Be bold to act and behold its magical power | Daily News


So, you want to start-up and develop a small business – Part 42

Be bold to act and behold its magical power

Owning a small business has much more to do with vision and boldness than it does with profits and losses. Profits and losses are a means to an end. In fact, the business itself is a means to an end. We start a business because we have a dream, a destiny that is fulfilled by creating a sustainable, beautiful business that we love. No, we are not always successful, but it is this vision of creating something special, of making the world and our world better, that drives us. Which begs the question: How can we better realize this passion? Are there business traits that the best of the best can teach the rest? Indeed, there are. The best businesses are beacons illuminating the path so that as we continue our entrepreneurial journey, there is light showing us which way to go.

Best Businesses

Have you ever asked yourself the question: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from other companies?” The results of a research done by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras are fascinating and they apply to businesses both small and large. More than a desire for profits, more than a plan to produce pleasing products, the best businesses are founded on and driven by, vision.

It helps to remember that every amazingly huge, Fortune 500, traded, stock-splitting, name-branded, well-known company you can think of once started out as a small business. Yet by adhering to their vision, they were able to grow beyond their humble roots and become something special.

And when we say special, we are not referring to money or profits, although money and profits are nice. We are talking about a business that makes a difference - for its shareholders and owners, for its employees, and for its customers. A special business, a great business, solves problems, creates value, is enviable.

Remember – to start a successful business (big or small) you need not be a genius, you do not have to invent the next big thing and you do not have to start out with a big idea. Starting slow is fine. Bill Boeing’s first plane was such a failure that his aircraft company sold furniture for a few years. Microsoft lost money for its first two years. One of the largest electronics companies in the world began in the bombed-out basement of a department store in Tokyo right after World War Il.

If it is not the great idea that gets the business running.What sustains the small business in the early yearsis the owner’s dream. It is the business itself.

The simple but most important advice is - “Never, never, never give up. Be prepared to kill, revise, or evolve an idea, but never give up on the company.”

HP is a classic example: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard kept tinkering, persisting, trying, and experimenting until they figured out how to build an innovative company that would express their core values.

A slow start can be handled as long as a strong foundation is being laid. Creating a great small business requires that you create an organization with values that matter and processes that last. A visionary organization creates visionary products and profits, not the other way around.

Profits, not the motive

To start a small business, you have to be idealistic; if you were not, then fear, criticism, the unknown, or the naysayers would have stopped you. You believe you are idealistic. That is very good. The trick to sustained business greatness,then, is to transform that idealism into a set of core business values.

The best small businesses have core values and live by them. These values guide owners and employees alike in their everyday activities. In 1945, Japan was a country in ruins.Devastated by war and two nuclear bombs, Japan had a long, long way to go. It was there, in the remnants of Tokyo, that Masaru Ibuka decided to start a new company that hewould call Sony. Begun in that bombed-out, deserted department store, Sony was started with the last $1,600 of Ibuka’s personal savings. Aside from initially creating some forgettable products (for example, sweet bean-paste soup), Ibuka quickly created a code for his nascent company:

• We shall create a place of work where all workers can feel the joy of innovation and development.”

• We shall pursue dynamic activitiesfor the reconstruction of Japan.

• We shall face and get over technical difficulties.

• “We shall eliminate any unfair profit seeking.”

That last point is critical and illustrative. Everyone loves profits, but evidence indicates that the best businesses mix profits into the values bag, treating them equally with other important business attributes.

Core values

Henry Ford is widely credited with helping to create the middle class by introducing both the five-day workweek and the decent day wage above the market rate.

The point to take away is that great companies value values. They are not just enterprises created to make a buck. These businesses have a core ideology of which profit is but one ideal.

As a small business owner, you must decide for yourself what your core values are. They should be simple, guiding principles on which to build. You do not need a reason and do not need to justify them. They are your core values. Figure out what they are and live by them.

A corollary to this is that the visionary small business should recruit people who can buy into the value system; that is certainly something that should be discussed during the interview process. Real values, to mean something, must be lived, and if an employee is unwilling to adopt your way, then it should be the highway.

Do you know about Xerox - the American global corporation that sells print and digital document and services in more than 160 countries? When he died, Joe Wilson, founder of Xerox, was found with a small blue index card that he apparently had kept in his wallet. It said, in part, “To attain serenity through the leadership of a business which brings happiness to its workers, serves its customers, and brings prosperity to its owners.”

Think big

The most successful small businesses create clear, specific, big goals and then organize to achieve them. The goals serve as a focal point for the efforts of the participants. When Ruth Handler decided that her small toy company would create a doll modelled on a shapely woman, not a baby, as all girls’ dolls had been up to that point, the goal was huge.

The company had to invent new processes to manufacture the doll, and it took eight years. It changed the entire direction of her business. But her business – Mattel - and her invention – Barbie - transformed an industry. Setting the bar high raises expectations - of yourself, of your staff, and of your business itself. A great, big, audacious goal can get everyone excited. It crystallizes efforts.

But a goal alone is not enough. Your business has to be committed, financially and emotionally, to achieving the goal. A goal without commitment is like a basketball without air. It’s empty. Set goals for your company. Commit to them. Enlist your team in them. Achieve them. And then set more.


Grand visions and strategic plans are wonderful, but it often takes plain old trial and error and plenty of experimentation before the magic combination hits.

Failures happen, but you have to keep throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. R. W. Johnson, Jr., of Johnson & Johnson famously said, “Failure is our most important product.” He knew not only that failure meant his company might learn something new but also that it should prod them in the proper direction. If you continue to experiment and try new things, opportunities will eventually avail themselves.

You are your competitor

Of course, capitalism is cutthroat, but the best small companies do not necessarily look to their competition to figure out what to do. Instead, they look to their own values and successes and try to top those. It is like the sports team, playing for the championship, that says, “We do not care what our opponent is going to do, what their defensive scheme is, or what plays they will run. This is not about them; it is about us. Are we up to it? How well will we carry out our plan? Will we be our best? If we are our best, no one can beat us.”

Have a vision. Dare to dream big dreams and have big goals. Commit to them and then chase them. Enrol your team in your cause. Always try something new. Make sure your small business stands for something; if it personifies your best values, you will have created a business of which you can be proud.

The final note – Starting and running a successful small business is one of the great joys in life. There are no guarantees of success. There are only obstacles which are guaranteed. But, if you do it right, if you start the right small business - one that you are passionate about and having a vision, one that epitomizes your highest dreams and values, and certainly one that allows you to make a reasonable profit - then there is no telling how far it can take you.Be bold, for boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.

(This is the final instalment of the series. Each instalment contained real-world business tips, skills and strategies that have been proven to help small businesses grow. New series starts next week)

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