I’ve been in business for over a decade now. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some truly amazing and wonderful clients. It’s fair to say, I’ve seen a good share of businesses launch, and I’ve seen more than a few of them fall flat or fizzle out over time. Over the last four to five years I’ve seen these business failures less and less often. Either due to different selection process of the clientele I work with, honing my specialty in brand and identity design, or a mixture of both. However, those last few years, I’ve definitely noticed some trends.

As mentioned, I’ve worked with a lot of businesses over the last decade or so. Mom and pop shops, small businesses, the entrepreneurial startup, and established small to medium sized business. There’s been a handful of large businesses also, but startups and small to medium size businesses have been my main focus. I’ve definitely seen patterns emerge in almost all clients that have launched a successful business. There’s a lot of traits I see in my clients, as fresh or yet to launch businesses, and equally similar ones in established businesses. I believe I’m in a fortunate position where I learn the intricacy’s of these startups and new businesses. I don’t always see these traits, but these are some of the most common qualities of successful business owners.

he art of risk crossing a rock ledge

The Art Of Successful Risk

It’s apparent that we all take risk. I think the ability and willingness to take a particular type of risk is one of the many traits a successful business owner would have. There’s more to it than that, and those types of risks include many narrow and broad topics. We’d all be in agreement that one of the most common risks associated with business is financial risk. Almost every budding entrepreneur and business owner has an operating costs. These are often massively scary financial commitments. From signing long term, often multiple year leases on a building, to the financial outlay on product, and staffing. While you can never fully negate the risk involved, successful business owners work hard to habitually mitigate risk. Most are often experts at finding and mitigating potential risk.

Throughout most business decisions, the ability to limit the risk involved with decisions and actions is one of many traits successful business owners have. I’m not an expert on risk management, so I couldn’t begin to cover the best risk mitigation tactics. However, You’ll find that most of the other points in this article will also lean into successful risk.

vision map on a phone navigating

Having Vision

Without vision, there’s an unclear destination. When we’re not clear on destination, we tend to make poor short term decisions, chasing whichever opportunities look good at the moment. This commonly leads to missed ideal opportunities. Vision is a leadership quality, and vision keeps us aligned to possibilities and openings we may miss without vision. Michael Hyatt, author of The Vision Driven Leader gives some wonderful examples on the pitfalls associated without having vision in business. One of the examples he writes about involves George Eastman’s famous camera and film company, Kodak. Hyatt details how Eastman had a clear vision “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil” bringing accessible and affordable cameras to the mass market with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie. This transformed how the world would capture photos forever. In 1975, long after Eastman’s passing, a Kodak engineer had invented the first digital camera. Unfortunately, Kodak’s more modern leadership couldn’t, or wouldn’t envision a future without film. Simply put, instead of revolutionizing the world with digital photography, technology was suppressed and so was Eastman’s original vision.

Kodak’s own fear of cannibalizing’s film technology to pave the way for digital photography was ultimately their undoing. As they suppressed the innovation within their company, they became unready for the surge in digital camera and camera equipment. Instead of pioneering new technology, they were so set in their way, that perhaps fear of failure itself stifled the dream. The rest, all history we can learn from.

Vision is one of the many reasons I typically talk to clients about their goals and vision for their business. While I want to make sure they have clear vision, I also need to make sure that their brand identity doesn’t detract from that vision. Vision is a powerful tool.

famous Steve Jobs qiote about hiring smarter people than you

Skilled Expertise

A common quality of success, I see in clients and successful business owners, is surrounding yourself with skilled experts who can take care of the things you can’t. It’s painfully obvious that we can’t be experts in everything. Successful business owners know this and they find and hire experts to take care of areas which require that expertise. I think the best example of this is a quote by Steve Jobs. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

About five or so years ago, I was beginning to get unhappy about the types of projects I was working on. I was honestly tired of designing anything and everything for everyone. I was tired of what felt like taking orders from clients. Make this, do that, make it bigger and darker… I began realizing I needed help to find the type of clients and projects I wanted to work on. Logos for awesome companies, and visual identities to go along with those. I began learning more and more about that area, and honed my skills. Something I try to do now on a daily basis. Along the way, I had no idea how I’d go about attracting these types of clients. I understood that I didn’t know how to price my work. I also understood that I didn’t know how to attract the right clients, and I didn’t understand how to begin becoming an expert in my field. Through the last couple of years, I discovered people like Chris Do, Blair Enns, and David Baker to name a few. All experts in their own ways. I’ve essentially used and continue to use their teachings on a regular basis.

the strangest secret earn nightingale book

Good Habits

Forming habits, usually detrimental ones is often easily done. Often, it’s done without knowledge and slowly formed over many months or even years. One thing we can all agree on, is that habits are formed more often than not by repeat actions. A friend introduced me to a hugely powerful book many years ago, The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale. Essentially, a major part of the book requests that the reader begin to follow a handful of rules to help form better habits over a thirty day period. Should the reader realize that they’re deviating from the habits, then they must start over for another thirty days. There’s far more to Nightingales teachings than just teaching the reader to formulate new or better habits. On a larger level, Nightingale teaches us that through continual repetition of a worthy ideal for ourselves, we can begin to generate and attract our goals through habitual subconscious actions.

To my point, I see many wonderful habits in many people – however, I see a particular few habits in successful business owners and hyper-successful individuals. One of these habitual practices seems to be humility. I think a lot of people lose their humility as they climb positions in large companies. I also think a lot of business owners have possibly been a victim to, or once were their own victim to lack of humility. As such they often exude a lot more of of it, knowing that many parts of a business keep other parts functioning. Being able to form good social and business habits are crucial to maintaining vision. Often these habits are many small things that mount to create a larger picture. The main point is that a huge proportion of highly successful business owners form many small, good habits.

neon sign spelling people fail forwards

Learning From Failure

This is by far a trait I see less often, but it’s a trait I see more often than not in most successful business owners. Come to think of it, learning from failure is a trait see most often in wholesome and successful people. Still, it doesn’t appear to be a common trait among people. I think learning from our failures touches on quite a few areas. Not only is the potential for failure a risk, it also forces us to create or make good habits. Bigger than that though, being able to learn from our failures requires two main abilities. First, we must be open to the possibility of failure, whatever that looks like given the venture, however large or small that may be. Second to this, we again have to have humility and accept responsibility. The moment we can realize something going wrong can be our fault, or that failure is okay – we begin to grow while evaluating on a very emotionally detached level. So why is this important? If we can be willing to accept fault, even when we’re not in the wrong, we can start learning.

Sharing

The last trait I want to share with you is, sharing itself. From social media to long form content like podcasts and blog posts. A common trait I see in successful businesses owners is their ability to share. I’m not asking you to share this blog post, though if you can think of someone who will find it educational or interesting, then please, be my guest. I am however asking you to share with your community and mine. Help teach, share experiences, and educate your team, followers, or others interested in what you do. If you have anything to add, then please feel free to reach out to me via my contact form, or drop it in the comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts!