A great skill to sharpen is your ability to recognize what is important for your business in the long term. As you cultivate this ability, it becomes easier to actively prioritize the things that are truly significant over the things that simply feel urgent. In this Powerhouse resource, we will navigate you through 20 essential focus areas that prove worthy of your time and investment.
1. Build a culture that values people. A secret of successful businesses is that they’ve mastered developing a great culture centered around their people. Large organizations the world over measure and work to improve their employee engagement because it directly affects their bottom line. And engagement comes down to a few simple things, such as feeling valued and supported, doing meaningful work, and having a leadership culture that fosters trust and empowerment.
2. Learn what matters most to your customers. Your ultimate success can usually be determined by the intersection of two key points: how well you harness your strengths to do what you’re good at doing, and how well this meets your customers’ needs. You can only get so far on that first one, so you’re surely going to need some input on the second.
3. Develop great partnerships. Building strong, healthy, reciprocal relationships with other businesses can really work to propel both of your operations forward. Increasing networking opportunities, pooling resources and client bases, streamlining processes, and finding positive new ways of doing business together are just a few of the potential benefits.
4. Find sources of support that strengthen you. Mentors can come in many forms and need not even be senior to you. Take notice when you are in the company of someone who inspires and motivates you, affirms you, and gives you the courage to reach higher in your goals. Spend more time with these everyday mentors, and you’ll feel the positive effects in other aspects of your life and business.
5. Keep reflecting on the values and standards that guide you. If you have a personal dedication to keep all communications positive and uplifting, for example, this principle can help you navigate conversations, marketing plans, or even conflict resolution. Lean on your moral foundations to guide you through circumstances both large and small.
6. Take the long-term view. When you’re faced with either a great challenge or an awesome potential opportunity, hold it up against your big picture, your long-term plan. Seeking this perspective can help you avoid lots of twists and turns that might otherwise slow down your progress toward your big, long-term goals.
7. Give yourself permission to flex in the short term. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to stay the course, we are dealt an untimely pothole or a fork in the road. It’s okay to make swift calls to action to keep yourself afloat when things get tough. Sometimes making changes is safer than the alternative of being eventually rendered obsolete.
8. Do a few things really, really well. Success is more often a product of doing less than doing more. Just focus on doing what you’re good at, doing what is worthwhile, and doing these things exquisitely.
9. Share good news. Foster confidence and establish credibility by regularly sharing what’s going well, celebrating successful outcomes, and talking about goals and future plans you’re excited about.
10. Encourage trust by being transparent. Share openly about what you’ve learned and about your future plans—and involve people in them—and watch your relationships deepen. For more ways to establish credibility, check out our Powerhouse resource with 20 tips devoted entirely to this topic.
11. Be dependable; it’s a powerful form of respect. Be on time for appointments, start and end all phone calls or meetings on time, and by all means deliver what you said you would. The underlying messages of these simple actions say, “You matter to me,” “I value our relationship,” and “I respect your time.”
12. Accept feedback graciously. If someone is brave enough to tell you that something went wrong, welcome the feedback with open arms. Most customers won’t take the time to complain; they’ll simply take their business elsewhere and never return. That’s not a scenario that helps you learn and improve, so ask for feedback and thank customers who are willing to tell you the truth.
13. Be a familiar face. There’s a simple psychological phenomenon called the “mere-exposure effect,” which suggests the more we see someone, the more we come to like them. Have you ever loved going to a restaurant where the owner always came by your table to say hello and engage in small talk? It’s a simple gesture that leaves a great impression.
14. Make communications meaningful. We have all experienced “spam” and overcommunication. When you send out communications, make every effort to be clear, concise, and relevant to your recipients.
15. Remember that you’re growing. Much of running a business requires you to focus outwardly on others. It’s equally vital that you invest in your own growth and development. The more we learn and begin to become an expert in our field, the more our enjoyment of our work can grow.
16. Strive to stay relevant. You rocked this starting a business thing! Now comes the fun part—keeping your business strong through changes in the market, technology, and other unknowns that lie ahead. In addition to learning continuously from your customers, identify other opportunities to keep your business ahead of the curve.
17. Learn from mistakes, when you can. Not one of us is immune to making mistakes. Fortunately, it’s a proven way to learn—even more effective than being told the right way to do something from the start. Don’t worry about perfection. It’s okay to take risks and experience some failures, especially when you commit to learn from them.
18. Focus on your strengths. There is an old proverb that says, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” A good strategy in business is to pay really close attention to what you love doing and what your personal strengths are. When you know the answers to those questions, you can intensely focus on the one thing you can do really well.
19. Give back. You should be tremendously proud of yourself if you’ve deemed “giving back” a measure of your business success. Benefitting others and creating a positive impact in your community make your work feel more meaningful and have a positive effect on your overall sense of well-being.
20. Grow and reward loyalty. Loyalty is quite possibly the strongest determinant of business success. Loyal customers support your bottom line with repeat business and grow your reach through positive word-of-mouth marketing. Building loyalty in the first place takes great customer service and relationship-building. Look for ways to reward loyalty once it’s there, such as simple gifts of thanks and recognition, milestone discounts, and membership perks.