Raj Malik is CEO & Co-Founder of KikScore, an exciting startup that helps small online businesses use their own track record of reliability and trustworthiness to increase sales and close more leads. Raj is a contributor to his company’s blog at blog.kikscore.com, a past speaker at SXSW and is passionate about helping small business and entrepreneurs succeed.
There are hundreds of thousands of books, blogs, textbooks and journals on what you need to have as an business owner to succeed. Some of these books that try to inspire business owners include everything from Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut to Good to Great and Built to Last by Jim Collins. In this post, I want to give some practical tips from experience on skills and traits that I have seen that increase the chances of an entrepreneur and business owner actually succeeding. Here are some of those traits and skills:
1. Create a Culture of Accountability Between Your Team: Entrepreneurs that run startups and small businesses should aim to create a culture of accountability for both themselves and the team. This is because avoiding accountability in a startup or small business can sometimes be easy, because teams are small and if something does not get done someone else steps in to pick up the slack. This lack of accountability, however, can decrease morale, create tension between team members and lead to the business not achieving its full potential. That is why it is critical that an entrepreneur from the get-go instills accountability for themselves and their team. A straightforward way to do this is each morning have a short 15 minute huddle roundtable meeting where each team member quickly runs through what they closed out from the day before and what they are going to work on that day. Also the group should also discuss what items are dependent on other members of the team to accomplish. Therefore everyone in one setting has an idea of: 1) what is getting done; 2) what is dependent on another team member to deliver and 3) what items are being missed. This helps you demand accountability for yourself and also across the team.
2. Define and Measure Business Objectives and Key Performance Milestones: The accountability we just discussed must be tied to something of substance for the business. The substance is clear goals, milestones and objectives that the team must work to accomplish. This is critical for keeping your company focused and on the right path. Check out this recent post here on maintaining business focus. A clearly defined set of milestones and the objectives also serve the very helpful purpose of keeping a business team on the same page. As the Small Company Blog discussed in a recent post, this creates a shared vision of the company. Entrepreneurs then must take the time and make it a priority to measure the company’s and team’s progress against these milestones and objectives. Once the measurement is completed, it is important to share those results with your team.
3. Communicate. Communicate. And Communicate Some More: For entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses information often remains tightly held by founders and owners. This is one area where startups and small businesses should strive to do exactly what big management gurus recommend. Communicate, early, often and then keep communicating. And when you stop communicating, start communicating again! In a business, an entrepreneur carries the burden of keeping a wide circle of stakeholders up to date with information so these various stakeholders know priorities, goals, expectations, vision, and requirements. So that makes it imperative that entrepreneurs should make it a priority to regularly communicate with your team, investors, board members, fellow employees in the company, vendors, partners and outsourced contractors. Probably most importantly, make an aggressive goal to over-communicate with your customers. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call or email and check in with your customers. The ability to communicate is critical to a success of an entrepreneur in their business.
4. Seeking Guidance and Expert Input is Key to A Refined Strategic Vision: As an entrepreneur it is imperative to remember other people have been in your very same shoes. So instead of waiting until you are in a desperate situation where you need guidance, early on seek out help and lessons learned from those other people who have already been on the entrepreneurial journey. Chances are they may have faced the same challenges that you are dealing with right now. Paul Mullan at Bloggertone uses the great saying in a post “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back” when imploring people to Ask For Directions! So entrepreneurs should really take the time to nurture and tap their network. At KikScore, I try to make it a priority that every week I am talking to a network of peers about my business, but I am also making sure I am making it a two way street and helping others out too. I recently found out first hand that not only does our network help us out with guidance but through a simple 15 minute conversation with a long time contact, we discovered an entirely new product extension opportunity for us. So do not be shy in asking to get feedback on any assortment of items including strategic goals, marketing, partnership opportunities, management challenges, expansion of operations, hiring or anything else related to your business. All you have to do is ask!
5. Everyday You Need to be Thinking About Your Costs: Spending too much money too fast can quickly kill your business. As a result, it is critical that an entrepreneur maintains disciple to watch your business costs. This may sound like it is obvious, but many people fall into the trap of just saying – “We have enough money on hand, lets just go for it and spend the money!” That is very dangerous thinking because chances are you will bleed the business dry and before you know it you may run out of money. So instead, for every expenditure an entrepreneur needs to ask these important questions: 1) Does the business really need to spend this money? 2) What would happen if we did not spend this money? 3) Is there a cheaper way for the business to accomplish the same goal? and 4) What exactly in sales, customers, efficiency etc can the business expect to get out of this investment and by when? Then its also important to follow up after the fact and assess whether the money was in fact well spent. If your business is disciplined about this, you can conserve precious cash and you will also make better spending decisions for the business. The discipline can be the key to long term business viability and success.
These are just some of the skills and traits that every entrepreneur should focus on developing. The important point is also to say that these skills and traits do not appear over night. They come through focus, hard work, learning and deliberate effort.