Growth. Many entrepreneurs desire it and most certainly need it. Yet achieving and sustaining growth in today’s business environment demands vision, ingenuity, and agility.
Even when all of these things are realized, there’s still quite a fight to be had as we endeavor to pursue our goals and lofty ambitions.
Here’s a glimpse at lessons and insights as to how entrepreneurs can grow their businesses and capitalize on opportunities all the while prioritizing personal development.
1. Embrace your uniqueness
Whether with respect to a company’s offerings, approach or image—or to staffers, themselves—uniqueness and authenticity can be key in attracting and retaining customers.
It’s easy to play it safe and still turn a profit, but to fully achieve breakthrough goals and hit seemingly impossible targets it requires taking risks—true, and even unconventional, sincerity among them.
Harvard-trained lawyer Chinwe Esimai, the first African to secure a global executive role at one of the world’s largest banks, encourages individuals to embrace “shining in their own lanes,” even in corporate America. By not downplaying her Nigerian-born immigrant background and staying true to her uniqueness, Esimai achieved extraordinary success with a banking industry leader.
2. Increase your brand value
A brand is more than creative visuals. It’s essential to maximize all of your resources – legally.
Patent lawyer JiNan Glasgow George underscores that, for multi-billion-dollar companies like Apple or Nike, their trademark, logo, and patent drive value. George explains that intellectual property (IP) provides protection against other companies from “borrowing” your ideas while also solidifying the uniqueness of your brand.
Concerning your personal brand, Karen Leland, author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand, suggests developing your brand by design, not default. “Know precisely where you are so you can discern where you need to go,” she says.
“Every business person … needs to start by assessing the personal brand they currently have and be truthful about the degree to which it exists by design—or default. Then they need to take stock of the impact that the current brand is having. Is your brand producing the reputation you desire? What is it about what you do, or how you do it, that makes you special? Positioning yourself by specifically articulating how your brand speaks to the needs of your audience, coupled with the unique way you address those needs, is critical to creating an effective personal brand. And the more specific you can be, the better.”
3. Double down on failure
Many leaders are understandably discouraged after taking a loss, let alone experiencing a series of losses or rejections. However, a fresh point-of-view on failure can turn those setbacks into growth springboards. In fact, in his book, WTF?! (Willing to Fail) Brian Scudamore (founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?), explores the notion of “failing upward” and, in the process, “using setbacks to change your business for the better.” He asserts that “being an entrepreneur means letting go of fear.”
Anthony Russo, a professional speaker and founder of Identity Marketing, was able to wrangle his fear and worries of rejection to build a seven-figure business in less than 18 months. Russo achieved this remarkable revenue benchmark by “doubling down” that, as he puts it, “is the art of leveraging failure to accelerate success.”
This suggests that he absorbed everything he passively learned from each failure and proactively researched new tactics and kept trying. While Russo concedes that failure is a significant part of nearly any business, he proposes that powering through can lead to success that not only meets but exceeds, original expectations.
4. Fractionalize unforeseen business problems
Unanticipated problems are par for the course in business—yet they can wreak havoc on the most well-conceived plans, sabotage timelines and send expenses soaring. Brian Clark, owner of Service Team of Professionals (“STOP”) franchises, uses a simple method to avoid unforeseen obstacles from overtaking his businesses. According to Clark, “Every problem can be solved by asking the right questions and breaking down the problem. Fracturing each challenge to small, accomplishable tasks will not only be less intimidating, but also easier to maneuver.”
5. Work smarter, play harder
Productivity is a key business priority. Still, it’s easy to focus on profits, dismissing the “how” it all gets done.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it also wasn’t built single-handily either. Many entrepreneurs have been taught strategies to “work smarter not harder.” But business advisor and CEO Richard Polak proposes to “work smarter, play harder.” He’s advised companies, including General Electric, to focus on time and output. To invest in the well-being of its staff as well as invest in technologies that boost efficiency and capacity, thus maximizing workflow and morale to boost bottom lines. Polak refers to his model as “compassionate” productivity strategies.
An Accenture study suggests, “The parallels between a superior customer experience and employee experience are striking. An optimized customer experience generates loyalty and additional sales. A stellar employee experience attracts talent and boosts workforce engagement, productivity, and retention. This, in turn, directly improves a business’s financial performance.” The net result? “Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21 percent more profitable than those with poor engagement.”
6. Embrace value-driven victory
Tech entrepreneur Pak Chau did the unthinkable. As a value-driven entrepreneur, Chau had undertaken a successful ICO (Initial Coin Offering) to raise nearly $2.5-3 million for his esports platform. But, after he raised funds, he had an epiphany.
Chau returned the money to investors and told his team they were going to start raising sales-driven capital from scratch. Why? As months passed after the ICO, Chau harbored an ominous feeling. “Deep down in my heart,” he recalls, “I felt that something was wrong. I felt that the energy in the office was slowly draining.” One reason for that was the newly-established investors from the ICO. “They knew nothing about gaming,” Chau laments. “They were offering advice that did not resonate well with me or my team, and it was starting to obviously impact the company culture.”
Chau was looking for more than money, but rather a more holistic measure of achievement. After returning the funds from the ICO, he had to figure out a way to launch on a shoestring budget.
He believed he could build his new business directly with the customer; in this case as a community-based marketplace. So, Chau advanced without the ICO-driven funds and launched his community-based solution. Within days, it attracted more than 20,000 users. Today, less than a year later, it boasts more than 70,000.
7. Control what you can
While it may sound cliché and painfully vain, perception is reality and image is everything. From one’s physical appearance to behavior, people tend to judge first and reason later. The same holds true for business, from the people to the offices or retail spaces they dwell within.
Whether an office lobby, a retail display window, a website or even the condition of fleet vehicles, aesthetics play a mission-critical role in overcoming the litany of obstacles and objections that are initially present when engaging new prospects.
The influence of appearance is something Dawn Hunter, a beauty industry entrepreneur, knows all too well, having built an empire by helping people cultivate and refine their image.
Looks aside, the idea of “controlling what you can” is about far more than trying to make yourself and your brand as attractive as possible. It’s about embracing your inner beauty, strength, and fortitude and being utterly and unequivocally confident in your capabilities.
As the old adage goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s certainly more than one way to drive growth in life and business. The seven strategies mentioned above, particularly when employed together, can catapult your endeavors to new heights. It’s never too late, and there’s no better time than now.
Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered trends expert and industry voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. Connect with @LuxeListEditorMer on Twitter.