profit growthSome days I feel older than dirt – and it has its advantages.  When you’ve been around as long as I have, and built as many companies, you notice commonalities that successful business owners and successful companies share.  From my perspective, here are some of them:

1. Develop a mindset of success.  There are a lot of good people out there who “try,” but trying doesn’t get it done.  Try to hold a pencil – you either do or you don’t.  Those who succeed develop a mindset of success.  They are not victims of what comes their way in the everyday course and chaos of building and running a business.

They learn how to navigate the chaos, how to lead other people, and they possess a willingness (and the knowledge) to do it themselves or to get down into the trenches and work side by side with those who are responsible for getting things done, when the going gets rough.  Show them a wall, and their only thought is how to go through, around, or over it.  Never does it occur to them to allow that wall to stop them.

2.  Have an ability to set and to attain goals.  People who achieve have a preternatural ability to set goals and to stay focused on attaining them.  (And only in your dreams is that a straight line.)  Mostly, it’s filled with twists and turns worthy of a stint on reality television, but those who can take the hit, learn, recover, and then reset their course to the goal will be more successful than those people and companies that can’t.  It’s that simple.

3.  Understand the business they’re really in.  Be honest.  If it’s only about the money, admit that – at least to yourself, because that clarity is what will drive every decision you make – from who to hire and what to charge, to what vendors to use, how much you pay employees, and more.  Too many business owners fall into a trap of doing only what makes them feel good, as opposed to what is necessary to do in order for their business to survive.

At worst, they misdirect their real intentions toward something more socially acceptable or politically correct.  Successful people and organizations aren’t confused.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in doing what makes you feel good, provided those values are aligned with your business goals AND your anticipated profit bottom line.  So whether your motives are fortune, fame, or making a difference; understand, nurture, and refine your vision continually over time BUT be honest, be clear – and then set policies and behavior accordingly.

4.  Know the numbers.  I cannot underestimate the importance of this.  Successful business owners know the critical indicators that contribute to a company’s bottom line, and they monitor those numbers relentlessly.  Whether it’s the value of a customer, lead-to-sale ratios, conversion or response rates, the cost of gaining a customer, the number of steps between a lead and a sale, the cost of new market entry, of hiring and firing. etc., they know the numbers cold.

Time after time and year after year, I sit down with the business owners of companies large and small and ask these questions, and rarely do I encounter a person or a team who can provide the answers cold.  Of course, the good news is that this is one of the fundamental reasons I make a positive difference in their growth and profits. They’ll never NOT know those numbers again.  If you take nothing else away from reading this article, please take this:  Know your numbers.

5.  Have a strategy (and stick to it).  This does not mean they possess a singular focus regardless of circumstances, but they put those circumstances in context to the big picture.  They know when to bail and when to row, and they don’t ever let the boat take on too much water.  They not only know what to do and when to do it, but what not to do and what should be avoided entirely – all of which are equally important when measuring effort and performance in relation to bottom line profit.

6.  Know what they don’t know.  Successful people don’t know everything, but they accept those limitations and surround themselves with the right people who can fill those gaps.  They understand the value of never being the smartest person on their team, and then allow those smarter people the latitude to do what they do best.

7.  Know what’s wrong with their business.  And they know it before the competition figures it out.  Successful people know exactly what’s wrong or what needs to be fixed, and make a conscious decision to act on that information or not.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but whether you choose to implement one of these items or all of them, each and every item will absolutely make a difference to your company’s bottom line profit.