Friday, September 20, 2013

What do Successful People Have in Common?

Ask any successful businessman or woman and they will tell you the same thing. Their success is not something that happened by chance. Of course, being in the right place at the right time is crucial, but it is only half of the equation. Just as important is trusting your gut feelings, planning, not giving up, and following through with your ideas.

The Business in Motion radio show has spent years interviewing business leaders to find out what makes them successful. Whilst they may work in a variety of industries, and have very different personality types, there are similar themes running through almost all their stories. Lets take a look at some of these themes and pinpoint what they have in common, why they provide the foundation for success, and how they can help us to succeed. 

Following the advice of business leaders who have changed the world may not make you a success, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Surround Yourself With Brilliant People
Any business leader will happily admit that surrounding yourself with brilliant people is often the difference between success and failure. A true business leader is not threatened by talented people. They embrace the abilities of others and are always willing to listen to their input. They delegate and utilize the skill-set of their entire team and are never so stubborn that they refuse to change course when necessary.

An Innovation Need Not be Original
Although this may seem contradictory, true business leaders know they do not have to 'reinvent the wheel' to become successful. Perhaps the most revered business leader of our time was Steve Jobs. The company he founded in his bedroom has been credited, among other things, with inventing the personal computer, the MP3 player, the smartphone, and the tablet. Whilst, Jobs was a colossus in the information technology world, Apple invented none of those products. The invention of the personal computer is generally credited to Henry Edwards Roberts, whose Altair 8800 kickstarted the personal computer industry. 

A German technology company, Fraunhofer-Gesellshaf, manufactured the first MP3 player back in 1997, whilst IBM were ahead of their time and developed the first smartphone back in 1992. Admittedly, these products bare little resemblance to the electronic devices that went on to change the world, but the concept and early advances in technology were there for all to see. What of the personal tablet? Well, a strong argument could be made that Pencept developed that technology as long ago as 1985, whilst Microsoft ushered in the modern mobile computing age with it's range of 'tablet' devices at the turn of the century.

Standing on the Shoulders of Others
What made Steve Jobs such a visionary was his talent for analyzing the current market, and being remarkably accurate in predicting what technologies would change the world and those that would end up 'in the dustbin of history'. By standing on the shoulders of innovators that had gone before, and designing aesthetically pleasing, simple to use products, Apple became the company it is today. 

Bill Gates did a similar thing in the 1980's with Microsoft. He agreed to a deal to license parts of Apple's Macintosh GUI for a new piece of software Microsoft had written called Windows 1.0. The next version of Windows (2.0) resulted in Apple taking Microsoft to court for copyright infringement. The case lasted 4 years. The judge eventually dismissing Apples claim. Ironically, the Macintosh GUI was heavily influenced by work that had taken place at Xerox a decade earlier. 

Once again, we find successful companies need not lead the way as innovators. However, they do need to be in the right place at the right time, trust their instincts, understand the direction the market is heading, and market their product successfully.

The Importance of Advertising
One can have the best idea or product in the world, but unless you get the word out it will never be successful. Truly successful business leaders already know this. They promote their product through a variety of media. They understand that during a downturn in the economy this is more important than ever. 

Of course, a promotional campaign does not have to cost a fortune. Business start-ups should always allocate a proportion of their budget for promotional campaigns that get your message across in unique ways. Building a brand that the consumer instantly recognises is fundamental to this strategy. All true business leaders understand the importance of this. People do not just buy products. They buy into a brand and what it represents. It becomes a lifestyle choice, something that demonstrates to the outside world who they are, and what they believe in. 

Once again, Steve Jobs knew this. Apple, under his leadership, became the technology giant it is today not just because of its great products. People also bought into them because they believed Apple stood for something. IBM and Microsoft represented the status quo. Apple stood for the counter-culture and a fresh approach.

Branding, logos and a company slogan on office products or other advertising can help you stand out from the crowd. Smaller companies lack the experience and staffing levels to compete with the industry giants. However, with a creative approach it is quite possible to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. Office products can be tailored to sing the praises of a smaller company. For instance, the personal touch is often lost when doing business with large multi-nationals. Smaller businesses can point this out whilst designing their office products or other advertising campaigns. Finding a 'niche' market or audience can help level the  playing field. Successful branding can help a business achieve this.

Hard Work and Never Giving up
Perhaps the one quality that almost every successful business leader has is their capacity to work hard, believe in themselves, and a refusal to accept defeat. At some point, most of the true giants in the business world failed. What differentiates them from most of us is their ability to pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and learn from their mistakes. They turn failure into opportunity. Steve Jobs was once thrown off the board at Apple. Although despondent, he refused to stop believing in himself. He founded another computer start up company called NeXT, bought a computer graphics company and renamed it Pixar, and 13 years later was invited back to join an almost bankrupt Apple company. The rest is history.

Guest Post by 
Melissa Barry

George Torok Host of Business in Motion Business Speaker Listen to Business in Motion audio PodCasts On iTunes Business in Motion on Facebook Share/Save/Bookmark

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