Communities are known by the companies they keep. 

Friday, Jan. 18, 2013

Off the chartsI recently had the opportunity to emcee the Upper Lafayette Success Stories luncheon. This year’s honorees, Ace Plumbing and Breaux’s Mart, exemplify one of the key elements of a successful community: having successful businesses. Whether you’re a freelancer, a small mom-and-pop or a major employer in the area, your company’s success is the true measure of success for the community as a whole. After all, the old economic development adage is true — communities are known by the companies they keep.

When Jan Swift, executive director of the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, invited me to emcee the awards luncheon, she also asked me to speak about success — what it is and how can you be successful in your business. Success varies from business to business. A family-owned business is successful when it can support you and your family. You may not get rich, but you can live well. A service company might measure success as being the largest provider in the region.

For Ace Plumbing and Breaux’s Mart, providing unmatched customer service is a measure of their success.

If you search the Internet for “Tips for Business Success,” you’ll find dozens and dozens of lists that include everything from “plan thoroughly” to “find the right people” to “keep accurate records.” While these lists of practical tips include sound and vital information to run a business, none of them captured the spirit of what I wanted to touch on in my presentation. Eventually, I found a list that focused on the subjective side of growing a successful business. These tips apply, not only to small business owners, but to executives at larger companies and to employees at all levels. With some modifications to the original list, here are some keys to growing a successful business:

Be Customer-Focused: This year’s Success Stories honorees are perfect examples of this principle. Business success requires commitment to satisfying the customer. Taking the time to understand your customers’ needs provides businesses with the opportunity to earn and keep a loyal customer base.

Hard Look in the Mirror: You need to be honest in an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, both personal and for the business. This honest assessment will help you identify and address weak points while you concentrate on and develop your strengths.  

Adaptability: As in life, business often requires the ability to adapt to changing situations. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned, and being adaptable allows you to quickly change course when needed. Being flexible allows you to respond to changes without second guessing and nitpicking every decision made. Many business development courses that I’ve attended over the years have listed adaptability as the No. 1 key to success.

Be Opportunity-Focused: Every challenge presents a new opportunity. No business is problem free, but you should always look at the situation from every angle to see how you can change it to your favor. The loss of a vendor may be the catalyst for your company developing  a new product line.

Find a Better Way: Productivity is the cornerstone of business success. Always be on the lookout for a better way to make your business more productive. Be willing to adopt new technology. Study and implement industry best practices. Keep an eye out for new talent to bring on board.

Cultivate Inner Networks: Entrepreneurs know the power of networking, particularly in groups like the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, the705, the chamber and other industry or civic organizations. Take the time to identify and build relationships with key peers, mentors and advisors. This network can provide support, direction and people to turn to when you have questions or that perfect joint venture opportunity.

Since success is measured differently for every business, there is no single list of “business success tips” that will work for everyone, but these principles will point you in the right direction.

Ace Plumbing and Breaux’s Mart join a growing list of businesses, honored over the past three years by the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, that demonstrate the successful application of these principles. It’s their continued success that contributes to Lafayette being recognized as one of the top communities in the country for job growth, income growth and economic growth potential.

For more information on the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, visit www.upperlafayette.com.

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