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No one starts a business and aims at failure. Every business owner wants their start-up to succeed.
But, the bad news is, the odds are against us.
Two in ten businesses will fail in their first year. Another three will close down after five years. Ultimately, only three companies will make it through the ten-year mark.
If you are a small business owner, it makes you wonder: What does it take to make my business work? What skills and characteristics of an entrepreneur do I need to increase my chances?
The ideal answer to these questions might be more complex than what we could expect. Perhaps, the simplest and most effective route is this: Observe the people who already made it.
Read: 6 Best Ways To Learn Business At Home
Learning from Real Successful People
Knowledge is an invaluable resource in business. But to harvest accurate information can be tricky. Too many fake gurus dress as successful entrepreneurs so they can sell their business courses.
But what if we can learn from the CEOs of world-class companies like Starbucks and Disney?
I need not mention this anymore, but these are the people who you want to hear talk for three reasons:
1. They already have the skills of a successful entrepreneur.
2. They have a proven track record to back up their classes.
3. What they teach are real-life business lessons. Not mere theories.
I am fascinated by business success stories. I would like to hear how they started, what challenges they encountered, and how they overcame them. Those insights would be vital to me. It will make me focus more on the keys to business success, and at the same time, watch out for the possible pitfalls.
Howard Schultz was the former CEO of Starbucks, while Bob Iger was for Disney. They both lead our beloved brands for many decades.
Schultz expanded Starbucks from a small coffee chain in Seattle to a global empire. It now has more than 32,000 stores and a market value of about $96 billion.
Iger, on the other side, has been a Disney executive since 1996. He played a pivotal role in developing new businesses for The Walt Disney Company. The acquisition of Pixar and Marvel has added a new dimension to their organization. Under Iger, the market capitalization for Disney increased from $48 billion to $257 billion.
I have already failed two businesses in the past decade. Both companies did not reach five years. My business record since I graduated from college is 0-2. I am not sure about you, but I would invest an arm and a leg to learn from genuine, successful people. — and hopefully prevent a 0-3 hole. If you want to know more about my debt story, follow the link below:
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Here are the 10 important skills of a successful entrepreneur according to Starbucks and Disney:
- A successful entrepreneur knows where to focus.
- Operates with integrity.
- Use their time efficiently.
- Innovates with empathy.
- He always puts himself in a learning position.
- Assembles value-based teams.
- They do not manage. They lead.
- Takes giant swings.
- Continuously find ways to serve.
- Forge strong relationships.
I got an incredible opportunity to get in the MasterClass of both Howard Schultz and Bob Iger. While each of their classes is unique, I observed their keys to business success are almost the same.
Here is the gist: The success of a business is dependent on who is running it.
The mission of The Learning Dad Blog is to help fathers who struggle to keep their households in order. — and this includes business stability.
A lot of dads are small business owners. It is no longer a mystery how businesses impact families today. Both companies work hand in hand. Our business influences the success of our family and vice-versa.
Here are the ten skills and characteristics of a successful entrepreneur I collated from the MasterClass. I hope this will not only make your business successful but your family as well.
1. A Successful Entrepreneur Knows Where To Focus
If an organization and a company are chasing too many things, it becomes dysfunctional very quickly.Howard Schultz
It is better to be a specialty store than general merchandise.
Focus is vital to our businesses. It brings clarity, productivity and establishes its identity.
“You can only have three.” It is the advice Bob received from a friend when he is about to pitch his business strategy to the board.
“Any more than three priorities and your pitch begin to sag. Your vision for the company becomes muddled—to customers, to investors, and the board.”
Disney can engage in countless objectives. The sky is the limit for them. Even so, Bob only focused on these three elements during his tenure as CEO:
1. Invest in creativity.
2. Use technology to make compelling content and reach people in innovative ways.
3. Grow globally. Deepening connection to markets around the world.
Focus is when we spend time on where our organization can have the most impact. It is serving the right customers instead of all the customers.
A successful entrepreneur knows he cannot be anyone to everyone.
Through focus, we can establish who we are and what we do. It is then we can clarify who are the real customers and who are the right employees.
Read: How To Start A Business With No Idea (A 4-Step Guide)
2. Operates with Integrity
It is vital that anyone in business operates with a high degree of integrity.Bob Iger
Integrity is the most crucial element to success. It is also one of the most grueling skills of a successful entrepreneur.
Integrity in business means we do not cut corners, burn bridges, nor backstab. It also means we pay our employees, taxes, and stakeholders on time. When trouble arises, we will opt for ethical solutions than any backstairs acts.
“Be honest and transparent with employees about the size and degree of a crisis. People deserve to have complete information about the challenge the company is facing.” — Howard Schultz
When we operate with integrity, we do not sweep the problems under the rug. It is getting into the root of it with transparency and dignity — no matter how difficult it may seem.
