If there was a ready-made recipe for making a great business we’d all be Mark Zuckerbergs. Yet study enough successful enterprises and it is possible to identify key ingredients that create the potential for greatness.
Common characteristics are evident no matter what sector the business is in or how large the organisation. Whether entrepreneurial start-up or corporate giant, the same components are in the DNA.
As co-founders of a specialist talent search business we have personal knowledge of the dynamics driving a fast-growing SMME while extensive work with major corporates provides insight into the characteristics that separate big-league winners from also-rans.
And eight great ingredients stand out…
Ambition. Personal ambition is just a starting point. You must also be ambitious for the business. Every top performer has a vision of where he or she wants the business to go. The driven go-getter is on a mission – for the industry, for a technology set, for a new business model, for customers. A business on a mission builds great momentum – first step to greatness.
Integrity. You must engender trust. So must your business. Trust is earned by people, organisations and products that behave honestly. What you promise, you deliver.
Innovation. This is a mind-set as well as a process. You might not produce new creations every season like a fashion house or have a new product pipeline like a technology company, but you can ensure you don’t perpetuate dull routine or worship past practice. Explore new approaches. Introduce new ideas; in life as well as business.
Courage. It’s easy to talk bravery. Great companies and their leaders show some. For example, our talent management business launched in 2009 during a recession. It’s not enough to have an exceptional idea, product or service. You must have faith in it. Courage might entail counter-cyclical investment, giving an industry lead or walking away from some deals because it’s the right thing to do.
Persistence. Don’t quit. Great outcomes usually demand great patience, diligence and tenacity. One highly satisfied candidate commented after successful placement at the top of a major organisation, ‘Thank you for interfering in my life.’ (Persistence may result in irritation, but this is forgotten once successfully appointed.)
Commitment. Love what you do. Be passionate about the business and your role in it. More than that; generate passion in those around you. Business is a journey. The destination is success, but getting there might take years. You have to enjoy the challenges along the way or you won’t complete the long haul.
Competitive advantage: We can’t all invent a killer app or introduce totally new technology. But even in an established industry with me-too services it is possible to develop stand-out qualities that foster strong customer relationships. Become known for something – professionalism, consistency, a track record. In the talent search industry our 92% record for successful placement builds motivation as well as pride. Once you’ve got something special you never want to lose it.
Delight. Successful enterprises tend to be in the ‘happiness business.’ They produce happy employees, happy suppliers and happy customers. Tony Hsieh, boss of Zappos (the world’s biggest online shoe store) admits “We’re about trying to deliver happiness.” Zappos has won countless customer satisfaction awards and does it by creating satisfied employees who delight customers. Employees are the face of your brand. Make sure it’s a smiling face.
These common traits are shared by many uncommon businesses – the great companies big and small that achieve success and sustained growth. The magic is in the mix. Every successful business approaches that mix in its own way. But de-construct the recipe and these eight great ingredients feature every time.
By the directors of Talent Africa*
*Directors of Talent Africa:
Gusti Coetzer – Director: Executive Search
Annelize van Rensburg – Director: Executive Search
Mosima Selekisho – Director: Executive Search
Michelle Moss – Director: Assessments