This articles come from The Five Steps to Building a Successful Business course. This course is the product of working with small businesses for twenty-plus years and asking a simple question: Why do certain businesses succeed while so many struggle and ultimately fail? The Five Steps to Building a Successful Business will teach you how to successfully start and grow a business, or turn a struggling enterprise around. Check out more articles from the Five Steps series.

Do you own a business?  Are you thinking of starting a business?  Do you have a business-owning friend or family member struggling to make ends meet?  Did you own a business in the past and find the experience well, less than rewarding?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, congratulations! You have landed upon a life-changing article.

As discussed in our introduction, the Five Steps to Business Success is the culmination of twenty-plus years working with small businesses and asking three simple questions: 

  1. Why do so many small businesses fail?
  2. Why do so many businesses that survive struggle to make ends meet? and
  3. Why do so few achieve real, lasting success?

The answer to each question lies in five steps.  Each step builds a pillar.  It is upon these five pillars that owners achieve and maintain business success.  When an owner misses a step, a pillar does not get constructed.  Struggle and, at some inevitable point, failure will follow.  If they complete all five steps but later neglect a pillar they’ve built, difficulty shortly arrives.

The Business of Business

The Business of Business is the first step to Building a Successful Business.   This first step is vital.  As in any processes, all subsequent steps are dependent on the first.  When constructing a building, the first step forms a solid foundation.  When building a successful business, the Business of Business forms the central pillar.

If I were an academic – which I try hard not to be – I would describe the Business of Business as a philosophy, a paradigm, or perspective.  It is how successful owners view their business and their role in 1) completing day-to-day activities and 2) achieving long-term objectives.  For some, this perspective arrives as an epiphany of tacit knowledge.  Others obtained it through experience or education.

Never Heard of the Business of Business? No Worries

If you have never heard of the Business of Business, it’s not your fault.  Owners in the trenches lack time to consider the reason for their limited success.  Many who understand and apply the Business of Business don’t even realize it.  It’s learned intuitively from experience, a mentor, or a business-owning family member.  Those who grow up in hands-on, family-owned businesses seem to grasp it more readily than those who do not.  Often one generation will get the company off the ground and through sheer grit.  Then, the next-generation apples the Business of Business to compound the founder’s success.

Business school graduates have not heard of the Business of Business.  Curriculums dance around the concept – in fact, all over and about it – but they do not specifically teach it.  Why? Because most degree programs teach a specific skill that is marketable to existing businesses and organizations.  Entities that are generally large in size and scope.  Most degree programs create employees for businesses, not business owners – especially owners of small businesses.

Two Very Important Questions

When I teach The Business of Business, I generally introduce it by asking two questions:  

The First Question: If you are hoping to start a business - What skill, passion, or product do you want to sell to others?  

I word the question differently for those who already own a business: What product or service do you sell to others?

Now, write your answer down. 

When finished, take a look at what you wrote.  What do you notice?  Did you write a skill you currently have, such as carpentry, auto repair, legal services, hair styling, or photography?  Did you list a product like real estate, investments, food, computers, or smartphone apps?

Your skill, passion, product, or service sell is a noun.  It a skill you possess, a product you are knowledgeable about, or an item you believe will make you money.

Now, for the second question.

The Second Question: If you are new to the business world, this question is for you: How will you take this skill, passion, or product and transform it into a successful business?  

If you are currently in business, here’s yours: What have you done to turn your product or service into a successful business?

Now, write your answer down.

What did you write?  Did you list specific step-by-step actions or jot down phrases like “provide excellent service?” Maybe you didn’t know what to write – No worries. That’s why we created the Five Steps to Building a Successful Business!  

The goal of this exercise is that you realize how very different your answers are.  Possessing product knowledge, expert skills, and passion are excellent attributes.  They are qualities that make great employees!  But, they do not turn your product, talent, or passion into a successful business – that is an entirely different undertaking.

Building a successful business is a transformational process.  The owner takes some raw material – a skill, product, or passion - and turns it into something that did not exist before - a successful business.  It doesn’t happen randomly.  It is an intentional act.  

The Point: Transforming a product or service into a successful business is a skill set in and of itself.  It is a talent so distinct that it constitutes a separate vocation.  Owners who ignore this reality find achieving long-term success (which we define in the Five Steps to Building a Successful Business) nearly impossible.  But here’s the good news!  The skills required for business success vocation are like any other area of expertise.  It is an ability you can learn, practice, and master!

Welcome to Your New Career

Transforming a product or service into a successful business is a skill-based vocation.  If you own a business or planning to start one, congratulations - you’re working in the Business of Business.  Do you want to achieve lasting success in this vocation?  Embrace the Business of Business as a new career.

And this realization brings the first step to building a successful business.  It’s two-fold:

  1. Accept the fact that the moment you commit to selling a product or service to others, you embarked on an entirely new career: The Business of Business. And,
  2. Commit to learning the skills necessary to succeed in your new career.

That’s correct – you now know the secret:  Going into business is an entirely new career.   Like any career, the Business of Business has its challenges, definition of success, and skills required to achieve that success.

So, why did we create the Five Steps to Building a Successful Business?  To help you develop these skills and achieve real, lasting success!  You need to check it out.

All courses and articles are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax advice. Taxes are complicated - do not act on course information without consulting a professional. Always refer to treasury regulation before making any tax decision. Read the full disclaimer.

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