Lillian Too puts on her corporate cap this issue to impart some entrepreneurial tips to readers. Here are 20 ways you can sharpen your business instincts and enhance your chances of success when running your own enterprise.
1. Practise Being a Good Communicator
Enroll for a course in improving your communications. Learn how to be more persuasive and enticing in the way you present yourself, your product and the way you package what you sell. Success in any business depends on how you market your products and services, and doing this effectively does require good communication skills. It also requires a well thought out strategy and a convincing story line. Get some professional help in this area to set you thinking along these lines. Don’t forget your feng shui though – everytime you get up to speak, each time you chat with a potential customer or client, face your sheng chi direction. This way, you will be further increasing your chances of success.
2. Think Three Steps Ahead
In the day-to-day management of your business, always think three steps ahead. Good anticipation is not only the key to success, it is also the guarantee of survival. Make it a habit to anticipate customer demands, inventory levels, price increases, staff shortages and so forth. You will find that over time, the habit of thinking ahead will become so ingrained in you that it becomes second nature. This is called experience. Doing it consciously makes this habit more powerful.
3. It’s Ok to be Imperfect
Whatever the outcome of what you do, always bear in mind that it is impossible to be perfect. Events and outcomes almost never work out exactly as you plan them to. Sometimes results exceed your expectations, and other times, your new product launch can fall as flat as a lead balloon. It is not necessary to berate yourself for the occasional failures. Chalk things up to a bad experience, even bad luck and then move on. Remember that it is by accepting your imperfections that you know you are all human. The key thing when you fall is to be able to pick yourself up again, each and every time.
4. Keep Things Simple
Do your very best to simplify all the tasks and processes inside your head. Make a resolution this year that you will NOT allow anyone to confuse you with complicated suggestions OR dilute your determination by being negative. When you keep your goals focused and clear cut, the task at hand gets simplified, and when you stay positive in your expectations, your energies are that much more powerful. The good news about keeping thought processes simple is that your own resolve becomes the engine that drives you, and this is the best way to harness your powerful inner chi.
5. Identify Your Income Sources
So many people come to me with business ideas that describe their vision and dreams – and they paint a rosy picture of how they will set up their business and yet when I ask them “so what’s the source of your immediate income” they look blankly at me. Remember that all ideas are good, but very few have the potential to be successful simply because the source of income has either not been thought through or the people behind the business is depending on some Government handouts, or on “friends”, or upon a single source that might well dry up. When a business cannot generate its own sources of income, then it is not a business. It is simply a project. Viable businesses always have the ability to generate its own source of incomes and to fill a market need.
6. Draw a Decision Tree
I learnt to draw decision trees at the Harvard Business School way back when. It’s been over twenty-five years since I studied in that august institution and I am still using those wonderful trees. They are like mind maps except these decision trees also contain what I think are the outcomes of decisions. One decision leads to other decisions and in drawing a decision tree, every branch keeps getting split into smaller and smaller branches.
The process of drawing a tree forces you to engage your mind to think ahead, to not stop at each decision. This is because every decision always leads to another decision, and another and another. E.g. if you make a decision tree on whether to rent or to buy your office premises… if you decide to buy, you need to decide where, how big, use your own capital or borrow, if borrow, how much to borrow, from which bank, and then you need to think of the outcomes… will you be successful at finding the right location, at getting a bank to lend you money, and so on. Your decision trees can be as simple or as complicated as you wish… but simply thinking about it sets you thinking in the right direction, which is to think ahead.
7. Keep Your Spirits High
The secret of success lies in constantly rejoicing and keeping your spirits high. This requires real effort but once mastered, it becomes a precious skill indeed. Rejoice at every triumph but also learn to meet every setback with a smile of acceptance – and view it as a signal to change course a little. When bad things happen, you can actually feel happy that a piece of bad karma has ripened and has therefore dissolved. Its gone, passed on. And when something good happens, also rejoice, because it means some good karma has ripened. Just remember to create more good karma by doing something nice for someone or donating something to a worthwhile charity. When you look at your life this way, how can any year be a bad year?