Schultz made bold and painful moves when Starbucks got hit by the 2008 financial crisis. He mass-fired executives and shut down hundreds of weak stores to keep the brand alive. All the stores in the U.S. were also temporarily closed to retrain their staff on how to make espresso.
Inevitably, Starbucks enjoyed a 21,000% increase in market capitalization during the crisis. Schultz was able to do this because he was honest with himself and the company. He confronted the situation head-on.
The credibility of our company rests on integrity. People only deal with companies they trust. Integrity should be at the core of any entrepreneur if they want to succeed.
3. Use Their Time Effectively.
My job demands a lot of my time and energy, so I have adjusted my daily routine over the years to enable me to do my job effectively.Bob Iger
Here is what a typical day for Bob Iger looks like:
4:15 AM — Personal time. (Workout, listen to music, and practice stillness.)
6:30 AM — Work
4:30 PM — Home and spend time with family.
Successful people are careful with their time. They structure and assess the hours they spend to ensure they have used it on things that matter most.
What is important to you? Work, sleep, me-time, or family-time? Whatever it is, you have to write it down on your calendar. Be intentional about what you put on your schedule. The rule of thumb is to choose 2-3 priorities and call it a day. Tailor your time with your rhythm.
Of course, there will be rough days despite all the efforts. It is the reason why we should build the habit of taking note of our day. One of the best ways to do this is to carry a journal.
Journaling allows us to reflect and adjust the way we use our time. Here is a 5-minute power questions I try to answer daily:
— What am I thankful for right now?
— What would make today great?
— What are my top three priorities for today?
— What did I achieve today?
— 3 amazing things happened today?
— What is one thing I could have done better today?
— What are my plans for tomorrow?
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4. Innovates with Empathy.
The easier route is to disrupt a category that already exists…Howard Schultz
We already know that majority of businesses fail. One way to improve our odds is to venture into already-existing markets than starting a new one.
New businesses do not always need to pioneer. The easier route is to, instead, disrupt or innovate what people have already accepted.
Take Starbucks as an example. They did not invent coffee. People have been roasting beans since who knows when. What Starbucks simply did is change the way we enjoy coffee. And look where this little disruption took them: 32,000 global stores and counting.
Disruption does not only apply to start-up businesses. The world is ever-changing, and so is the demand. Innovation is what keeps companies relevant. The challenge for established organizations is to change without wrecking their core identity. — How to innovate yet not alienate its customers.
There is a lot we can learn from Disney. Bob Iger did a masterful job in this area. They disrupted the brand through the evolution of their characters. From Snow White and Cinderella to Moana and Anna. From being more passive princesses to more independently spirited ones.
Disney managed to combine traditional values with 21st-century archetypes in their newer characters.
It is no accident how we love Disney growing up and still love them today with our kids.
5. He Always Puts Himself in A Learning Position.
Being curious is vital to being successful.Bob Iger
Successful people always put themselves in a learning position. They are curious and have the desire to discover new things all the time. They visit new places, meet new people, and get as many unique experiences as possible.
Curiosity enables us to seek what the consumer wants and how to satisfy them. But our desire to learn does not just happen. It is something we need to cultivate.
Explore, ask questions, take classes, go outdoors, read good books. These are some activities that can foster our curiosity.
“Putting yourself in a position to learn is uncomfortable. It may lead you to experience failure. Put yourself there anyway. Embrace failure and learn from it.” — Howard Schultz
Real learning does not rely on mere data. We need to expose ourselves out in the marketplace and crunch real numbers. We must dip our hands in the carcass of our last failure and examine what went wrong.
Learning is messy. Learning is uncomfortable. Yet successful people do not mind. They embrace the messiness and press-on.
No matter what business you are in, be the best student.
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6. Assembles Value-Based Teams
Your primary job as an entrepreneur and leader is to build a team of people with diverse experiences and expertise but like-minded values.Howard Schultz
Business is a team sport. We must have the right people in place to have a better chance to succeed.
Skill sets and values are the two keys we look for to unlock a great hire. We should build our team with people who have better and more unique skills than us. Furthermore, he should have the values that fit with what our business tries to achieve.
Disney went downhill after they enjoyed the success of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King in the 90s. By the time Bob took over as CEO in 2005, things look pretty dire.
“I knew that my priority in becoming CEO was to turn Disney Animation around. I also knew that if I did not do that, my tenure as CEO was likely to be short-lived.” — Bob Iger
The initial step Bob took was to search for a talented crew who could turn the ship around. He asked himself: When it comes to animation, who is doing it best?
There was only one answer: Pixar.
So he went to Steve Jobs on his second day as CEO. After a few chit-chats, Bob made a bold proposal: What if I buy the best animation studio in the business?
