First, let me note that I work with hundreds of entrepreneurs a year and have worked with thousands over the years. I have seen remarkable success and complete failure; winners and losers at the game of business. What I write here is not about any one Kona Impact client; instead it is an amalgamation of traits and behaviors I have witnessed over the year.
Successful entrepreneurs (defined as those that can make a decent living with their business):
1. Don’t focus on low-value activities. In other words, they spend their time on the things that add value to their business. We’ve had clients spent ten+ hours on their business cards. Imagine if they spent two on their business cards and eight hours contacting potential clients? Or, if they spent 8 hours on the content of their website? We had one client sketch his logo on a napkin, and probably spent another ten minutes looking our design concepts before deciding. He received an excellent logo, one that is easily recognized in our community, because he knew ideas and concepts and paid us to handle the details. It’s still, to this day, one of best logos we’ve made.
2. Treat people well. If you’re a grump and don’t like people, don’t hire them and don’t work with the public. The people I know who are the most successful entrepreneurs in West Hawaii have achieved this success, in part, because they are exceptional with people skills. From the top to the bottom of their organizations they show respect for their employees and customers. They attract the best employees, and have very little turnover.
3. Seek a high level of a quality, but don’t demand absolute perfection. Quality is key in any business, but perfection, for most, is wasting a huge amount of resources for perhaps a five percent improvement. If you have 95-99% quality, be happy and move on to the next project. Micromanaging and incessant focus on that last bit of quality means that you are missing many opportunities for achieving more.
4. Look forward, not backward. When I was working at my part-time job in high school, I pushed a dolly into a glass door. The window shattered. The owner came over, looked at the door, and said to his son, the manager, “call the glass company.” That was it. Back to work. It took me some time to realize that getting angry or firing me would not have been productive. After all, it is not a mistake I would ever make twice. Spilt milk, as they say. I see forward-looking business owners all the time, and they are, overall, much more successful than what I call the could-of-should-of-would-of entrepreneurs.
5. Innovate with caution. Every day we are bombarded with software, machines and ideas that are supposedly going to revolutionize our businesses. I find most of the successful entrepreneurs take a very measured approach to change. Most do not seek out technology with the idea of changing their business dramatically; instead they seek new products or ideas as a way to evolve—to change over time—what they sell or what they offer.
I like to think of entrepreneurism as a process of becoming. There is no point where one can usually say, “I’ve done it. I am an awesome entrepreneur.” Instead we need to look in the mirror, seek feedback and strive to evolve and get better every day. Lots of base hits: few home runs.
At Kona Impact, we strive to support business owner—new and experienced—as they navigate the waters of business.