Monday, 28 June 2010

Success: circumstance or choice?

What is it that successful enterprises and entrepreneurs really do? Are there certain ways of behaving that lead to their success? Can these be replicated? Here are some thoughts based on our own experience, those we have worked with and some great thinkers of our time.

1. Have a goal. Make it big

Jim Rohn once said "You want to set a goal that is big enough that in the process of achieving it you become someone worth becoming." We rather like this. You cannot hope to be successful unless you have passion for what you do. For many social entrepreneurs the problem is not setting a goal that is big enough it is realising how big it actually is and bringing this to life for others. If you are doing something that is worth being part of make it big for others.

2. Get real

Do your homework; gather the facts about your market, your stakeholders, competitors, government, finance and funding and confront the realities of what you are trying to do. Too many entrepreneurs act on blind faith and proceed regardless of the facts believing that if it is a good idea it will work. Without knowing the facts you can’t capitalise on opportunities or be prepared when challenges appear. This may be a scary time and the task may seem daunting, but when you are well informed you can act from a position of strength rather than ignorance.

3. Gather your resources

Setting up an enterprise, challenging what exists today and doing something remarkable can be a lonely place. You are on a mission and you are confronted with a million and one things to do – many of which you have never done before. You can’t do everything yourself. So don’t try to. Find the people who can help you. Stop looking inwards at your project and go out and meet others in as many places as you can. Share your vision with them and you will find the right people with the right skills, time and passion to help you achieve your goal.

4. Disciplined thinking

Success is not a matter of circumstance but one of choice and discipline. Eisenhower once said: “Plans are useless. Planning is priceless.” It is the process of planning itself that leads to disciplined thought. In great organisations planning is driven by the search for the right questions more than the search for the right answers. Use the process to debate; understand the facts; and gather insights on which to make decisions about your enterprise. Make your plans, then adapt. The process of thinking is more important than the plan itself.

5. Do something

You don’t know exactly what is going to happen until you jump in. This is hard for me to say as a planner but at some point you have to make that 1st step. Don’t expect everything to go right. Failure is just valuable feedback that something needs changing. So, take time to reflect, and work out what works and what doesn’t and change the things that don’t work.

6. The flywheel

It takes time and effort to get moving. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about harnessing the “flywheel effect”. With any successful enterprise there is not a single event or one breakthrough moment. Achieving success is like turning a heavy flywheel. It takes sustained effort, time and determination to get the flywheel turning and to keep it turning. And only after sustained effort will you hit a point of breakthrough.

7. Keep the faith

Seth Goddin wrote... “In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over”. When obstacles come along, as they inevitably will, you need to know what resources you can draw on. These may be internal to you; your skills, inner strength, experience, confidence. They may come from others around you; mentors, friends, supporters and family. Draw on these resources and use them to store the tiredness away.

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