How to Succeed in Business in 12 Easy Steps

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Step #1: Love to do something

Find something to do that you love so much you can’t tear yourself away from it. Do it all day and into the wee hours of the night. Get so excited about it that you can’t keep yourself from talking to everyone you know – and lots of people you don’t know – about it, all the time. Be fixated, fascinated, infatuated, and obsessed with it.

Step #2: Figure out where this obsession can take you and a reason to go there

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” – Dr. Seuss

Look ahead, dream some dreams, have a vision and a purpose. You won’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going . . . and a reason to keep at it against all odds.

Step #3: Don’t worry about what other people think

Are you thinking, “But who am I to do this?” or “What if I don’t have the credentials? Do I need an MBA or a certain number of years in business to be credible?” Are you waiting for the Business Fairy to tap you with her magic wand and grant you the right to be what you want to be? (No kidding, I did this for a long time.)

Steve Jobs attended one semester of college before calling it quits to begin his true work.

Michael Dell had $1,000 and a dream when he dropped out of college at the age of 19 to start PC’s Limited. He is currently estimated to be worth over $15.9 billion.

Walt Disney had an idea and a cartoon mouse. People laughed at him, but he didn’t worry about what they thought.

Maya Angelou is known as a great American writer and has received many honorary doctorates, but has never attended college to learn her craft. Nor have the writers Mark Twain, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Robert Frost.

Richard Branson dropped out at the age of 16 to start his Student Magazine. After that, he started the Virgin brand and over 360 of its other companies. Currently, he’s estimated to be worth over $4.2 billion.

Mark Zuckerburg dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year to fully pursue Facebook.

Bill Gates dropped out of college, and is estimated to be worth over $66 billion as of 2012.

And then of course, Marianne Williamson asks, who are you to not do it?

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Aw, go on, try it.

Step #4: Find the sweet spot

Where does this thing you love intersect with what clients and customers love and want and will pay for? Figure out how to find this information. Do the research. Peer under every rock and into every crevice. Talk to people. Ask questions.

Step #5: Be confident

I know it’s not a black and white thing, “you either have it or you don’t.”  There are various degrees of confidence, and if you don’t have it, you can acquire it. And I also know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that you’ll be successful without confidence.

Nothing makes you feel better about your business or look better to clients than to have the right kind of confidence (not to be confused with arrogance). As highly creative people do, you may have a disconnect when it comes to projecting the same degree of confidence about yourself as you do about your work. Unfortunately, when clients see a lack of confidence, they equate that with a lack of competence. OUCH!

It’s not very useful to just throw yourself into stressful situations, hoping you’ll build confidence over time. It sometimes works, but it’s much easier to take a solid, realistic approach and build your confidence behind the scenes, based on practical things you have control over.

There are four levels your confidence is built on, and if you understand this, you can take the pressure off yourself as you work to shore these up:

  1. Your mindset, and your deep seated feelings about your worth, work, and success
  2. Team, group, or collaborative support
  3. Your processes and systems
  4. Exterior feedback

So there’s a method to it. And something you can do about it. And it’s very powerful.

Step #6: Understand what makes you truly different

Every business says they’re service-oriented and results-driven, blah blah blah. But can you talk about what really makes you different and valuable to your clients – enough to make them want to choose you over someone else?

Understand this, internalize this, and learn how to talk about this – in a way that’s authentic, non-icky, and non-salesy. And certainly not pushy.

Step #7: Be truthful

Tell the truth, even when it sometimes feels uncomfortable. Be clear. Ask the awkward questions when you don’t understand instead of posturing and pretending that you do and then wringing your hands over not understanding. Practice truth telling, especially when you get those inklings. Listen to the nudges. Get it all out on the table.

Step #8: Know your ideal client

Do you know who you’re supposed to be working with, really? Not just by industry or niche, but personally? I know, I know, you’ve heard this mumbo jumbo before. But that’s because it’s extremely, extremely important. If you really love to do that thing, you need to find the clients who love that thing too – the clients you align with. And you need to align with them on several levels. They need to love how much you love it, you know? How the heck do you find these people, anyway?

Think back to the last client you had who made you feel really excited about the work you were doing together. How supportive she was. How much she respected what you did for her, and how she didn’t haggle over the bill. OMG, if only all of your clients could be like her. Can they be? Can you find a bunch of clients like her? Have you tried?

Step #9: Get visible

Did you know that psychologists actually do likeability studies based on the idea that “when people see you more, they like you more?” It’s true, even though it seems pretty obvious. You can take this a step further into your business, as many have. We all know that clients also do business with people they know, like, and trust.

This is a pretty simple math equation. Get seen more, so people will like you more, so they’ll do business with you more. But there’s a catch. See Step #8, above – you have to get seen by the right people. Your people. And you have to do it in a way that doesn’t get lost in the sea of sameness – you want the right people to actually “see” and “hear” what you put out there, and put it in the places where they actually hang out.

Step #10: Be productive

Get a lot of stuff done and don’t waste time. I know, you’re creative, and you don’t like to be held accountable for your time. I wish I had a nickel for every time a coaching client told me this. I’m just asking you to take control of your time, and be aware of it, especially if you want to your business to be successful.

This is a big topic. More about tracking your time here and creating time here and being effectively productive here. And just know this: with structure comes freedom. So if you can structure your business for productivity, you’ll have a lot more freedom to do what you want with it.

Step #11: Get support

You can’t do everything. And even if you can, that doesn’t mean you should. In order to be excellent at the things you and only you can do in your business – like charting the direction of the company and serving your clients at the highest levels — you need the right support from others. It’s difficult going out and slaying the dragons every day, and without the right people around you, it will be a lot harder.

What are you best at? Do that. What drags you down? Hire it out. I’m not suggesting you spend money you don’t have, but I see way too many business owners doing things they don’t do well, hate to do, aren’t trained for, and take too long to do, when someone else could free them up to do their genius work — they’d be more productive and they’d make more money. Your genius work will grow your business and bring in income. Standing in line at the post office, programming your own website, and doing your own books (I don’t care if you are an accountant), won’t.

Step #12: Look at your money

Don’t skip this step! You’ve come so far.

Many creative business owners don’t want to look at their money because they don’t understand it and they’re afraid it won’t look good. I invite you to see your money from a different perspective if you want to succeed in business.

You know how things grow when you put your attention on them? If you put your attention on a plant, and water and nurture it, how it will grow and flourish? If you pay attention to your dog, your dog becomes more attentive to you, more well-behaved? If you pay attention to your kids, your spouse, your friends, they all react better to you, and the relationships grow? It’s the same with your money. You need to pay attention to it.

There’s a lot of crazy thinking around money that hampers our ability to make more of it. It has to do with feelings of self worth and the deep-seated fear of rejection. Taking a clear, unemotional look at your money on a regular basis will help to desensitize you to the fear of it and put you on the path to earning more.

That’s it

So there are my 12 easy steps to succeeding in business. Does that sound like an effective plan of action to you? Did you get any inklings or nudges or aha’s while going through the list? Would you like me to help you work these steps into your business? Would you like to see how your peers work these steps into their businesses? (You can learn a whole lot that way.)

These are exactly the steps we’ll be talking about at my retreat coming up June 10 – 12 in Detroit. And I won’t just be talking at you, I’ll be working with you — we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and figuring out how to take these strategies into your business during the structured work sessions throughout the 3 days we’ll have together.

We’ll have worksheets and exercises and processes and systems to follow, and you’ll be brainstorming and masterminding in groups with other like-minded business owners as you plot a new path for your business, or tweak the one you have now.

We still 2 spots left. It’s not too late — and I think one of them has your name on it :)

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