Attributes for Business Success often Overlooked

Browncowspurplecowby Alan Louis, PhD in Commerce

Looking Back

I spent a decade at University studying all the possible business scenarios people may encounter. Only after many years in the marketplace did it dawn on me that knowledge is futile without experience. Hard-earned learning must be mixed with experience for maximum results.

To those who are willing to take the journey, experience offers the greatest wisdom – and that’s why we regularly remind our readers that “experience counts.” My University education did not teach me the following attributes required for business success, I learnt it from experience:

Cleary Define Your Needs

If you do not clearly describe your requirements, you may find yourself in the undesirable position that my grandfather found himself in when he ordered four tons of rice and 400 tons of rice was delivered because the number four was probably not written down in words.

On another occasion, our company once advertised in the local papers for a travel agent to assist in our travel agency business. The church which I was attending at the time spotted the advertisement and graciously offered to announce in their church bulletin that we were offering employment to a suitable agent, but forgot to mention that it was for a travel agency business. One of the church members applied, but he was a plumber. When I interviewed him, I asked him how much travel experience he had, to which he duly replied, “I travel long distances every day to meet the needs of my clients. You can never tell in which home a geyser will break next.”

Avoid acting like the Managing Director who sent an urgent memo to his senior staff: “We must avoid all unnecessary duplication of communication. I cannot repeat this too many times.”

People, Planet, Profit

First coined in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility, the notion of businesses measuring their contribution against a ‘triple bottom line’ is proposed. The triple bottom line includes people, planet and profit.

‘People’ pertains to fair and beneficial business practices toward both the workforce and the community in which a company conducts its business. ‘Planet’ refers to sustainable environmental practices. ‘Profit’ is the economic value created by the company after deducting the cost of all inputs, including the cost of the capital tied up.

This ‘triple bottom line’ concept is asking companies to achieve their financial results in collaboration with their available resources and not at the expense of them. Sustainability, multi-generational thinking and contribution are all biblical principles. Proverbs 13:22 instructs, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”

A colleague with an entrepreneurial flair who I have known for many years helps budding entrepreneurs implement these principles and can be found on

Never Close a Sale

I have met several successful salespeople over the years and often spoke with them in an attempt to unlock the secret to sales. Sales are the lifeblood of any business and so pursuing these secrets is an obvious quest for any entrepreneur. Each one of these sales professionals offered a similar response, perhaps phrased in a different way.

Never ‘close’ a sale as it implies an end and that the seller has extracted what they want from the buyer. Rather ‘open’ mutually beneficial relationships by constantly offering the client what they need to enhance their business or personal life.

Many of the top sales professionals would rather walk away from a lucrative once-off, relationship ending commission because the prudent individual knows that you can shear a sheep every season; but you can only skin it once.

Be Remarkable

Seth Godin’s book entitled Purple Cow (‘Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable’, Penguin 2005) provides a lovely illustration on the subject of being remarkable.

He asks if the reader has ever noticed the faces of children in a car when they pass a field filled with brown cows. Some big, some small, but all of them brown. He notes that for the first few minutes its shrieks of excitement but then it’s back to silence. Why? The answer is simple: after you have seen one field of brown cows they become boring! Brown cows, like many companies, are boring! What’s required is a purple cow amongst the brown cows—a cow that stands out. Now that would be remarkable.

Many of the companies we read about today are like brown cows; functional but boring. Businesses should aim to be a purple cow amongst the rest of the herd and be remarkable. They should be the first to market with innovative products in their chosen sectors. They should want to provide clients with access to benefits and value they cannot access themselves; and they should enable clients, through their service, to remark positively about the experience they have doing business together.

One of the remarkable organisations I have been analysing for many months is Marketplace Leaders, check them out.

AlanlouisPicAbout the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity since the age of 7. He was awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the ups and downs of commerce for 3 decades.

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