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I occasionally get questions from people who consume our content.  Recently I had a great question from a woman who was 30 years old, hated her job and wanted to know how she could leave her job and start working for herself.  I thought this was a great question and I’ll repeat the short answer I gave her at the bottom of this post.

After reading her question I started asking myself what does it take to become self-employed and start working for yourself.  I’ve talked with over 1,000 private business owners over the years.  Some were highly successful and some just scraping by.  The truth is the really successful business owners looked at business differently than the ones who were just scraping by.

Here are some of the traits I’ve seen that all highly successful business owners have.

All of them are curious.

Every successful business owner I’ve met is curious.  They not only are curious about their industry and business, they are also curious about everything they see.

I find the more successful someone is, the better their questions are.  They not only ask themselves great questions, they also ask everyone they see great questions,

There’s a beginners mind when you talk with these folks.  They are much more curious about you and what makes you tick than they are focused on themselves.  If you find this is you, then there’s a good chance you could be very successful in your own business.

They’ve learned how to handle mistakes.

Let’s face it mistakes happen.  You make mistakes and I do also.  Without mistakes, there is no chance for you to learn.

The difference between most of the world and successful business owners is their attitude towards mistakes.  When a mistake happens a really successful person will ask what did you learn.  Someone who is less successful will either blame someone else for the mistake or justify why things went wrong.  

If you find that you’re in the second group, you might want to first learn how to handle your own mistakes and then start to learn to embrace and know that others make mistakes and they didn’t do it on purpose.  If you’re a great leader, you’ll help those who make mistakes learn from them and then make systematic changes to your company to keep them from happening again.

Successful people don’t blame others when a mistake is made.  They look for the lessons from the mistake.

Successful business owners manage risk.

For years I’ve listened to people describe business owners a risk takers.  I’ve actually found the opposite is true.  The bigger the business, the smaller the risks.

One of the reasons so many businesses fail in early years is because there is no such thing as a minor risk. A small error can put you out of business and a big one almost certainly will.

Once you get past that stage in business it’s time for you to not bet the store……that is unless you have no choice.

Successful business owners do take risks.  The difference between reality and the myth is the risks successful business owners take are measured risks, not ones that can put them out of business.

As soon as you can, start taking measured risks and stop the bet the store variety.

They know cash is king.

Profit is great but cash is king.  It’s possible to have a very profitable business and still run out of cash.  How do I know this?  It happened to me.

If you own a private business the biggest problem you can have is running out of cash.  Often when this happens you rapidly find that there is no one to help and the only option you have is to close your doors.

Successful business owners always know what their cash position is and the really successful owners know what their cash position will be 30 to 60 days out as well.  

Know where your cash position is and have a system in place to know what it’s going to be in the future.

They know the difference between delegation and abdication.

To grow a big business you have to learn the art of delegation.  Too often I see business owners tell someone to do something and then never follow up.

One of my favorite business methods is one I learned from my first mentor.  It’s called expect, inspect, accept or EIA.  People who don’t know how to delegate well only do the expect.  They completely forget the inspect and accept stage.

I find those who develop great businesses do all three well, especially the second step – inspect.  If you don’t inspect, you’ll never get the performance you want and you’ll either stop delegating and not grow or continue not inspecting and be unhappy with the results you get.

Learn how to inspect and develop the discipline that it takes to do this step.  You’ll be glad you did.

There is a clear purpose, mission, and values in their business.

It’s almost impossible to build a great business without everyone being on the same page.  The only way I’ve seen great businesses develop is by having clear and simple mission statements that are backed up by values that fit in with your company’s mission.

When I introduce this concept to others, they often tell me this mission and values thing is too squishy for them.  Here’s your choice.  You can either tell people what your company values are and then live them or don’t and let everyone in your company make it up.  When everyone is making it up, you’ll see people all going in their own direction.  Letting everyone make it up is not how you build a great company.

They know that systems are the breakfast of champions.

Without having great systems there is no way you can deliver a consistent product.  Look at the truly great companies.  They all have a delivery system where the outcome is happy customers who rave about the service that’s provided.

Then, look at the companies you don’t like.  I bet at the bottom of your unhappiness is not knowing what you’re going to get.  If you get a different customer experience every time you do business with someone, I bet it’s only a matter of time before you stop doing business with that company.

Knowing what you expect is what you get always comes from great systems.  It’s not the most fun in developing a business, but it might be one of the most important things you can do.

So what do you think?  Are these things you’re willing to do.  Why don’t you leave a comment below and let me know what I missed?

An offer for you

One of the things I didn’t talk about in this newsletter are the roles you play in your business.  I’ve written an EBook that you might like on this topic.  It’s free and all you have to do is click here to get it.  It’ll help you understand what the roles you could play are and the roles you should play.  If you do download it, why don’t you let me know what you think about the concept of controlling the roles you play in your business.

PS.  Here’s the answer to what I thought is a good way to leave your corporate job:

  1. Find something that you love that you can earn some money from.
  2. Make sure you have at least two or three of the traits I described above.
  3. Start doing that something part time at nights and on the weekend.
  4. Grow this business to the point where you have proof of concept.
  5. Build up a cash reserve so you can afford to move out on your own.
  6. Build your courage, quit your job and start your own thing.


Topics: Creating Value, Sustainable Business, business success, Uncategorized, traits of successful business owners

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