I often hear the popular notion that successful entrepreneurs are built from a single heroic insight or a single innovation. This is just plain wrong. The business world is a symphony of players and elements that only works when everything interconnects harmoniously. Continuous innovation and continuous learning are required for any sustained connection and success.
I've long believed these principles, but I've never been able to explain them as well as my friend Faisal Hoque, with Drake Baer, in their recent book "Everything Connects." Hoque's great insights on how to transform businesses in this age of creativity, innovation, and sustainability are based on his serial entrepreneur experiences, as well as his study of Eastern philosophies.
Here is my extrapolation of his many lessons and messages into five essential principles for making the connections in business that can lead to success as a business executive or an entrepreneur:
Learn to work with people and build strong relationships. Nobody succeeds as a "Lone Ranger" in business. Finding people and building the relationships you need requires effort, and is a key component in moving every business forward. Equally important is avoiding people who bring you down, waste your time, or have no interest.
Root out ideas by cultivating curiosity. Curiosity is the best catalyst for business creativity, learning, problem solving, and ideas. Ideas are the beginning of a strategy. The continuous discovering, planning, and implementing of ideas is the only path to sustainable innovation. Nurture the people in your relationships who have curiosity.
Connect with your target audience. Today's innovative "social economy" requires emotional attachment that links customers to your products, as opposed to competitors, and translates into sustainable growth. A simple, inspirational product and brand message is far more influential than one which highlights product features and functions.
Accelerate sustainable growth. Creating a unique product and a unique brand isn't enough. It takes repeatable sales processes to create a scalable business. Accelerating this growth requires continuous innovation, improved collaboration, visionary leadership, and an inspired and positive relationships with all your constituents.
Create tangible long-term value. Every business transaction has consequences. The positive ones are called value. Short-term consequences are usually quantitative, and long-term ones are more qualitative. The most sustainable way to create long-term value is to continually invest in your capabilities both as individuals and as an organization.
In business, as in life, success won't happen without good people relationships. To better build and nurture your people connections, here are some top line principles from the book which I espouse:
Be honest. It's the only way to create and maintain trust and respect.
Be direct. Direct communication leads to direction, the path you set as a leader.
Think ahead. You need to surround yourself with forward thinkers, and listen.
Inspire and influence. The best and brightest will be toppled if they can't inspire others.
Create a community. You need cross-pollination and collaboration from the ecosystem.
Think long term. Leaders must be aware of the present moment while setting their sights on long-term goals. Purpose must be a part of the present and the future.
For entrepreneurs, the road to success is always a longer one than you anticipate. An old Chinese saying comes to mind that when you've made it 90 percent down the path, you're halfway to your destination. That last 10 percent of making the right connections is the other half of your journey. Are you thoroughly prepared to facilitate your own success, and the success of your company?