In Part One, I looked at some of the factors I have observed as being vital to success. I’ll continue with these shortly, but first it’s worth examining what actually constitutes ‘success’. If you aren’t able to picture what success means to you, then how can you ever shoot for it? If you want to be ‘bigger than Amazon’, or ‘the world’s best-selling author’, it’s just possible these are unrealistically high goals to set. But success is scalable and once you get this message embedded in your mind, the steps to reach success are definitely achievable. Success is not what other people measure in you, it’s what you assess in meeting your own goals. If you happen to have bought yourself a Lamborghini with your earnings, then this might signal ‘success’ to everyone else, but if your plan was to have a garage full of Lambos, then you may be feeling disappointed!
There is no ‘gold standard’ for success, and the only person who can decide on the criteria for success is you. People who pursue success should have a clear idea of what it means for them, at every point on their journey. This isn’t about daydreaming, but a very positive visioning exercise where you project forward to specific points in your career, or the lifespan of your startup business. Every time you reach one of those points, you have become successful.
This step-by-step approach underpins everything I teach in my coaching sessions and business life. Don’t expect to reach the mountain peak in one day, but take many small steps to get there! Neil Armstrong’s “Giant leap for mankind” when he walked on the moon was truly the result of millions of small steps – including some catastrophic miss-steps – which preceded his historic success.
My 6 Steps Coaching Program analyses the steps necessary to create startup success for any business, by continuously breaking down the process into stages, and small repeatable steps. The idea of repetition is important in all learning, because very few of us ever ‘get’ a concept on just one hearing. So baby steps are needed, in business as in any other discipline, and it’s only after some time that it’s possible to look back and see how far you’ve travelled.
For example, you have no experience of running, but you decide to run a long distance race. Great, but don’t immediately register for the New York marathon! Start by regularly running around the block, and then as you get stronger, around the park. When you’re beginning to feel good, register for a fun-run, and after that maybe try a half marathon… Eventually the prize of competing in a full race will come, after which you’ll maybe start working on your rankings, step by step decreasing your time, and running your way into the elite group. (Then later you can aim at the Olympics, and hey, why not a gold medal too?)
When a child says, “I’m going to be an Olympic gold medal winner when I grow up,” that’s a wonderful dream, and kinda cute. Some children even go on to do exactly that. However by the time we reach adulthood, and are starting up our own businesses, it’s no longer cute to merely dream of success – you have to put in the work. A significant part of that work is taking repeatable, verifiable baby steps, because that’s ultimately the only way you’ll then get to make the giant leaps.
Talking about buying Lambos and the illusion of ultimate success suggests that in essence many entrepreneurs are only in it for themselves. I recognize that many leaders in all walks of life are indeed very driven people, and that’s why I place self-confidence highly in my listing of qualities which help promote success. However self-belief can easily shade into selfishness, where your own interests take precedence over other people’s. We’ve all met bosses who put themselves way above the needs of their employees, and ultimately that is not a mark of success. If you have to push people so hard in order to achieve your aims, then you’re doing something wrong.
I see the alternative as ‘depositing regularly in the favors bank’. That is, what I give will eventually come back to me. Sounds a bit Zen? Maybe, but it works. For example, I earn some of my living as a Coach, which means – of course – that I charge fees for the work I do. Occasionally however I’ll meet a startup with such an outstanding idea, or impressive team, that I will donate my advice if they haven’t yet found funding. Perhaps they’ll never get traction, or maybe they’ll take off like a skyrocket. Good for them, good for me. Even if the company doesn’t get anywhere in this iteration, doubtless members of the team will resurface with another project, and when they need help again, might recall the deposit I made with them in the favors bank.
I’m not suggesting this cynically, but it’s actually true that when you help someone, you create a favor debt, which may be redeemable at some point in the future. (The reverse is also true of course: Just as you never get a second chance to make a first impression, once you’ve trodden on someone’s head during your own ascent of the mountain, they’re unlikely to forgive or forget you).
Generosity with your time, spirit, advice and support is therefore crucial in helping others, but remarkably, it also helps you. Avoid saying, “Sorry, I haven’t got time to help you right now.” Make time, in the appropriate circumstances, and you will be rewarded.
I started this guide by thinking about the art and science of success, and ‘the favors bank’ concept is definitely at the artistic end of the spectrum. I can’t give you data to support my belief, but I have observed it to be true over many years of entrepreneurship, and I know many leaders and Founders of companies have observed the same thing. I talk to a lot of people at meetups and conferences around the world, and the phenomenon of ‘getting back what you put in’ is a very common observation.
