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.
With so much information available on the internet, researching your potential market has never been easier. Ensuring your research is specific and relevant is the key to making the right decisions and convincing an investor that you have a 'handle' on the important stuff that will really make your business tick.
Finding out the size of an existing market is barely research, you also really need to know exactly who the current providers are in that market, what their strengths and weaknesses are and what they are failing to provide. This sort of information is far more relevant and useful when developing a product or service, it can often identify your potential unique selling point and will certainly help you to assess the viability and potential of your idea.
Remember, this information is for you, to help you make good, sound business decisions... not just to make your pitch or business plan sound better!
Plenty of people have great ideas but it's the ones who actually act on them who are most likely to be successful. A step-by-step business plan with timescales and milestones at an early stage is an excellent idea and could be crucial if you’re looking to secure investment or a loan from a bank.
A relatively simple business plan will also keep you on track, make sure you spend time considering what actually needs to be done by who and when, and offer early warning signs on timing/launch issues. With all the stresses and strains that starting a business can bring it will also serve as a good motivator when times get tough and you can clearly see what you have already achieved.
On the other hand if you are constantly missing deadlines, failing to achieve targets and re-writing your plan it also serves as a very clear indicator that something needs a re-think.
There’s plenty of free help and guidance on writing business plans on the internet. One example is offered by Smarta, a fantastic online resource for small businesses and one of Deborah's investments. Click here to view the free business plan resources available at Smarta.com
Whether you’re appearing on Dragons’ Den or approaching a bank for a loan, the key to a good pitch is to really know your stuff, be clear on what drives the business forward and to get the message across in a concise and credible way.
Allow enough time to plan, pull the pitch together and rehearse in front of someone you respect and admire. Ask them for honest and direct feedback and allow time to adjust following the rehearsal.
Use your own language, don't try to be over-clever by using "insiders" jargon; you will run the risk of baffling your audience and looking like a smart-alec! Memorise key points throughout your presentation so that, if you lose your thread, you can easily pick up again.
Make sure you look good and therefore feel good on the day. Wear your favourite suit (or relevant clothing), take time with your grooming in the morning, make sure you feel "a million dollars". All this will help with your confidence and confidence is contagious.
Finally, be yourself and be honest. Good investors have an in-built bull**** radar and being misleading or disingenuous is a dangerous game to play!