What Common Qualities Are Required to Start and Grow a Successful Business?
The success of a business comes from the leader, and it goes way beyond just dreaming or having a vision about a business venture. All entrepreneurs who have made something long-lasting out of their dreams have certain behaviors or qualities in common. Some of these qualities are innate to them, others learned. Regardless, successful business owners throughout the world use these skills and traits to drive personal and professional success.
As Mark Cuban said, “It’s not in the dreaming, it’s in the doing.”
Tribute to Michael Finaldi
In honor of my father, I broke down 5 qualities that he had that made him successful at starting a business (and keeping it going). My father passed away on July 1, 2021, after being diagnosed with lung cancer earlier that year. While the emotions related to loss are often overwhelming, it did give me the chance to reflect back on my Dad’s accomplishments and personal qualities that made him who he was. A couple of years before I was born, my father started our family business from the ground up with nothing more than a dream and work ethic. After my father passed away, I started asking myself – What does it take to start a company? What qualities does it take to grow and sustain a successful business over decades?
Our family-owned company is now fully transitioned into new ownership and 2nd generation thinking, but these traits are timeless and apply to successful professionals anywhere.
Vision and Long-Term Thinking
Starting a business from nothing and creating a profitable enterprise is not for short-term thinkers. The startup process typically takes 1-3 years of long hours of effort and dedication. Fortunately and unfortunately, we live in a world designed for immediate gratification. While this is great for everyday consumer needs and preferences, it’s not ideal when trying to create something valuable.
My father knew when he started our company that he wanted to build a real legacy. Every owner, especially founders, must have a clear long-term vision of where they want to go. A concrete plan needs to be in place detailing the future goals of the company. This roadmap helps companies stay focused on the finish line, rather than get dragged down or dissuaded by short-term issues. Every business, large or small, will be met with relentless challenges and roadblocks that you must push through to be successful. I am hard-pressed to believe otherwise.
Remembering my father’s example of this quality – When my father started Tele-Solutions in 1981, he knew he was in it for the long run. My dad was not trying to get rich quick or sell it to a larger entity. While it is not wrong to flip or sell a company quickly, that was not my father’s goal. Dad had a clear vision and ability to think long-term, which made the daily challenges of business ownership manageable to deal with. I believe it is important to envision a far-out future for yourself and your business if you start a company that you want to grow. It’s a slow process to build a successful, long-lasting business.
Succeeding in business requires day-to-day consistency, as monotonous as it can feel. Most of the time, there are no awards or celebratory dinners or glamour; it’s simply the daily grind. Half the battle is showing up and trying. Yes, running a business requires sophisticated knowledge, know-how, and skills – but flat-out effort and consistent work are the foundation necessary for growth.
For every business owner, staying consistent for your company can look a little different. What is important is to find what works for you and stick to that routine. Is working a set schedule in-office best for you to maintain client relationships? Great! Is working from home once a week better for you to be able to manage your business backend? Perfect! Whatever your ideal workflow is, your business will benefit from you adhering to it. Being a reliable and consistent leader shows clients and employees that your company holds these qualities at its core.
Remembering my father’s example of this quality – My dad was a man of routine. For over 30 years, he would come to the office at 9 am Monday through Friday. On Wednesdays, he cut out early to play golf at a 1 pm tee time for many years (that was his vacation). He did not enjoy long vacations because they broke his routine, which gave him the ability to always solve problems quickly when they arose. My father would show up at the same time every day, tend to the opportunities and problems of the day, and leave at the same time. Every Wednesday for decades he ran sales training in the conference room. While this level of dedication and consistency is a challenge for most, it worked for what he wanted to do and his success.
Ability to Adapt
While effort and long-term thinking are prerequisites to success, so is the ability to shift or move in another direction. You can’t expect to show up and work hard doing the same thing day in and day out – or in 5-10 years you’ll find yourself going in the wrong direction. What good is it if you worked relentlessly in an industry that was being overtaken or disrupted by better technology or innovation?
Personally, our industry has shifted multiple times. We went from premised-based server equipment to the Internet. Looking back, this shift was massive and obvious, and our business wouldn’t have survived without adapting to the resulting technological changes. Being up-to-date with the innovation and growth in your industry is essential to remain profitable. A successful business person knows this and makes the necessary and difficult decisions to stay relevant.
Remembering my father’s example of this quality – The industry of telecom changed in the early 2000s. The Internet and computers were taking over the world and business landscape. My father saw this trend and quickly adapted the company into selling Unified Communications-based phone systems. This was critical to stay relevant and give clients the technology they needed and wanted to run their businesses. While my father was not a technologist, he did have the ability to adapt and make changes as he saw fit to avoid becoming irrelevant. This is critical when running any company.
Very few things are harder in life than starting something from scratch, growing it, and sustaining it. Anyone who has the courage to do this has to believe in their bones they can do it, or they won’t be dedicated enough to continue. They need a deep conviction that their business vision will be achieved.
By definition, a conviction is a firmly held belief or opinion. It is the Iron Strength that drives people toward their goals despite the challenges that arise along the way. As a founder – or anyone running a company – this conviction must be held within their heart and soul. It will then sprinkle down into the rest of the organization, strengthening the company from within. Outside of a few monopolies or mega enterprises, most of us mere mortals need this unbreakable belief and Iron Strength for our business to survive, thrive, and grow.
Remembering my father’s example of this quality – In business, at times, you are going to get punched in the face, figuratively speaking. My father dealt with a variety of unexpected issues like employees quitting with no notice, very difficult customers, a couple of lawsuits, and HR issues (this is inevitable when running a company for 30 years). He even dealt with a bookkeeper who stole many thousands and went to jail for it. I believe you need Iron Strength to deal with the realities of running a company of any size – you have to be tough. Among my father’s qualities that made his business successful, this one was always prominent.
Success Focused not Money Focused
Yes, money is the scoreboard and accounting is the language of business, but personal wealth cannot be the sole focus. For the owners that succeed, there is a fine line between greed and desire. By choosing to focus on achieving their long-term business vision, they drive their companies further than any profit-related goals could. Being successful financially is the byproduct of doing everything else correctly.
If money is the sole motivator, it leads to poor short-term decisions. It also doesn’t inspire a deep enough conviction to deal with the relentless pressures and headaches of growing a company. There has to be more motivation for founders – such as proving somebody else wrong, being financially free, having a dream to be fulfilled, or being your own boss. The money will come and go, but dedication to greatness is a much higher level of thinking and behaving.
Remembering my father’s example of this quality – I always asked my father about money, and he always told me he was never in it to be rich. He wanted freedom, to be his own boss, to build a legacy that is his own. He never once said he wakes up in the morning to get rich. Of course, my father, like every person on Earth, needed and wanted “money”, but that was not Dad’s primary motivation. He found pleasure in winning sales, training salespeople, competing against other companies, having his own company, and being his own boss. My dad was a successful businessman and was not in love with money – it was a game to him.
Successful Qualities Lead Successful Businesses
Whether you’re starting your own business, sustaining it, or growing what has been passed down to you, how you utilize your personal qualities can make or break how successful you are. We can all learn from those who found success before us and adapt our personal behaviors into professional work ethics that will protect the futures we envision.
Thanks, Dad, for your living example of these successful qualities. Our family business is moving forward from the strong foundation you built.
– Vincent Finaldi