I’m just starting out and wonder if there are any common attributes successful small business owners have?

Friday 01 August 2014

I’m just starting out and wonder if there are any common attributes successful small business owners have?

Yes and what is great is that it’s not just about resources and a great new idea or invention - which means that anyone can be successful in any industry.

What it all boils down to is locally successful entrepreneurs focus on the 3 most important words in business:  Intention, Attention and Responsibility.


The intention must be to create a great product or service leading to an excellent customer experience which massively differentiates you from all your competition and allows you to charge enough to make it sustainable. 

Ultimately, every idea or innovation is copied and that means to have a sustainable business in the long-term, the way you deliver your service or product and what your terms of business are is hugely more important than what it is you do.

In my view, many Jersey companies are lazy when it comes to customer experience as there is so little competition.  Strangely though it is especially poor in our retail industry which now with online substitutes has even more competition.

To evidence this, think yourself.  When was the last time you went into a shop, or business, and were surprised by how welcome they made you feel, the explanation of the choices you have and why the products they have selected are the ones that they pre-selected for you?  Was it never?  If they are going to compete with the price and choices online they need to start delivering what online shopping can’t - trust, relationship and a great experience.


Attention to detail massively helps differentiate a business.  As I said above, every new idea or innovation is eventually copied and in some industries in Jersey there are two or three competitors and in others up to 20 or so.  Making sure that you follow through on your good intentions is key to sustainable success.

Take builders and tradesmen.  At the start it’s mostly smiles and a level of rapport where you trust that everything will be done to complete satisfaction.  At the end it is more mastic and cover-ups, fag ends left underneath the kitchen appliances to be found later and bits of wall behind toilet seats which they forgot to paint.  Do you think I’ll be using them again?

Attention to detail runs through the veins of successful business owners.  My favourite example of this is someone I work with who agreed to have a picture of his garage on the homepage of our new website.  When it went live he was hugely disappointed with the photo as it showed a few oil stains on the floor after a full day of servicing cars!  Just spotting something like that shows the attention to detail required across all aspects of a business.


I met someone recently who appeared to be very good at what they do.  They had some great case studies and stories and there is little doubt they make a real difference to the lives of the people they work with as a personal coach.

However, they’re hardly making any money and the concept this was in some way her fault was completely alien to her.  As we talked, she opened up a little and she said something that I found very enlightening: “If I do a good enough job with my coaching and counseling, people will hear about it and discover me.”

I had to burst her bubble.  Fact is, there’s no business where simply being ‘really good’ at it will guarantee success.  Business owners must take responsibility for getting the message out there and communicating to customers and potential customers, in an utterly compelling way, why they should dip into their hard earned cash and spend it.

It’s 100% her responsibility.  The longer she kids herself that she’s living in this utopia where how well you do something is the sole factor in determining your success, the longer she’ll remain good at what she does but poor. 


As an owner-manager you are fully aware you are ultimately accountable so you may as well just accept now that you are responsible too – and act like it.

The business you are in, who you sell to, the products and services you provide, your prices, even the place in which you live and work.  Yeah, these are tough decisions but that’s what responsibility is all about and pretending that there are things outside our control, things that we can’t change, is part of a defense mechanism that actually hinders and not helps us.

Take responsibility for everything in your business, have the intention to produce something the client will think is fantastic and then give the whole business and service delivery incredible attention to detail and you will be successful.  Those that do always are.