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What it Takes

Although many different types of people have proven to be successful in business, Deborah believes there a number of personal attributes and strengths which are often the mark of a successful business leader...

There are an awful lot of people out there with great ideas. You know, the type of person who does a lot of talking but never actually manages to make anything happen. There are also too many people who are so desperate to get on with things that they blindly take on a bad idea and end up flogging a dead horse. Needless to say, successful business people get things done, but not before they’ve done their homework and considered the pros and cons.

Successful business people tend to have highly tuned 'bull**** radars' and a natural ability to get right to the heart of things, which means they are able to make reasoned judgements quicker than most. They also tend to be able to put themselves in the customers shoes which is important when assessing whether their products will sell and how they should be marketed. They don’t have crystal balls though, so successful business people have to be calculated risk takers.

Successful business people take decisions all the time. If you can’t make decisions then you can forget it. Businesses often flounder because their ‘leaders’ can’t decide what to do about the simplest of things, so they do nothing. The world is constantly changing, businesses need to evolve too. Doing nothing is the worst business decision you’ll ever make.

Successful business people are also willing to take tough decisions. My father always used to say ‘look after the business and the business will look after everyone else’. They aren’t hard though, they’re tough. People who are hard don’t consider the consequences of their actions and certainly don’t care about them. People who are tough consider the consequences of their actions, weigh up the alternatives and decide on the strategy they believe is best for the whole business.

Needless to say, if you want to be successful in business you have to have self belief and total confidence in your convictions. This doesn’t mean that you can set your course and never stray from it though. You need to be able to listen to other peoples opinions, ideas and points of view along the way. Sometimes you’ll need to adapt your plans in light of this but you also need to be fairly thick skinned and able to brush off negative comments. If you’ve listened to the negative comments, been really honest with yourself and you still believe your way is right then stick with it. On the other hand, you can’t afford for your own personal pride to stop progress. If you employ staff and they come up with a way that’s better than yours thank them for goodness sake, encourage them to find more. Forget personal pride, you’re there to create a successful business so take all the help you can get!

With staff, I think the most important thing is to be consistent and make sure everyone is clear about and believes in what you’re all working towards. People need leadership and a sense of direction. Then leave them to get on with it! Be as honest as you can with your staff, encourage them and treat them well, they’re going to allow you to make this happen. Remember though, to be a successful leader you also have to prepared to be the bad guy sometimes.

In all honestly running a business is a very tricky balancing act. Nobody gets it right all the time, even successful business leaders make terrible mistakes, they just recognise them, learn from them and move on.