As Christmas looms followed by New Year’s Eve where revelers make spur of the moment resolutions to ensure the next year will be the best ever, it’s timely to give an insight into what successful business people have in common. In fact, the characteristics of the great business builders I will refer to apply to anyone who wants to win.
After more than two decades of talking to, analyzing and deconstructing some of the greatest names in business from GE’s Jack Welch to the one-of-a-kind Richard Branson to Aussie Home Loan’s John Symond to the Wizard ‘Apprentice Boss’ Mark Bouris and Boost Juice’s Janine Allis, I have identified some of the key reasons why these guys and gals make it to the top while others can be good but not great at making their entrepreneurial dreams come true.
The power of SLUGO
For those who don’t like long stories, I have compressed it into a five-letter memorable, made up word — SLUGO.
S stands for self-leadership and having a vision that inspires commitment to make sure that the dream of success comes true.
L stands for lateral thinking that great performers possess, helping them create a competitive advantage.
U is for their understanding of the consumer such that they embody in their goods and services they sell the essential ingredients that draw customers like bees to honey, like moths to a flame and like Apple-lovers to Steve Jobs’ creations.
G is for the giants in their life — advisers or experts — that make up for their weaknesses and then permit them to operate in their strength zone.
O stands for the opportunity hunters that these people are, and they often know it’s technology or access to capital that provides the edge to succeed.
Where to start
The starting point is having a vision of what you want to make happen. Gloria Jean’s Coffees International co-founder Nabi Saleh says he dreamed big and he did it knowing that if he failed to reach the dizzy heights of his dream, he could still end up at a fantastic level. But dreams can be cheap and that’s why we all can have them, but the real achievers dream with focus — they might have other interests, but they dream the dream 24/7.
Chris Evert, the great US tennis player, once said: “Deep down I wanted to win so badly I could actually will it to happen. I think most of my career was based on desire”. When I read this I instantly thought about the greats of business and how this sums them up. They are into winning and self-leadership, which makes them better and better at what they do.
If you can’t lead yourself to success, how can you lead others?
Think outside the square
The second reason why these business builders win is, as Edward de Bono put it — they think outside the square. They’re lateral thinkers and they out-think their rivals. Good business owners are innovators but great ones are unique innovators — they nuke their rivals with their product, their service, their marketing and/or their customer service.
Getting to know you
The next key ingredient of success was best demonstrated recently by the legend of Apple — Steve Jobs. While Steve Wozniak was the engineering genius, Jobs was the marketing guru who simply got it — he knew what consumers wanted and that’s why we have iPods, iTunes, iPads and iPhones. Others argue they invented these things but Jobs made them work for customers because he got it.
Bob Bloom, in a great book called The Inside Advantage, says great businesses really get to know their core audience and this helps them create businesses that blow away their rivals. He masterminded the resurgence of Southwest airlines in the USA and this has become a customer service success story that the likes of Richard Branson learnt from and was inspired by.
Strengths and weaknesses
Next the greats of business operate in their strength zone and make their weaknesses irrelevant by surrounding themselves with the right people. Dr Fiona Wood, who made the plastic spray on skin that helped the Bali bombing victims, which became the basis of a public company explained her success using a quotation from scientist, Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Great business people have giants in their life that show them stuff that helps them win. It’s why most Rugby League clubs would love Wayne Bennett to be their coach! He’s a giant.
Finally, business greats are always on the look out for the newest technological advantage out there. They are fast-adopters as they don’t want to be left behind. They are fast lane operators so they are online, looking at apps, pondering how to use social media and they know the world is going mobile and so that’s where they’re going to be.
But it doesn’t have to be technology. Mark Bouris sold part of Wizard Home Loans business to Kerry Packer not just for the capital, which was a part of the success story, but he also accessed Packer’s business acumen and his network.
Do a SWOT
These people are continually doing SWOTs — analysis on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — and that’s why they end up with the competitive edge.
These people are “uniquely inspirational” — they’re giants in their own right. I hope they inspire you to make the best, life-changing New Year’s resolution ever in a couple of weeks’ time!
Peter Switzer is the founder of the Switzer Super Report, a newsletter and website for self-managed super funds. www.switzersuperreport.com.au