Disney eventually did not only end up with Pixar but Marvel and Lucasfilm as well. Bob assembled a formidable team that improved their creative storytelling. These changes ultimately earned them more than $33.8 billion at the global box office.
7. They Do Not Manage. They Lead.
People do not want to be managed. They want to be part of something larger than themselves.Howard Schultz
Crisis and turmoil are part of the deal. It is at these times when leadership is most crucial. Successful entrepreneurs are leaders who take brave actions. — Especially during the stressful times of their businesses.
Effective leaders are honest, transparent, and clear communicators. They know how critical it is for everyone inside the company to know the complete info about what they are facing. Thus, they do not sugarcoat the size and degree of a crisis.
If we want our employees to get in the mud, let us make sure we got in there first. We must eradicate entitlement as leaders and make the tough calls ourselves.
We do not need to tell great employees what to do. What they want is direction.
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8. Takes Giant Swings.
Anything new and different is risky but necessary.Bob Iger
Successful entrepreneurs take risks. They jump in even if it is uncomfortable.
Self-doubt is natural. We are all afraid to fail because it is expensive. But so is regret. Both action and inaction have a price.
Business success requires a tolerance for risks and failures. And most importantly, a capacity to forge ahead in the wake of defeat.
But before we swing our axes and put our businesses, as well as our bank accounts, in peril, let us do our homework first. We have to make sure we calculated the risks we can tolerate and proceed with caution.
Bob Iger emphasizes that thoughtfulness is as important in business as courage is. The key to healthy risk-taking is to approach it with as much knowledge and insight as possible. — This will reduce the risk significantly. But we need to find the balance. We have to do the cost-benefit math to see if the risk we are about to take is worth it for our businesses.
Embrace the risk, but let us become an expert in our field first.
9. Continuously Find Ways to Serve.
Is this decision going to make our employees and customers proud? — If the answer is yes, you are on the right track. If the answer is no, it may be time to rethink your strategy.Howard Schultz
Successful entrepreneurs always seek ways to serve their customers and employees. They satisfy the needs of their consumers and also create better opportunities for their people.
It is a good idea to invest in analytics to get insights from the current trend of our industry. Yet, the most vital form of research is to expand and deepen our own experience of the world.
Bob loves to travel. It allows him to see the diversity of cultures around the world. But more important, he was also able to witness firsthand how people enjoy Disney globally.
No matter the size or type of business we are in, this kind of awareness is crucial to our success.
We will no longer base our actions on mere guesses. We have to touch, feel, and listen. Real-life exposure allows us to serve our customers and employees better. It gives us a greater understanding of how people interact with our brand. — Even Google cannot provide this data.
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10. Forge Strong Relationships.
Find partners who share your values, and who can be relied on when things get difficult.Howard Schultz
A successful entrepreneur will do his due diligence before he signs any deal with a partner. He only forges strong relationships with the right people.
Research their history. Do a cross-check with other companies they have worked with. These are the two most basic ways to investigate a person or a company. The importance of choosing the right partner cannot be stressed enough. Once we signed the contract or take on their money, these people are now part of our businesses.
On the flip side, it is also our duty as an entrepreneur to be upfront. We should let them know our needs and what we can bring to the table. It will save time in negotiations and also allows the other party to assess if we are the right partner for them or not. This approach will remove the notion of who wins or loses at the end of the deal. A strong relationship, in essence, is a result of both parties benefiting from each other.
Bob was straightforward about his intention to acquire Pixar from Steve Jobs. He laid down every detail on why the acquisition was essential to Disney. With his honesty, the negotiation with Pixar and others became efficient and authentic.
The result of this simple approach has been remarkable. They did not only close a deal but a series of deals. Both The Walt Disney Co. and its partners have greatly served one another.
If we want to forge strong relationships, we must think win-win.
Read: Is it hard to start an online business?
Closing Thoughts: The Most Important Skill
It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. To be content with little is a great wealth.Seneca
Today we learned the characteristics and skills of a successful entrepreneur. Now what?
A list like this can be inspiring. But the truth is, at the end of the day, success is not guaranteed to anyone.
The information above only helps us increase our chances to succeed. Even if we manage to develop eleven or twenty abilities, it still by no means assures us of triumph.
But do not fret. There is one ability that guarantees our win every time. It is the most important skill we all must develop if we want success in business and life.
Are you ready for it?
It is the skill of Contentment.
Being content is the ability to find joy and satisfaction in our work no matter what the outcome is. It is the proficiency to see success in every situation. A defeat is an opportunity to get better. A victory is a moment to be shared.
Complacency and contentment are not the same. To be content means we did our best with what we have and is happy and at peace with the results.
We are not defined by what we achieve or did not achieve anymore. For, in the end, success is no longer measured by what we accomplished but rather by our ability to be content.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.Philippians 4:11-13 NLT