8. Go Global in Your Search for Markets
A successful business can be built on just about any skill, product or service and sold to just about any market. The key is to find the market or markets, and this means finding new ways of reaching the marketplace – either via repackaging an old product, finding a new way of marketing a service, or generating new needs in consumers in different markets. In the past many successful businesses were built simply on the basis of imperfect markets and imperfect information. Today, the marketplace is very near perfect indeed. Information flows across the globe almost instantly via satellite and via the internet. This is the age of global communications and those of you who are clever will use the new technologies to help you go global in your search for markets. Make big allowances for the differences of markets, but go after them nevertheless.
9. Be a Niche Player
If your business is built around your passion for a sport, a hobby, or a past time, you might want to read up all about niche marketing. Some large businesses have been built this way, where the focus of all the company’s promotion efforts are directed at trade magazines and at specific outlets. Niche businesses are highly focused on a specific customer base. A lot of business can come your way when you learn to surf the Internet. Use the powerful search engines to bring you into the households of new customers.
10. Take a Fresh Approach Each New Year
At the start of every new year, I look at all the projects I have on hand and ask myself “What fresh approach can I bring to what I do? Is there anything I can do to make what I sell more attractive?” It is the process of thinking that stimulates the creativity within me, keeping me on my toes and preventing me from coming across tired and ancient. Keep your eyes open each new season. Look at everything innovative coming out during the year. Derive ideas from groundbreaking trends in colours, shapes and materials. Go in search of new-fangled products, pioneering inventions and the latest strategies. Pick out the more promising of the new trends and transform them to fit into your world.
This is not an easy exercise but it gets easier with practice. Remember that all the most successful superstars constantly reinvent and repackage themselves… like Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Pavarotti… all the designer names and car brands have to keep a step ahead of the competition by coming out with a brand new models. So to stay ahead, be leader. If all you do is copy the leader, you will get left behind.
11. Build a Team
Never try to do anything completely on your own. No man is an island. Whatever business you are in, set about the task of building a trustworthy team. Make this your major priority. Invest time, effort and money in creating a team you can rely on. Remember that in any venture, having responsible people around you is more important than having clever people. There is no need for everyone to be clever, but there is a need for everyone to be reliable. A core group of lieutenants does not get built immediately. It takes time. And in the initial years, I strongly recommend to go for the flat organization chart as much as you can. This way, every member of your team has access to you.
12. Make Clever Choices
If you want to succeed in business, do be discerning about the choices you make. An excellent way to decide is to generate what business schools refer to as trade-offs. Ask yourself what you will be giving up when choosing a particular alternative. Making choices are usually governed by many factors and it is never easy to choose between options, but if you list out to yourself what you will be foregoing when you choose a specific course of action, you will instantly find it easier to decide. Tradeoffs usually make you choose between long and short-term solutions and between different people’s opinions. Choices may not always be good and correct at the same time. The key is to weigh things carefully in your mind and then be decisive.
13. Get Internet Savvy
There is no alternative for those who want to grow and make money in the business world – you absolutely must get Internet savvy – if you do not you will simply get left behind. You will become uncompetitive and you will lose out. In the last ten years, technological breakthroughs in cyber space have advanced so much that the entire world’s households and especially the buying public are all hooked up. If you have not yet signed up for surfing facilities, do so immediately. Invest in a website.
Get technical in all your operational and logistics needs. Today, there is an incredible amount of software that makes the operational and administrative side of doing business extremely easy. If you are the owner of your business, sign up for a course that gives you some basics in computer usage. Learn to surf, search, download and install programs.
