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What Separates a Successful Business Owner From Everyone Else


I just walked out of a Saturday continuing education class on Search Engine Marketing at New York University. It was supposed to be a class to help advance my SEM skills but after the first day it was obvious that I was way to advance for the class. As is usually the case, once someone finds that I have started and built several companies, they wanted to ask me questions about how I did it. I often hear the same thing, “I don’t know where to begin” or “ how did you do it” or “I always wanted to start my own business”. I also often hear this from business owners who already started a business that failed and need to come up with a new business to start. I don’t think the answer to what makes a successful business owner can be boiled down to 3 things but for the purposes of this article, I will pick my top three.

The first thing and most important trait of a successful business owner is if they are highly self-motivated and I am constantly reminded how unique a skill set this is. Now it is obvious that when one is starting a business they need to have incredible drive but when one has started their own business before and need to do it again, staying highly motivated is critical. After 20 years of building companies I am just as motivated today as I was in the beginning. Why? I think it comes down to my motivation. I want to be the best at whatever I do and I give it 110% no matter what I am going for. The times I have started another business were often the hardest because at times I felt lost.  I wasn’t sure what business to start next. What kept me going was that I never gave up on the idea that I wanted to be successful and the best at what I did. Over the years I have learned to be more patient and to keep at it. I read a lot, I try to meet and learn from others, I pay attention, I listen, I am constantly learning, I am autodidactic (self taught). It is so rare that I meet other highly motivated people that I constantly forget how unique a skill I have. It isn’t just that I am highly motivated and ambitious but I am also a self-starter. A self-starter is someone who initiates things and get things done. A successful business owner has the rare skill set of being highly motivated, ambitious and a self-starter. It is critical that if you own a business now or are starting a new one, that you realize that those three traits are critical to your success. You need to make sure you always have high energy because finding and building a business will require you to stay highly motivated.

The second thing I have notice about successful business owners is they have an instinct about where to spend their time. They often know what they are good at and to delegate things they are not. Their skill set is so unique that it is rare to find others who can match it and in fact, if others could match it, then it would be debatable if you could make any money in their business. Money is a scare resource, and if everyone could do what business owners do, then everyone would be making a lot of money. Successful business owner know where to put their companies energy and focus. It is usually based on instinct which is refined over years and years of experience. It can’t be taught. You either have it to begin with or you don’t. It is that same instinct that tells the successful business owner to not open up a store that sells cookies because there is no money in it or an inexpensive small clothing store across from Macy’s. The successful business owner knows that he needs to improve his odds of success by making good business decisions.

The third trait that makes a successful business owner is based on 2 things. They picked the right industry and they got lucky. I never thought before that luck paid a part in one’s success because I had always thought that success=hard work. As I got older, I now realize it comes down to success=hard work + opportunity. I think successful business owners know how to improve their odds of success by picking the right industry and by improving their odds of success by being engaged in the world. It’s like what the Lotto ad says, “you have to be in it to win it”. Over the years I have been much smarter about picking the right industry and opportunity before I put my 110% effort into making the business a success.

To be a successful business owner, and I would define that as achieving the goals one sets out for themselves in business, you will greatly improve your chances if you are highly motivated, focus on what you are good at, and pick the best opportunity. It sounds so easy but it is so rare to find someone who has achieved business success that when you do find someone like that, you want to learn what you need to do to make your business dreams come true.

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