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The rules of success are the same as they’ve always been

It’s all just commerce now, and many of the rules of entrepreneurial success are the same as they were 20-30 years ago.

Step back to 2001, Michael Porter the renowned Harvard Business School professor suggested that the internet “is just another channel” in his article, Strategy and the Internet, published in the Harvard Business Review.

“Contrary to recent thought, the internet is not disruptive to most existing industries and established companies. It rarely nullifies important sources of competitive advantage in an industry; it often makes them even more valuable. And as all companies embrace Internet technology, the Internet itself will be neutralized as a source of advantage,” he wrote.

“Robust competitive advantages will arise instead from traditional strengths such as unique products, proprietary content, and distinctive physical activities. Internet technology may be able to fortify those advantages, but it is unlikely to supplant them.”

According to Porter, the internet is an enabler, but not a game changer, and I think his assessment is on target. So what does it take to make any business – online, offline, or both – successful?

Here is my opinion.

1. Nothing works in isolation, everything and everyone in a business is connected. Never forget that.

2. Get the right people on the bus! One good egg doesn’t make a dozen. Adam Grant an organisational psychologist talks about givers and takers in a business. He suggests that as soon as one taker joins the team, the givers stop giving, or as he puts it: one rotten apple spoils the barrel.

3. Your technology, tools and systems are nothing more than enablers. Your whizzbang website and fancy apps just enable your product.

4. Customer service should be at the forefront of everyone’s thinking internally and externally. Everyone is a customer; treat them well.

5. Businesses without a greater purpose beyond profit will die.

6. Have a value proposition that is unique, or be so good at what you do or sell that you develop a following. Starbucks sells coffee, Apple sells computers, right? Wrong! They sell value propositions that work and make people feel good when using their products/services and that’s what you need to aspire.

7. What’s your story, what business are you in? This is not an easy question to answer, and I almost guarantee you will struggle to articulate it. You might know what you do, and how you do it, but you’re not telling people what you can do for them.

8. Try to be a great leader. You will probably fail because it is a rare skill to be an emotionally intelligent leader. I have met very few effective leaders, especially in small to medium business.

You can’t learn how to run a successful business from a book, or even from business school. People who write 50-page business plans have no clue about implementation.

I challenge you to leave some constructive criticism below.

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Karen Nelson

August 3, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Love the article Mark and agree with everything you’ve said, especially number 6!

Steven P

August 3, 2017 at 3:21 pm

couldn’t agree more. No 4 is most important in my opinion.