14. Improvise – Change As You Go
If truth be known, there really is no cook book approach to successfully managing a business. It’s not like we can have a foolproof recipe for success every time. No indeed. Successful managing of any business always requires the person holding the ropes to improvise, to change direction, to go off course albeit temporarily. This enables the business to overcome sudden obstacles and unexpected hindrances.
These are the dynamics of being successful and here is where luck comes in. In a year when the chi energy works in favour of success, the cards are not so difficult to play. The year 2006 is indeed such a year. This is why this is such a great year to be brave, try new strategies and take some risks. In a year when the chi energy is not as conducive to business, it is better to lie low.
15. Create a New Angle
One way of keeping your business fresh and up to date is to work at creating a new angle and remember it’s the story that makes the angle. This means looking at the same thing from a fresh perspective, creating a totally new package from another point of view. There are many facets to almost every aspect of a product or business and the challenge to the entrepreneur is to stay constantly revitalized by offering yet another fresh outlook. You can see that even in the movie world, old hits get new treatments and become hits once again. There have been so many successful remakes that it really gives us encouragement to try applying the same strategy to our own business. This simply means looking at our same old product and giving it a new twist by adding or changing the “look”.
16. Be Adventurous
Successful business people usually have a sense of adventure and what this means is to have an attitude that is receptive to new things and new phenomena. An attitude of courage is important because only the courageous have the vision to see and try new things. Implicit in being an entrepreneur is this sense of adventure – to boldly experiment with the unfamiliar, to do something in a non-traditional way and to occasionally go against the grain of conventional wisdom. When you are adventurous, you must guard against having too high expectations. In fact, it is a good idea not to have any expectations at all. Just keep an open mind and go with the flow.
17. Make Every Day A Happy Day
Make every day a happy day. Do this by making someone happy each and every day. It is easy. A smile does it every time. A nice email sent to someone. Practising patience. Responding nicely to a customer or a salesgirl. Patting your dog, feeding your fish, giving someone a shoulder. You may not see the connection between being a success and being happy, but chi energy plays a large part in the success equation, and happiness chi is almost always more powerful in attracting success than negative chi. The next time someone causes you to raise your voice, watch your mood swing from stability to instability and you will know what I mean.
18. What’s Your Killer Talent?
We all have it. Yes, that amazing skill at doing something really well – the challenge is to discover it young enough for you to develop your skill and nurture it so you can later turn it into something of a life passion. Because what you are good at will almost always be something you adore doing. It can be a sport – golf, tennis, riding – and if it is, you can well become a celebrity sports star. That’s a business that seems to be the most lucrative these days.
Or you might have a talent at some performing art – singing, dancing, acting – whatever your killer talent, don’t spurn it. Identify what you are really good at doing, study every aspect, nuance and angle of all the related industry areas that are connected with your skill, and then build a business around it. In every sport, hobby and past-time lies a whole range of businesses that can be developed. The chances of success are also that much higher when you enjoy what you are doing.
19. Salute Your Heroes
For many years I found incredible inspiration from reading books authored either as self help books or as autobiographies written by the likes of corporate heroes such as Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Donald Trump – there were so many helpful anecdotes, tips and experiences in these books and they did so much to fuel my determination that for years I followed their careers. I still do. These are not perfect icons of management expertise, but the problems and strategies they dealt with were real and although what I did was on a much smaller scale, nevertheless I could identify with them. Go in search of your business idols and use them as your inspirational icons. Let their success spur you on to yours.
20. Make A Wish List
To stay focused about your goals and aspirations, try making a wish list. You can be as outrageous as you like because your wish list is for your eyes only. When you write down your wishes, you are giving important energy to your innermost desires and something magical almost always happens.
Keep your wish list inside a special silver or gold box or better yet, inside a wish-fulfilling wheel that you spin constantly to activate it with powerful energy. I have been making my wish list for over thirty years. Mine are kept inside my library of personal notebooks, which are in turn kept in a very special chest. Yes, I invest plenty of energy on my wishes – and my focused concentration is what makes my wishes come true.