The one question I get asked most often as I live and work in Tulsa is, “What’s your secret David? How did you do it?”
I guess it’s the word secret that bothers me most about that question because if a secret to entrepreneurial success exists, no one has shared it with me. What I know for certainty is that there are several common factors that when aligned with pent-up demand in a marketplace, can lead to the creation of a successful enterprise.
I think it all starts with a vision. Usually that vision is stimulated by an un-met need—a gap in the marketplace. Sometimes the vision is driven by market research– other times our frame of reference (sometimes called gut-feel) plants a little twinkle in our eye.
Vision is not a mysterious gift that only a few are blessed to receive. All of us have eyes to see lightening bugs as they signal potential mates but disappear into darkness if we don’t capture the moment.
Vision is exercised. Practiced. Cultivated.
The second factor that makes a major impact on successful ventures is the creation of systems. “How do you get people to do what you want them to do?”
The answer is to provide checklists (with photographs if possible) of WHAT to do and HOW to do it. The reason franchising is so popular as a vehicle to success is that the franchisor provides detailed “How-To” lists and methods. Most franchise prototypes have developed systems consisting of an operations model, management guidelines and checklists throughout the operation.
Without a system, a business has a wide range of options available to employees. Options in a workplace usually lead to mayhem. We try to find the one best way to do things and then teach that method. Our managers then will inspect to see that our checklists are being followed.
Theodore Levitt said…
“Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization and quality.”
Know how to do it. Do it a lot. Teach it. Inspect it. Revise it.
A third key is to develop a refined sense of priority. I try to answer one key question, all day every day… “What matters most right now?”
Often the answer to that question is my wife Camille or my children. Or my dog Daisy.
Other times, the priority will be a customer in my café or a key employee. Sometimes the priority is to stay focused on what’s coming next in our industry. I work hard to keep my ear to the ground and “feel” what’s coming next.
So many of us work hard all day—to the point of exhaustion and then return to our homes and cannot answer the question, “What did you do today, honey.” I just hate it when I can’t answer that question. I want to be able to answer that question every hour. I certainly want to have a bag full of answers as I rock in my retirement chair someday.
Ellen Degeneres said that “procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” I want my life and business to be much more meaningful than just “keeping up.”
Success is rarely accidental. Even a lottery winner had a plan. Someone had to buy the winning ticket. And behind every ticket purchase is a dream. There is no secret to winning the lottery.
It’s all about a vision, a plan and clearly defined priorities.
Shhh. Please don’t tell anyone my secrets to success.