as clients. One of those we won when we had just started the company and our entire inventory could be housed in your average garden shed. I know this because our entire inventory was housed in an average garden shed. They wanted to launch our product through their network across Australia. We said
“Sure we can do that”. Then left the meeting and started “chewing like hell”. They remain one of our biggest clients 16 years later. “Chew like hell”
If you are risk adverse then owning a business is probably not for you. I have taken risks, some large some small. I have laid awake at night wondering what happens if they didn’t come off, and dreaming about what will happen if they do I have spent nights staring a dark ceiling when we failed and popping a champagne bottle when we succeeded.
We joined with my previous partners when my wife and I were pregnant with our 4th child in 6 years and I had just turned 30. I had a fairly cushy job, with a company car and a decent career path in front of me. I threw it in for the company in the garden shed. Sometimes it has been amazing, sometimes I, and probably more often my incredible wife, have regretted it significantly. However without the risk there would have been no reward.
7) Choose Great Staff
Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”
Don’t be threatened by the people you hire. I have some amazing staff and in some cases they probably know more about running my business than I do. I know my weaknesses and I hire people to cover them. I am Dyslexic so I hire great people to do my bookkeeping as I will get it wrong. I am great at winning customers but not so good and maintaining that relationship, so I hire great people to do that. Don’t be threatened by great staff.
This one sounds really boring and not exactly motivating. However if your business doesn’t have great systems you’re doomed to fail. Everyone has to know what happens next and how the process flows. Systemise everything!
9) Don’t spend what you haven’t got
This might sound obvious but too many business owners spend money they don’t have. In the early stages of my company we couldn’t afford a second car. My wife needed a car for the kids, so I bought a 50cc motor scooter to get me around. I am 194cm (6ft 4) so I looked a little like a clown on a small bike at the Circus. I would go to business meetings, park the bike around the corner so my clients couldn’t see it, pull my suit jacket out from under the seat and go to the meeting. It was hard, I looked ridiculous, but that little bike did what I needed it to do. It got me from A – B at a cost I could afford. Don’t spend what you haven’t got.
For most of the last 16 years I have worked with charities and non profits whilst working in the business. I have given time, money, advice and ideas. Yes, it took me away from the business but there are more important things in the world. Those of us who are lucky enough to own a business or indeed simply be gainfully employed have an obligation to help others who are less fortunate, or those who
simply needing a helping hand. Find something you are passionate about and give your time, money or expertise to help. Life is not all about making money. Give.
Luke Chant is the owner of Hotwire Heating. Hotwire distributes Under Floor Heating and Heated Towel Rails across Australia. www.hotwireheating.com.au