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Massage Today
December, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 12

Industry Leaders Share Their Five Keys to Business Success

By Marshall Dahneke and Jean Shea

The numbers vary depending on the study you read, but generally, the survival rate for a new small business after five years is less than 50 percent. Businesses fail for many reasons however, in this article, we'll focus on some of the key things you can do to help your business succeed.

Through our experiences, we've come to believe success is attainable for most by being optimistic, learning from failures, embracing your weaknesses, involving your team and staying on track. We also believe those in the massage profession have a better than average chance of survival due to their indisputable passion.

Be Optimistic

Within reason, what you believe is what you will achieve or become. "Attitude is the prophet of my future." Choose to believe and you'll find success to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Adversity in business is not an "if" but a "when." One of the biggest success factors is a business owner who does not get discouraged, but instead is motivated by obstacles. Nothing easy is worthwhile and nothing worthwhile is easy. Real success requires consistent hard work and dedication. Commit to what you love, love what you do and don't be afraid to take action. Think big and ask what you can change or add to the way business is currently being done. However, be aware that the payoff may not immediate. Be patient.

Fail Fast, Fail Frequently, Fail Forward

keyhole - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark What is the fastest way to learn? To fail! Most of us need to change our view of failure. We all fail. In fact, failure is necessary and you can't afford to not take risks. Have the courage to try new things. Take risks often — just avoid "bet the ranch" decisions. Take risks in digestible, bite size chunks.

And when you fail, strive to fail fast — identify your mistakes quickly; fail frequently — take manageable risks; and fail forward — learn from failure to innovate and become more efficient. You'll then view failure as the integral path to success. Get outside of your comfort zone. Nothing will change until you take action to change it. At best, strive to create an environment where it is okay to fail. When you do, you'll have an environment that is healthy and conducive for learning, creativity and growth.

Embrace Weaknesses

Most people can embrace new ideas, diversity and even change, yet seldom can someone embrace their own weaknesses. It's human nature to want to be perceived favorably. But personal weaknesses, if left undiscovered or ignored, can make things very difficult in business. We were most successful when we embraced our weakness — being small — and showing our customers how that benefited them. They received personal and intimate customer service because we knew them. We don't try to do everything. We simply focus on being great at what we do.

You may ultimately want to improve your perceived weaknesses, i.e., grow a small company into a larger company, but in the process, determine how your weaknesses may be a strength. If you view them as strengths, your customers will as well. When running a business, maximizing your personal strength is important, but it doesn't guarantee you success. You need to be clear about and embrace your weaknesses. For example, if you dislike math, hire an expert to do your taxes. If you're not a great writer, don't put pressure on yourself to create epic blog posts or fancy newsletters each week. Focus on smaller blog posts and simple newsletters. The opposite of success isn't failure; the opposite of success is doing nothing. Find those glaring holes in your game, dedicate a bit of time and energy and be amazed at the results. Remember, the only expert on you, is you.

Involve Your Team

The leaders who work most effectively never say, "I." That's not because they have trained themselves not to say it, they simply don't think in that singular term. They think "we" and they think "us." They understand their job is to make the team function well. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets all the credit. They also learn how to become a true team player.

The benefits you gain from being a team player are:

  1. You get information more quickly. When you're running the show, it's your job to plot the course forward based on the best information you can get. When you leverage the experience and knowledge of others, you'll have better information quicker.
  2. You foster stronger relationships. When you acknowledge what you don't know or aren't sure of, it makes you more relatable and appear competent and confident. There's no better way to get others invested in your success than by making them part of the story and allowing them to help.
  3. You live more authentically. It's exhausting to pretend you know everything or to pretend to be something you're not. There's enough uncertainty and anxiety in running a business; there's no value in adding more.
  4. You give yourself more energy. When you focus on work that drives you, makes you laugh and keeps you up late, you'll find you're having too much fun to stop. Your work gives you energy. When you focus on creating and building a team that celebrates individual contributions, resolves conflicts and embraces challenges and changes, you'll have a team that breed success.

Stay On Track

How important are the details in running a business? Very! Any dream without a plan will become a nightmare. Success versus failure often rests on paying attention to the details. Know what it is that you want to do and develop a plan to get there. You should create both a one-year business plan and a longer-term strategic plan. Establish metrics and milestones to define your pathway to success and pay attention to progress. If you discover you are not on track, ask why. Don't give up on your plan too quickly. Ask questions – are your strategies and metrics solid or flawed? Adjust by making course corrections. The trajectory of the first Apollo moon shot was carefully calculated well before launch, but required hundreds of course corrections after launch to successfully reach the moon.

Maybe your plan isn't to change the world; it's simply to change your life. You can do that by believing in your plan, staying optimistic, having the courage to face and overcome challenges, being willing to fail, embracing your weaknesses to leverage your strengths and building and supporting a team that complements your strengths.

You don't have to change the world to be considered a success. Changing your world in a positive way is success. Go accomplish something great, one step at a time. You're very likely to improve someone else's life in the process. And isn't that what it's really all about?

Marshall Dahneke, CEO, is responsible for global management of Performance Health's business, including people, talent and strategy development and execution to better serve customers and promote growth. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master of Business Administration, both from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Jean Shea is the Founder and President of BIOTONE, one of the leading manufacturers of massage lubricants in the United States. Her company has funded critical research by the Touch Research Institute in the area of massage with breast cancer patients. Currently, they support the Massage Therapy Foundation Community Service Grants to help make massage available to all communities.


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