Image: NeetiR/Wikimedia


By Ivan Misner, founder and chief visionary officer at BNI


After four decades in the business world, I have found that these three concepts truly summarise an entrepreneur’s recipe for success.

First, you must be passionate about what you deliver to your customers and clients. Nothing great in life has ever been accomplished without passion. This starts by making sure you (and your team) are working in your flame and not in your wax. When people are working in their flame, they are on fire. It shows in the way they act, and it shows in the way they speak about what they do. When people are working in their wax, it takes all their energy away. That shows up in the way they act and the way they speak as well. 

Not long ago, I had someone say to me that they were training people in their company on how to do something very important and after they did the training about ten times, they were getting bored. That worried me at first because it sounded like “training” was this person’s wax and I asked him about that.  He said that he really enjoyed training and he wanted to get past this sense of boredom when doing the same material over and over.

I told him two things: 

1.     The next time he does the training, recognise that this might be the 11th time he does the presentation, but it is the first time his audience will ever hear it. Think about how excited he was when he was the one learning this content for the first time. Embrace that feeling and make sure the team feels the excitement of learning this content for the first time as well.

2.     Storytelling is an important part of teaching your team new ideas. Make sure to “re-live” the story – don’t just “re-tell” the story. Re-living the story gives you that same excitement as when you first experienced it or heard it. It is that kind of passion that you need to apply to your business.

I saw him about a year later. He had now done the training dozens and dozens of times. He told me that my advice completely changed his approach and the people in his company who went to his training came out supercharged about the organization. It gave him great joy to see the “lights turn on” when he trained employees of the company.

This is what happens when you are passionate about the service you have to offer.

People are the next piece of the formula. They are the most valuable asset for virtually every company in the world. People drive the engine of a business. To me, this means at least two things:

1.     Constantly be pouring into your team. Help them improve their performance by supporting them through training and through mentoring. Entrepreneurs who make sure their people receive proper mentoring are going to be more successful. We all have people in our lives that are “in our story.” These are people who have given us little nuggets of help or major support in some way. These are people who helped us be a better version of ourselves and who are in our story. A great entrepreneur, however, recognizes that the true measure of mentorship is not “who is in our story,” but rather, it is “whose story are we in?” Whose life have we changed in some way to help them be a better version of themselves?

2.     Be a culture champion. An organisation’s culture is the secret sauce to great companies. It is the DNA of an organisation. Make sure that the core values of the business are infused into the hearts and minds of the people throughout your organisation. If you have healthy organizational core values and you strive hard to share them and live them, you help to form a team of people who will be loyal to the organisation’s values as well. When this happens, make sure to treat that loyalty (to the core values), like royalty in the organisation.

Lastly, it is about process. Having good systems in place allows people to engage in their passion to deliver quality performance. Process is important. Systems are important. Here are two thoughts about process:

1.     While process and systems are important, it is also important to understand that you must apply the processes more like Mandela than Attila. In other words, don’t be a tyrant in the application of your systems. When I was 13 years old, my mother gave me a paperweight which is still sitting on my desk to this day. It says, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” She told me that this was about collaboration not manipulation. It was about working with people to help achieve success for everyone.

2.     Check your processes regularly. Don’t be enslaved to old practices. Many times, I’ve seen companies create incredibly cumbersome processes that are demoralising to people in the organisation. Here, it is important that the entrepreneur listens to their team when they say that a process is complicated. Have mechanisms in place to ensure communication. I have found that having advisory bodies in place representing the people who perform the work, as well as those who receive the service truly helps to deliver a better product. I also recommend that you go in and actually perform the process yourself to see what they see. That can truly be an enlightening experience.

Passion, people, process. If you create an organization that executes well in these three areas, you will be a force to reckon with. You will become a leader in your industry, and you will create an amazing enterprise.

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