The 5 Keys to a Successful Business

Oct 08, 2019

One of the most common questions that I get asked as a Business Coach and as the owner of a number of businesses under management is.-  What is the Key to a Successful Business?

When I get asked this question I find it is almost always for 1 of 2 reasons. 

  1. The person asking the question wants a quick 30 second sound bite that they hope will fix all of their business problems or
  2. The person believes that they are the exception from the norm and they are looking for an excuse as to why their business is not successful.  They want to believe that their business is different and that they have less time than everyone else  These people are wanting validation for why their business is not delivering the results that they know is possible.

I generally disappoint both groups with my answer.  Why?

Well for the first group of people my answer involves a lot of hard work and it is never a 30-second fix. 

For the 2nd group of people, I take away their excuses and they understand that their businesses core fundamentals and the 24 hours in their day is exactly the same as any other businesses and business owner. 

For both groups of people, however, I can provide a framework with which they can look at their business to identify the gaps that need to be addressed.  With this information, they can focus on filling those gaps so that they can have a successful business.

So what is my answer?

In my opinion, there are 5 key areas that you need to understand to run a successful business and generally we run through them in the following order when we work with business owners.


1. Understand that you are going to make mistakes and learn to be OK with that

Your business does not come with a manual when you start that explains the step by step process for creating an extraordinary lifestyle and a multimillion dollar business.  So firstly stop beating yourself up about not having all of the answers and do not be afraid to ask for help.  Also, do not be afraid to make mistakes and to get some stuff wrong.  Try new things and if you get it a wrong try again.  I think Michael Jordon was on the money when he said.

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games.  26 times I have been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.  I have failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed”

Every business owner I work with I tell them.  “We are going to get some stuff wrong, we are going to make some mistakes, our aim is to minimize those mistakes and ensure that those mistakes do not cost the business money or momentum.  However, the alternative is you play it safe and make no decisions and take no actions in your business.  This option will never result in business growth or long term success.”  If a business owner is not OK with that (and some understandably are not) then we do not work with them because it is a waste of our time and their money.


2. Create a great Business Environment. 

The environment you create in your business will determine the way your business will evolve.  If you have an open, transparent culture than you will have staff and customers who are open and transparent.  On the other hand, if you have a closed, controlling environment that does not allow for employees to shine, then do not be surprised when you have staff who are not engaged or show no initiative.  The business can still function and probably still make good profits but it will be hard work and not enjoyable for anyone and the business will always revolve around you. 

These are the questions that you need to ask yourself to create a great business environment

    1. What is the culture I want for my business?
    2. What is the vision for myself, and my business
    3. What is my mission statement
    4. What are the companies values
    5. What are my  standards &  expectations
    6. What are my beliefs and attitude around my business
    7. What are my goals for the business

It does not matter whether you are a one person operator or a multinational organisation, without your environment being clear and you consistently delivering that environment, you will not get the business of your dreams.


3. Create a structure for your Business that aligns with your Environment. 

This is where many organisations go wrong.  They come up with some fantastic values, mission statements, standards, and goals for the company and then they put in a structure that does not support this environment.  The following elements make up the structure of the organisation

  1. Products or Services – the products or services that the business is involved with
  2. Divisions/Departments – the different areas of responsibility
  3. Benchmarks/KPI’s – the measurable targets
  4. Systems – the systems to support the benchmark’s
  5. Operations Manuals – the written documentation showing the steps, policies
  6. Templates/Checklists – the checklists to allow fast implementation

 There is a lot of work to put the necessary structures in place.  This needs to be done thoroughly for your business to flourish


4. Ensure that your Implementation matches the benchmarks established in the structure.

The implementation is the actual day to day activity in the business.  What happens once the lights come on and stuff needs to be done?  How do we and the staff actually implement in relation to the environment and structure that is in place. 

All actions in business should be benchmarked so we know the standard we’re shooting for. We use the steps we’ve established in the structure to determine what we do and when. We’re guided by the policies and the operations manuals and the checklists.  Implementation Includes:

  1. Actions – what we do on a daily basis
  2. Conversations – what we discuss
  3. Decision making/Judgement – what we decide needs to be done and when

 If the implementation does not result in the output that we are looking for then we need to review the actions to determine what needs to be adjusted to give us the results we are wanting

5. Hire People who love your environment

People come last for a great reason. Most companies put ‘people first’ but have no idea how to help them, develop them or set them up for success.  If you hire “culture positive” people, than the culture of the organisation will look after itself. 

If the structure supports the environment then everyone will be clear as to what their role is and how it should be implemented.  If there is a performance issue then it will only be one of implementation and this can be addressed with the employee accordingly. 

The idea is then to develop people BEYOND their role, and not just to do their role. Everyone is expected to be great at their ‘job’, but aim to hire and develop people who strive beyond their ‘responsibilities’.

Generally, Environment and Structure are lacking in underperforming businesses but owners will be blaming the people.  My advice to owners who stay they have problem staff is too first look at their Environment and then their structure.  It is not fun or easy but it is necessary

The framework above is known as the Critical Alignment Model and it is the closest thing that I have found to a business manual.  I encourage everyone to look at their business though this model to identify where the gaps are in your organisation. 

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