In a similar vein, there are many other ‘Human Factors’ that while they are hard to measure, are recognizable and vital to success. For example, is the Founder of a company capable of inspiring others? One of the most important human factors which I place very high value on is that of loyalty. Loyalty is an immeasurable quality, although we recognize when it’s absent. To me, it’s about sticking with the project and the people in it, ‘through thick and thin’. It’s about doing more than you strictly need to, for the sake of colleagues and the team. Like the favors bank, if you give loyalty it creates loyalty, and you receive it back. We all need loyalty, and we all thrive on it.
Let’s face it, no startup business will ever go from zero to hero in a day (or a week, or ten years). Along the way there’ll be many bumps in the road. Just think of the many setbacks that a business can face, as markets change, materials become unavailable, or competitors reach escape velocity before you do. There are going to be hundreds of problems along the way, where you need to sustain the enterprise, and the enterprise sustains you. The fuel that powers this is loyalty.
I’m not just talking about the internal personnel of a business either, because the fuel of loyalty can and must permeate all the stakeholders of a business. That starts with your friends and family, who frequently are the people who encourage you to start your project, and with kind words and cash keep you going.
Loyalty must also exist within the team of course. You can’t have key members quitting when the going gets tough, or leaking damaging statements to the media or the competition.
Like the ‘Band of Brothers’ in the book and TV series about American soldiers in the Second World War, a startup’s core team has to be prepared to go beyond the call of duty, to look out for each other, and to stick together. That’s loyalty.
When you start attracting and then signing up investors, that’s when loyalty is also hugely important. As I frequently remind my course attendees, ‘Investors are people too.’ Investors have feelings, and they are – surprisingly perhaps – not merely interested in the money. A loyal investor will stick with you through the hard times and not pull out their money from your business when things go wrong, if you have given them reasons to be loyal to you. That’s a big ‘if’, but you have to ensure that the loyalty is earned, and you do that by a combination of all of my previous points. When loyalty exists in an enterprise, between the team, and with the investment community, it’s a powerful human factor. You can make mistakes (and you will make mistakes!) but loyalty allows you some forgiveness and buys you time to correct errors. If you succeed in fixing problems, then the fuel of loyalty keeps the engines running. Never underestimate the importance of loyalty.
I’m a fan of the sayings of British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and I like his quote about keeping on keeping on: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” So how do you feel when someone says ‘No’ to you? Do you fold, or shrug your shoulders and carry on? Obviously the correct answer is, ‘I carry on Matyas.’ That’s not always easy to do though, as we all know. Whether it’s trying to run that marathon, or convince the bigtime investor to have faith in your business, if it doesn’t work out, you must have the stickability to go right back and do it again. And again.
Of course the secret of ‘doing it again’ is not to simply repeat exactly the same steps, but learn from them, and improve on the process. This is often where the outside view of what you’re doing is extremely useful. As a golfer, I know how much I can learn from the Club Pro who can watch my swing and advise me on how to improve it.
‘Improving your swing’ applies especially to calls and follow ups, where the answer has been ‘No’. Abandoning a prospect is rarely useful, because it simply means you have to start all over again, by trying to attract a new prospect. It’s a bit like if I decided my golf swing was incapable of being improved, so I moved on to tennis, and then baseball. In other words, prepare, and then keep on persevering with the prospects you have. If someone doesn’t reply to your call, call them again. If a lead magnet opportunity on your website doesn’t get a significant response, redesign it, then do it again. If your popups are being ignored, create new popups. And potential investors are always going to remain open to putting their money into your project, for as long as they are in dialog with you. So keep dialoging.
The secret? Don’t be shy! It’s actually as simple as that. All that self-confidence I talked about earlier now has to come into play. It’s one thing to be self-confident when things are going your way, but when you hear ‘No’ to your offer, you must raise the self-confidence a further notch, and never lose courage. If something is important to you, be brave!
When I help people on my 6 Steps Program, it’s by showing them that that there are definitive, repeatable, measureable steps, which if followed carefully and diligently will result in success. I’ve already pointed out that success means different things to different people, and that what is important is that you create your own definition and vision of what constitutes success.
Being serious about success is not an abstract idea however – it is the concrete, day in, day out practice of concentrating on the things that matter. Sometimes attendees to my courses say, “It’s only six steps – oh, well that’s easy!” What they mean is ‘that’s too easy’!
It’s not though, because they’re reckoning without the seriousness part. Being serious about success means that you walk those steps and stages, again and again. You read the guidance and do the exercises, again and again. It means not getting knocked back when you hear a ‘No’, but instead getting up and starting over. Again and again.
To me, that’s what makes a champion – the seriousness of their vision and how they apply it. A champion in sports is out on the track or in the gym every day, all day. They don’t take much time off, because they are committed and serious about their goals. A champion in business is the same. Yes, my 6 Steps may on the surface be ‘easy’, but following and applying them requires serious dedication. That’s why I’m serious about success, and why you have to get that way too.
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