BY JILL JOHNSON
Everyone who starts or leads a business dreams of passing it along to the next generation. But few are successful in making it happen.
Every year, countless businesses and organizations fail. Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. Long-term success takes more than hard work and a little luck. Leaders and entrepreneurs who achieve exceptional business longevity share eight business practices that move them to long-term success. They think differently. They operate differently. And they lead differently.
1. Engage in ongoing planning with a realistic vision.
Successful executives and entrepreneurs prepare for success on an ongoing basis, not just when they are in start-up mode. They move beyond their initial business plan to augment their success by leveraging new opportunities and seeking ideas to enhance operations and profitability. They are disciplined in writing down their plans, reviewing them and sharing them with their key employees and advisers. They know ongoing planning keeps them focused and moving forward. These leaders continually, and formally, evaluate what is working and what needs changing.
2. Establish a realistic vision for the future.
Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. They move from one success into another rather than rapidly making huge leaps beyond their capabilities. Those who don’t have a realistic vision risk everything because they reach too high before their cash, talent or operational capability is ready for higher levels of success. Enduring leaders actively and effectively manage their transitions and hire sophisticated talent to match their future needs. Their success is sustainable because they build it on a viable foundation that is based in reality, not wishful thinking.
3. Use disciplined approaches to developing leadership and executive skills.
Leaders who operate enduring enterprises understand experience is critical—not just with operational or technical expertise but also with the ability to lead, manage and weather the daily challenges of not having someone tell you what to do. These leaders understand they need to continue cultivating their ability to manage and create strategies. Those with enduring success continue developing and enhancing their skills to build their business arsenal. They read. They hire the consulting and professional talent they need to build their internal expertise.
4. Implement sound fiscal management.
Fiscal discipline is fundamental to long-term business or enterprise success. Yet few leaders have the self-discipline to manage their cash flow for the inevitable peaks and valleys. They respond to immediate pressures and spend money they don’t have. Too many leaders spend money on the flash and glitz, trying to impress people. They never prepare for the future because they’re focused on living in the moment. Some make ill-advised decisions that create financial crises rather than making prudent commitments they can realistically handle. Successful leaders of enduring enterprises focus on building real net worth by being masters at financial discipline and tightly controlling what they spend.
5. Adapt to changing circumstances.
Markets change and technology advances. Those who are successful over the long term understand and adapt to change. They invest in people and technology to enhance productivity. They stay on top of competitors and respond as necessary. By continually adapting, they are able to capitalize on the evolving trends that are fundamentally transforming their industries. Enduring leaders create enterprises that last well beyond their tenure, always looking ahead to identify tools, resources, ideas and technology that can enhance their organizational success.
6. Build substance into the enterprise.
Businesses and organizations have come and gone over the decades. Some succeeded brilliantly, but most failed to meet the expectations hyped by their founders and owners. The primary reason is lack of substance to the enterprise; most of what was promoted was smoke and mirrors. Sustainable enterprises have substance. They deliver on their promises. Customers, vendors and employees can count on them. These enterprises demonstrate a consistency of product and service quality that can be trusted over time. An ongoing reputation for dependability is often a real predictor of long-term enterprise success.
7. Control growth.
Those who survive long term carefully and deliberately manage the size and growth of their enterprises. Those who focus on growth ensure they have adequate finances, equipment and staff to meet their evolving needs. Those who maintain a smaller size often find they can better manage the stability of their overhead and fixed costs. Maintenance-oriented enterprises may even make more money and have less stress than their growth-oriented peers. Both growth- and maintenance-oriented leaders who succeed over the long term effectively manage their appetite for risk and keep the business scope within their comfort zone. They maintain leadership enthusiasm through controlled growth or by achieving sustained financial success.
8. Maintain motivation.
Staying motivated is tough in any enterprise after the euphoria of taking over or starting up dies down. Once the day-to-day activities begin to become routine, most people lose their enthusiasm. Even harder is dealing with the real stresses of leadership. Boredom is often a leader’s worst enemy. Leaders of enduring enterprises motivate themselves and their employees by continuing to look for new opportunities to better meet client needs. This provides an atmosphere of innovation and ongoing success measured in revenues, customer satisfaction and employee retention.
Leaders who enjoy enduring business success have learned to constantly adapt and evolve. They respond to continuing competitive pressures by finding ways to meet evolving customer needs. The secret to long-term sustainable success is doing things with discipline and excellence. Leaders of enduring enterprises, both big and small, do more than just dream of success. They make their success a reality by taking the actions necessary to achieve it. And make it last.
Are you ready to become a leader of an enduring enterprise? If so, what is the first strategy you need to implement?