Attitude is a key component of success. All the old cliches apply: Whether you approach your business goals with a can-do attitude or Eyore’s certainty of doom matters. Whether you view a class with four students as a glass-half-full victory with room for improvement or a glass-half-empty failure will make a difference in how—or whether—you take action. And business success requires strong, bold, confident action.
Success is a self-fulfilling prophecy—George Washington was fond of pointing this out—and so is failure. To some extent, your belief in your business’ outcomes will direct its reality.
Confidence sells. People—and that includes potential clients—are attracted to people and businesses that appear successful. You may not feel the confidence yet; that’s okay. What’s important is to take confident action until you do.
- Don’t undersell yourself by setting your rates low or offering large or too many discounts.
- Don’t apologize for your rates or for charging for your invaluable services, and don’t wait to hear what a potential client thinks about your rates, either. Simply tell people what you charge and then keep talking. Tell them how you work, what makes you different, what kinds of outcomes they can look forward to.
- Give clients a choice of pre-determined appointments. Never ask “When is good for you?” Professionals have set appointment times and stick to them. It’s better for efficiency, and letting others dictate your schedule makes you appear un-busy and too eager for work.
- Remember to actually sell your service. They contacted you—they’re interested; don’t be shy about moving the conversation to its logical conclusion. Tell a potential client how you can help and then suggest scheduling an appointment. Don’t wait for the client to make the first move.
Don’t fear failure
Failure is a part of business as much as it is a part of life. You can’t avoid it entirely, but you can use disappointments to your advantage if you’re willing to approach them differently. As Samuel Beckett once said, we need to learn to fail better.
When something doesn’t go as we hoped, it’s tempting to throw up our hands, grab at the first available explanation, and submit to defeat. But business success is partly about cultivating failures, using them to find a winning formula. How you tackle problems and disappointments will in large part determine the outcome of your business. There’s a telling gap between deciding that “It’ll never work” and saying to yourself, “Huh, that didn’t work. Okay, then, what’s my plan?”
Look at the big picture
The first step is teaching yourself to see the big picture. Research shows that we humans are inept at big-picture thinking. We tend to be swayed by the current moment’s impressions. We feel business is thriving when we’ve recently added a couple of new clients, and are convinced we’re going to crash and burn when a day or two go by without a call. To avoid this emotional roller coaster, track data so you know what’s really happening. Whether or not you got calls today is less important than whether the number of calls this month indicates growth, particularly from the same month last year. When you’re feeling down, let the data give you a reality check. Are you really failing or just having a slow week?
Patience plays an important role in assessing failure and success. In our business consulting work at dog*tec we sometimes see a tendency to give up too soon. But success takes time. When you’re in start-up mode or launching a new service or attempting to grow, you can’t measure results in weeks or even, in most cases, a few months. A new marketing push can easily take six months or more to show results. And a new service takes time to catch on.
If you get edgy too soon, it’s easy to make knee-jerk decisions like lowering rates or ending an “unsuccessful” marketing project—exactly the kinds of decisions that can cause the failure we fear. You want such decisions to be based on the big-picture data instead of immediate, emotion-fueled impressions.
Assess your failures
Before you give up on something, assess your perceived failure and create a plan of action. Ask yourself:
1. What was my original goal for this service/ marketing project/ business, etc? (If you can’t answer this question, that could be part of the problem. Always plan your endeavors around a set of goals to give you a strong basis for your decision making.)
For example, let’s say a trainer has launched a new class and her goal was to have eight students in the first section. Let’s say for this example that when the day comes, she has four registrations.
2. What evidence is there of success? Of failure?
In our class example, is the evidence of success the four students she has, or is the four students she doesn’t have evidence of failure? I’d count the four registrations as a success with a call-to-action for improvement.
3. What have I done so far to promote success for this goal?
She’s posted the class on her website and included it in her last email newsletter to clients.
4. What are my hypotheses about why it is or isn’t working? And what evidence do I have for these?
Her hypotheses might include:
— Not giving the project enough time. In this case, she only posted the class four weeks ago. That’s not a lot of time for word of a new service
to get around.
— Not enough marketing. The only folks who know about the class are existing clients and anyone who happened upon her site. She’s not done
anything to get the word out more broadly. And she’s not done anything to remind the people she did tell. Typically people need to be
confronted with an opportunity multiple times before they take action.
— No interest in the class. I’d say it’s too early to make that call. Without more marketing and time there’s no way to judge whether there will
be an interest in the class.
— Bad timing. She’s scheduled the new class in her most popular Saturday time slot, so that seems unlikely.
— Class is too expensive. She’s priced it the same as her other offerings, so this probably isn’t the problem.
5. What are my options for action? How do each of these options support my original goals for this project, and/or my general business goals and how I want to be perceived by potential clients?
Her options include giving up, lowering the cost, or stepping up the marketing for the class.
Looking at your answers to these questions, decide what you’ll do. Is it time to tweak the original project? Time to increase your marketing efforts? Sit tight and give it a bit more time? Always take these options seriously before considering scrapping an idea. Increasing marketing is the winning answer for our class example, to be sure. There’s no evidence that the class is too expensive, and it’s far too early to give up.
But sometimes it really is time to let a project go; not everything we try will be wildly successful. When that happens, turn your attention immediately to the next idea. What have you learned from this failure to help your next endeavor meet with success?
Failure doesn’t have to carry the negative connotations we associate with it. It should be something to be expected. Not in a fatalistic, “this will never work” way, but just as a natural part of risk taking, of living. Learning to embrace failure as a stepping stone to success not only leads to that success—it also makes getting there a whole lot more comfortable.
Focus on your own business
It’s a fatal error to spend more time worrying about what the competition is doing than worrying about what you’re doing yourself. You really can’t do much about others anyway. So put your energy toward being the best at what you do. Innovate. Add new services or find ways to improve the ones you offer. Take time to get better at sales. Recommit to actively marketing your business. In other words, focus on your own success. Dog pros who fret over the competition generally fall behind it. Dog pros who cultivate collegial relationships with others, acting from a place of confidence and sincerity, tend to be more successful.
An article about success and failure wouldn’t be complete without the old lemonade cliché. Business success requires know-how and skill, but these things can be learned. We’ve seen that repeatedly over the years working with dog*tec clients. But you can’t leave attitude out of the equation. A belief in yourself and your ability to succeed is a key component, too. An ability to face disappointments head-on as learning opportunities is vital. In short, if you can train yourself to see lemonade instead of lemons you’re already halfway there.