As an entrepreneur or business owner, you look for ways to ensure your company is always moving forward and making improvements. You’ve seen articles like this: “Seven Traits of Successful Businesses” or “The Five Characteristics of Enduring Companies.” These articles all have a slightly different spin on the same subject — recognizing what distinguishes a wonderful, enduring company from the average, here-today-gone-tomorrow company. Below we are going to step through characteristics successful companies share.
These articles can’t ALL be right, can they? It’s possible. Just like a human being, an organization is a unique entity. What one organization considers as vital as air could be lethal gas to another company.
What’s likely is that common elements exist across these articles. With that in mind, this article attempts to aggregate them.
But first, two absolutes
Even a company with the best bundle of the best characteristics aren’t worth diddly without these two elements:
#1 The business provides a great user experience.
#2 The business provides an innovative solution (or an excellent product/service).
In measuring these two absolutes, it doesn’t seem as if #2 can stand on its own. It’s like when you go to that new, gourmet restaurant that everyone raves about. You have a bad experience with the wait staff. How likely are you to recommend that restaurant to others? How likely are you to go back to try it again?
On the other hand, a company with only #1 will do all right if it can consistently deliver a great user experience. That’s because people love to feel appreciated and respected as they are getting their needs fulfilled.
Two imperative traits
Most articles that dissect booming businesses mention two crucial components of a flourishing company. Culture and marketing/sales are at the top.
Culture is one of those nebulous words best explained by other descriptors like teamwork, diversity, and work environment. Throw in community service, and you have a winner.
Regarding marketing and sales, does the business have a strong brand identity? Does it know what its clients want? Focus on the niche market and don’t stray from that. Especially important for startups and small companies is that everyone sells.
Four more valuable characteristics
These next four elements are not quite as crucial, but are still vital:
• Communication and feedback
• Great leadership
• Employee appreciation
• Learning and growth
Communication and feedback—This references back to teamwork (mentioned along with culture). It specifically means having employees who are willing to work together and keep talking even in difficult, awkward, and stressful times.
But communication and feedback are also linked to what’s mentioned next – leadership. Hey, management! Can you let us employees know what’s going on more than just once in a while?!
Great leadership—Great leaders within a company must have so many outstanding traits that it’s difficult to summarize. The ones seen most often in strong, stable organizations are financial literacy, flexibility, and accepting that business is inherently risky and dealing with it. The latter can itself be summed up as: Be an adult.
Employee appreciation—This can also be interpreted two ways:
#1 Your company values its employees and treats them well.
#2 Employees like your company and going to work there.
Let’s say your company does #1 by recognizing employees with satisfying compensation and advancement opportunities. Assuming your company also has the other characteristics in this article, it’s rewarded with the holy grail of #2 – employee engagement and loyalty.
Learning and growth—Yet another one that has two aspects. Most employees like the opportunity to learn. This does NOT mean throwing the most challenging projects at them and seeing what they learn from it. What it does mean is a consistent emphasis on training and learning. Your employees should be exposed to training opportunities and programs for improving their professional and practical skills.
Learning and growth also applies to the overall company. You hear it all the time, but it does bear repeating: Don’t fall behind in your industry. Be willing to change and shift direction if that’s where the signs are pointing.
Two traits that are bonus points
The last two traits often seen in thriving organizations seem on the surface to be diametrically opposed:
• Organization (details, structures and systems, effective planning)
These are like the Oscar and Felix characters from the TV show The Odd Couple. Oscar is the passionate one. He feels things so strongly and has such a zest – a passion – for life. He might be a slob, but you’ve gotta admire a guy who so purposefully lives his life the way he wants to.
Oh boy… here comes boring old Felix. He’s tidying up the mess that Oscar left behind and trying to put some rules in place so that the effects of Oscars passion aren’t so… well, messy.
As these fictional characters so humorously illustrate, these contrasting characteristics can still survive together and even help a company thrive.
In all, this article has covered ten characteristics that great companies seem to share. If you’re an entrepreneur or growing a small business, you’ve probably already given yourself a score.
Don’t feel badly if your company is missing some of these elements (ahem… except the two absolutes). After all, at least you’ve read this article and know which areas of your business need tending.
Incorporate characteristics successful companies share and build the foundation for success. Now that you know, its time to execute!