According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Employment Dynamics section, about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years and about half survive at least five years. To explain another way, one-third of businesses with employees will fail within two years and about half will fail within five years.
As Vice President of Imperial Advance, a leading small business lending and financial services company in New York City, I have worked with thousands of small businesses over the past several years. This experience has given me a unique insight into the traits of highly successful people that are most likely to lead to business success.
Although we often hear that certain industries, such as food service, have a greater propensity for failure, the reality is that whether a business will succeed is far more dependent on the personal and professional qualities of the employees and executive team than the particular industry in which a business is operating.
I have distilled some of this insight into what I like to call the 7 P’s of business success.
Punctuality is the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill a promise or obligation before or at a previously designated time. Whether dealing with clients or customers or within your own organization, punctuality is a key quality for success, a trait that can distinguish you and your company from the many that make promises they can’t keep.
In an era of 140-character tweets and instant messages replacing phone calls (and even emails) words still matter. An individual with command of language, style, tone, phrasing, etc. and able to exercise that command of language with a powerful, clear voice can control any conversation, lead any meeting and be successful at most any negotiation. I am most impressed and more likely to do business with individuals who are able to convey themselves with conviction.
We are blessed to live in the richest country on earth. Regardless of where you live, you do not have to look far to see those who are less fortunate, where hunger is still a reality and access to basic services is a struggle. The most successful people I know have a deep sense of gratitude and that extends to their work and is a contributor to their professional success. So smile as you dial, end your words with a sincerely uplifting, positive inflection to relate an appropriate level of happiness to your prospects. Your sales prospects and fellow employees will gravitate toward individuals who are genuinely happy and pleasurable to be around.
Maybe it matters more now that I am getting older, but I think my parents were right all along. The magic words (please, thank you, your welcome) still matter, perhaps now more than ever since these phrases seem to be so easily forgotten. In a healthy business environment, people are helping each other daily – whether by filling in for absent employees, offering advice and mentorship or working late or on weekends to complete a project. At the best companies “above and beyond” is the norm, so start instilling these values now by asking for help or favors with politeness and showing the requisite appreciation to those who go the extra mile.
We lead by example, personally and professionally. But what does it mean to “be professional”. Professionalism is really a combination of qualities that distinguish someone who takes what they do seriously, from someone who does not think that what they do matters or that their attitude, behavior or actions have consequences. There is a time for levity and a sense of humor is one of the most important qualities for success, but a professional will have the maturity to know when to crack a joke and when to make a cold call.
The 1993 movie Rudy should be required watching for every employee and executive. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Rudy Ruettiger wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the grades or the money for tuition. Despite dyslexia, his small size and the obvious financial challenges, Rudy gains admission to Notre Dame and begins to fight his way onto the school’s legendary ootball team, earning the respect and admiration of his coaches, teammates and fans. Never take no for an answer and never give up!
Persistence is unquestionably a business virtue and so is perseverance. We all have setbacks in our personal life and professional lives. It is easy to get discouraged or to blame others. It is in these moments of pain and failure that true leaders emerge. I am reminded of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elie Wiesel – inspiring heroes that faced overwhelming odds and through sheer force of will and character overcame tremendous adversity.
Push through each struggle with a renewed vision and reward yourself for the small successes along the way, learn from the failures rather than become defined by them and envision your short term and long term goals to better control your destiny