How do you define success? For some business leaders, success is defined by monetary rewards, while others say success is having a positive impact on others.
“I own and run a Web design company. My goal has never been to have the most clients, or even to make the most money. I like being focused on just a couple of clients at a time, and a few interesting projects a year. My measure of success is doing good work for interesting people and providing them with value.” — Paul Jarvis, owner of PJRVS
“Success is the gradual realization of a worthy goal. To me, the key word here is worthy. Ask yourself this … if you reach your goal, will you look at it as a goal worth attaining.” –John Lee Dumas, founder and host of business podcast Entrepreneur On Fire
“Success is defined for me personally by accomplishing goals, not being motivated by a dollar, but by creating, with creativity, passion, hard work — it often goes hand in hand with financial rewards as well.” — Matt Levine, co-owner of Cocktail Bodega, Sons of Essex, The Rowhouse Inn and partner at Brandsway Creative
“Success is running a profitable firm that conducts business with honesty and integrity, makes meaningful contributions to the communities it serves and nurtures high-quality, balanced lives for all employees. As business owners, we must think outside of our own doors. We must think about the potential impacts that we have on those around us, as well as future generations.” – Hope Wilson, president of Wilson Business Growth Consultants
“Success is something we should always be striving for. It comes in different sizes and shapes. It is seen as various things from varying viewpoints. It can often be hard to achieve, but in some way, it leaves the world a better place.” — Michael Byrnes, national speaker and president of Byrnes Consulting
“To me, success means making a living of something you absolutely love to do. Something that makes you come alive and gets the best out of you. But most importantly, it means going to sleep at night knowing that your talents and abilities were used in a way that made a difference to others.” – Iris Louwerens, founder and owner Dig Mondays
“Success entails meeting the goals you have set for yourself. Success doesn’t have to do with comparing yourself to others; it is all about growth and accomplishments.” – Marcia Dee, owner of Etsy shop UpcycleFever
“As an entrepreneur and business owner, my success is built around my staff. My company will only be successful if I have the right team with me — and to make sure that happens, I ensure that my staff is happy. My ultimate success is making sure I can pay my staff as much as I can, and making sure they love getting out of bed every morning and coming to work because they really enjoy what they do.” – Brendan Lyle, CEO and founder of BBL Churchill Group
Principles of Competitive Success
Maintaining a competitive edge is vital to the long-term success of any small business. While there are a wide range of factors that determine the success or failure of any company, there are number of key components to competitive success in business all entrepreneurs should heed. These components are found in nearly all divisions of a company, including marketing, human resources and finance.
Business planning is vital to keeping your company pointed in the right direction. Take the time to create a thorough plan–giving thought to product development, operations, marketing, financing, business models and staffing issues–before you begin to build your business. Planning is not only important in the early stages; revisit your strategic plans regularly to keep the direction of your business in line with current and future trends in the marketplace.
Continuous value creation (CVC) is the disciplined process of continually examining your current product or service offerings to ensure that they are above the industry standard. Your product may be a star in the marketplace today, but it might not take long for a competitor to create a slightly better product, a new method of delivery or a new customer experience. Keep your operations as flexible as possible to quickly take advantage of new industry trends. Make research and development a consistent priority to ensure that you are the first to market with new innovations.
Effective customer service is the largest determining factor of customer loyalty and repeat purchases. According to MarketingSphere.com, this single factor often can give small businesses an edge over their larger competitors. Focus your sales and service efforts on delivering the most satisfying customer experience in your industry, and you will see a dramatic increase in word-of-mouth referrals and repeat sales.
Managing your finances wisely can go a long way in helping you achieve long-term business success. Your small company may not have vast credit reserves available, so taking the time to build up a credit reputation through frugal purchasing and disciplined debt repayment is important to the growth of your operations. Pay attention to your debt-to-assets ratio and your times-interest-earned ratio, and compare them to other players in your industry. These ratios will give you an idea of how much of your success relies on borrowing money from banks and other lenders. Small businesses can gain an advantage by being much less dependent on debt than their larger competitors.
Marketing can be a weak point in many small businesses because the sheer costs of traditional media outlets can be daunting to companies with small budgets. Nevertheless, a steady marketing presence is vital to competitive success in business. If you do not have the funds to implement a full-scale television, magazine or radio campaign, get creative and stretch your marketing dollar as far as possible.
Social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become widely popular means of communicating with customers at virtually no cost. Consider sponsoring local events in your target markets or maintaining a presence at local trade shows. Place ads in local newspapers and smaller magazines. Post promotional flyers around town, and offer promotions. Host a charity event, and match all event sponsorships with citywide news releases. The possibilities for bootstrap marketing opportunities are virtually endless.