I am writing this article on a fine Sunday evening, while enjoying a delicious glass of cabernet sauvignon wine. I am on “vacation” (or something like that). As a small business owner, I never really go on vacation 100%, but I knew that was part of the deal when I decided 5½ years ago to become an entrepreneur. As I type these words I can’t hide the grin that has been stamped on my face for a few days now. I had a wonderful year – both personally and professionally – and 2015 will be even better, as long as I continue to do things right.
Do things right. Isn’t that what life is all about? You’re probably familiar with Confucius’ Golden Rule of Reciprocity – an ethical code of morality that states that “one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” This rule can be applied in every single aspect of our personal and professional lives. As I grow older, I am becoming more appreciative of honest feedback, open conversations, and blunt reality. The better I can see and understand my shortcomings (or those of my business), the greater my chances are to grow and better serve my clientele. As I take stock of my year and plan for 2015, five essential elements for success come to mind:
1. Honesty. Everyone likes to deal with an honest person, but not everyone is honest. As we begin the new year, let’s make honesty a standard practice in everything we do in our businesses, starting right in the back room. If we treat our employees with honesty and respect, chances are they will treat our business and our customers in the same manner. If we treat our customers with honesty – quality products, marketing, customer service, etc. – chances are they will continue to give us their business. It’s that simple.
2. Enthusiasm. I love when I work with people that are engaged, enthused, and dynamic. There’s nothing worse than dealing with people who dislike their jobs and make you feel like they are doing you a favor. Enthusiasm is contagious and it should come from the top down in an organization. It’s our job as small business owners and marketers to “contaminate” people around us with positive energy.
3. Drive. Success doesn’t simply happen to anyone. You must want it bad enough to fight for it. Successful people are focused and driven. They also surround themselves with people that complement them and share their drive. One person doesn’t have enough drive to make a company successful – it’s necessary to have the whole company fighting for its success. If your employees don’t share your vision, you need to find people who are willing to help you climb to the summit.
4. Tenacity. We will fail many times in our lives, and that’s good. Failure is part of the growth process. Successful people fail too – perhaps more than you think – but they are tenacious, they never give up. Each fall should only make us smarter and stronger, never weaker. It’s essential for marketers to be determined and persistent. In marketing, nothing is certain – what works today may not work tomorrow. What makes us successful is our capacity to play the game and make strategic moves when needed, instead of sitting on the sideline while watching events take place.
5. Humility. Nobody likes to deal with big heads. I will never forget the last conversation I had with my MBA mentor, Dr. David Levy, at UMass Boston when I stopped by his office to deliver my capstone project. I felt that I didn’t know enough to graduate with a master’s degree. He sat there, gave me a smile, and said, “You will never know enough, Cintia. There’s too much to know out there. You just keep on learning and you’ll be alright.” The same is true for our businesses – we can always improve, we can always do better. Successful people and businesses don’t take feedback personal, they take it as an opportunity for improvement.
Of course it takes more than honesty, enthusiasm, drive, tenacity, and humility to succeed in life. However, in my experience, without these attributes our chances diminish considerably. As you plan for a new successful business year, take a moment to review your business practices, and how you and your employees can work together to make 2015 your most successful year yet.
Thank you for reading my column in 2014. I wish you and your family a prosperous New Year!