This is The Edge Of Innovation, a business weblog for entrepreneurs. Curated by the folks at New Methods.

It’s Never Been Easier To Start A Business… And It’s Never Been Harder To Succeed

Now, I’m all for being an entrepreneur. I’ve been one for nearly 12 years. And, I’ll assume since you’re reading this blog you’re either an entrepreneur or seriously considering it.

But, I want to caution you. There’s a lot of talk in recent years about how easy it is to become an entrepreneur. Well, yes. It’s never been easier to start a business. That is true. But, no one ever tells you the rest of that statement. It’s also never been harder to succeed.

As Carol Roth in her brilliant book, The Entrepreneur Equation, says, “Many people ask themselves, could I be an entrepreneur? The real question is should I be an entrepreneur?”

The reality is…

There are over 30 million businesses in America. That’s basically one business for every 10 Americans.

You can start a business today on less than a shoestring budget. In fact, depending on the business, you could legitimately have only one expense (business entity cost) to get started. That means everyone has the exact same opportunity.

While one could look at the above statements as a sign of opportunity, they are also a sign of great challenge. So how do you overcome these challenges?

Don’t Be Average

I once asked an advisor of mine what the best advice he had for the average business owner. His response, “Don’t be average.”

And that’s the advice I’m going to give you here. There used to be a time that you could have an average business. Make an average wage. And, live an average (reasonably well-off) American life. But, to succeed in business today you can longer be average. You just can’t.

I’ve invested the last 12 years helping small business owners go from average to awesome. While the methods have changed, smart business fundamentals remain the same.

Here are the fundamental keys to awesome:

1. Values. The reason why your business exists is without question the most important factor for your success. However, assuming you have a good business idea that solves a real world problem, your company’s values are second most important. Your values are how you operate. Here’s the key: In a moment of tough decision turn to your values for the answer. Most companies never pre-define their values so when a challenge arises, most are at the whim of their current emotions. Which, of course, is the worst state of mind to make a sound decision. Pre-define your values and stick to them no matter how tough the decision.

2. Culture. While your values are pre-defined and shared within the company, your company’s culture is made up of all the unwritten rules. It’s like water to fish or air to humans. It just is. It’s the attitude of the company. The “this is how we do it here” without actually ever saying a word. The key to culture is to establish it on day one. Before you ever open your doors you should establish the attitude of your company. That attitude, whether healthy or unhealthy, will permeate fast. So make sure you know what attitude your business represents and behave that way from moment of open.

3. Talent.  Whether your hiring employees or outsourcing to third-party vendors you must find talented people. Every single awesome company has strong talent. Every single one. And, most often the most talented is not the owner or founder. Skill and experience are over-rated. Because a talented person with the right attitude will always do whatever it takes to learn the skill and will certainly gain the experience along the way. Hire attitude first and talent second and you’ll always outperform.

4. Capital. All truth is in the cash account. Despite what many will tell you, if you want to build something awesome you need capital. I’m not suggesting you can’t get started without it. I’m suggesting you can’t build awesome without it. Make sure you optimize your initial investment and remember, cash flow is king. The overwhelming majority of businesses do dumb things that cut into their cash flow. Let that not be you.

5. Customer Service. Your competitors have never paid your bills and they never will. Ignore them. Instead, focus on your customers always and in all ways. When it comes to customer service execute at a loyalty level. The good news is 80% of companies are terrible at this. In fact, in my unscientific study, nearly 80% of companies won’t simply do what they said they would do. So start there. But, don’t stop there. Take it to a loyalty level. Do something unique, different from every other company in the world. Customer service is and always will be your greatest sustainable edge. Treat it as such.

Build Awesome

Regardless of economic conditions or competition, if you consistently focus on these five fundamentals you’ll build awesome. Guaranteed.

What other fundamentals do you count on to build awesome in your business?

About the Author: Greg Hartle is co-founder of New Methods. And also founder, co-founder, investor, and/or strategic advisor with over a dozen businesses. Greg also speaks and consults professionally with businesses, non-profits, and other groups on 21st century capitalism, leadership, and integral life strategies. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+

Enjoyed This Post?

  • Liat Gat

    I love this simple list! The 5 things to build awesome. The “talent” one made me think about my hiring choices – am I hiring “awesome” or just “good enough?” What am I missing out on by hiring just “good enough?” Thanks!

  • Greg Hartle

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Liat. I think you came up with a much better post title as well. Thx

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