thriving

The Keys That Separate Thriving Businesses From Those That Fail

Nobody ever said that starting a business was easy. It’s not. Starting a business, then growing it and keeping it vital so everyone involved thrives – that is what organizational effectiveness looks like. I think that’s what most of us are looking for when we start a business. What separates thriving businesses from those that fail? A little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

But there’s even more to it than that, right? Hard work in the wrong direction can have disastrous consequences. So what are the ingredients that turn that hard work into positive results? What does it take to not just start a business, but keep it energized for ongoing growth and success?

Sometimes the most difficult task in starting a business is aligning the tasks you do in a given day with the actual results you want to achieve.



In Epsiode 427 of Onward Nation, I had the opportunity to sit down and learn from Mike Glauser, a self-described entrepreneurial anthropologist. That’s a fancy way of saying that he studies what makes entrepreneurs tick. One of his most fascinating endeavors was a bicycle trip he took across the U.S., during which he sat down and interviewed hundreds of successful Main Street entrepreneurs. He then wrote a book called, “Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live.”

One of the main themes he learned is deceptively simple: Focus on the tasks that will produce the results you are looking for. As an entrepreneur, how do you put that notion into practice and start and grow organizations to be successful?

The difference that makes a difference

Leading a thriving business comes down to the discipline of focusing energy and time on those things that lead to the results you want to produce. That is the difference that makes the difference.

But here again, if entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would be doing it. Focusing on results takes intentionality. You have to get clear on the results you want to produce, every single day. Then ask yourself, “Is this activity linked to a result I want to produce? Is this activity linked to one of the initiatives I need to produce? And if it’s not, why am I doing it?”

Obviously, your strategic thinking cannot be something that happens in just daily increments. But how far ahead should you look? I’d suggest you throw out those five-year plans, or at least look at them with a high degree of healthy skepticism – because in the world we’re living in, nothing looks like we think it will five years from now.

That means you need to be ready for change. So in terms of strategic goals, look one or two years out. Again, looking back to my conversation with Mike Glauser, this kind of incremental planning ahead is what he found most successful entrepreneurs doing.

So, the difference that makes a difference is to answer the following questions:

What are your goals for the short term? What are your goals for one, maybe two years out?

Get clear on the answer to those questions, and then adapt your work in order to make those goals happen.

All of this sounds exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. The speed of change, of course, means that this kind of planning ahead needs to be a constant in a thriving organization. But you are not operating in a vacuum.


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Relationships are key

In his entrepreneurial anthropology, Mike found that relationships are what make all of this innovation and relentless focus on outcomes possible. During his travels, he learned that business is all about relationships.

He shared the following with me:

“(Business and relationships are about) talking with people face to face, it’s working out win-win situations. It’s doing what you do well, letting them do what they do well. And one of the things we learned on this bike ride across America is that the really, really successful entrepreneurs build three types of teams, and have fabulous relationships with these three levels of teams.”

Here are the teams you need in order for you and your business to stay focused on the results you are after:

  • Mentors: Find people who have built businesses before you. This is your brain trust. You can’t be an island unto yourself and get the results you are looking for. Mentors will challenge you. They will advise on what worked for them and what might work for you. They will cheer you on in taking some risks, and maybe help you put on the brakes when you are about to take the wrong kinds of risks.
  • Hire for difference: The second level is to bring people onto your team who are very different from you. You don’t need three of you with the same skill set. This is where entrepreneurs make a mistake. They don’t clearly define the needs of their unique organization first before they bring on team members. When you are clear on the results you are looking for, you can hire and grow your team around those skills and abilities that will get those desired results.
  • Strategic partners: Successful businesses have successful partnerships. So rather than casting around for the lowest bid for a project, find a company that you work well with, that holds to your standards and makes your work easier in the long run. These are the win-wins that you need in order to thrive.

As with any blueprint, it’s all about implementation. Turning two-dimensional ideas into big, amazing 3D reality – that’s up to you! The awesome thing is that with careful planning and hard work, you definitely can do this.

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