When you start a business, you sometimes have at your disposal a variety of means, but also oftentimes unclear intentions.
Over the years, after experiencing failures that were often more formative than the successes, and by following the example of role models, colleagues and friends, I’ve discovered the ingredients of a winning formula for success. What you are about to read I learned the hard way, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.
Here are three questions whose answers will help you see your way more clearly to finding your path to success.
Are you wasting your time?
Let’s suppose that you are running a for-profit venture. Think about money. Where will it come from? What will you have to do to earn it? How will you create value?
Your time is limited and therefore a precious commodity. Most, or even all, of your efforts should be applied only to what really matters. To know whether you are doing this, the question you should ask yourself is simple: Is what I am doing now going to make me sell more or better?
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At present, entrepreneurship is having a moment. You can find many courses, contests, evening meet-ups and opportunities for visibility of all kinds. It’s tempting to think that it’s all essential for developing your business and your network. That is partially true.
If your objective is to make money, concentrate on your sales. If you want to increase your notoriety, prizes and cocktail-hour meet-ups could be interesting. It’s up to you to decide what your priorities are when you’re asking yourself these questions.
Finally, what do you want to accomplish in business? To develop your business or your social capital? The answer will indicate where you should invest your time and effort.
Do you have what it takes to succeed?
If you don’t, it will show. Here’s how.
The first things that might possibly come to mind are those character traits that we are constantly told entrepreneurs need to possess. Does it take... discipline? passion? vision? energy and determination? money?
All of that is useful. But are these the essential ingredients of the winning recipe? No.
The most important ingredient for success is a client that is ready to pay you.
So when you are trying to find out if you really have what it takes, try instead to find out if there is a demand for the product or service you are offering. The right answer will not come from you, but from your clients. Get out of your office or workshop. Go and ask them directly. Confirm whether your idea is relevant on the ground, wherever things are happening.
What is really important is how well your product or service meets the most obvious needs in your chosen market. Your team and the personal qualities needed to succeed will follow afterwards.
Ultimately, entrepreneurs who experience dazzling success are not necessarily as determined, visionary or passionate as you, but invariably they all manage to fulfill a strong demand.
How can you measure your success?
In my circles, those who succeed the most are generally the ones you don’t hear a lot about. In my opinion, notoriety is not a gauge of success at the start of a business project—on the contrary. This brings me to my previous question: Should you develop your business or your image?
Your success is measured by the satisfaction of your clients and your employees and by the pleasure you take in building your business. It is measured not only in terms of your sense of personal success, but also by your revenue, profits and clientele.
In business, value—the real point of view of the market—is intrinsically linked to sales revenue and profit margins, to the competitive capacity of the product and to customer fidelity. It is also connected to the social impact of the business much more than it is to the popularity of the entrepreneur.
To succeed, keep your head down and work hard towards your objective. Go at your own pace. Only think about important questions. Focus on what works, on the essentials, on the gas you need to give the engine that’s powering your growth, or in other words on what pays.
I’d like to end this post with a single question—your answer will guide you in terms of your immediate priorities.
As an entrepreneur, what do you want?