Successful business: Talent is not the key

by Peter Crocker

The one fundamental attribute you need to run a successful business as a soloist is to be good at what you do – good, but not necessarily great.

Yes, you need to be good enough that people will pay for your services or products, but you don’t necessarily need to be the leader in your field or a guru at your craft.

With almost any type of service business such as graphic design, business coaching, gardening, copywriting, cleaning or accountancy, there are likely to be hundreds of competitors who could do a good job.

But being good is only half the battle to running a successful business.

In most cases, it’s not just the quality of the work that differentiates a business over the long-term. It’s the complete package including all the simple, repetitive, supposedly talentless things like:

  • Doing things on time and on budget
  • Listening in detail to the client’s requirements
  • Negotiating prices and managing expectations
  • Completing numerous small customer requests
  • Working efficiently and billing accurately
  • Answering the phone and returning calls promptly
  • Sending regular updates and progress reports
  • Sending invoices and following up debtors
  • Keeping records, being insured and paying tax

The erratic genius who does brilliant work (whenever you can pin them down) will lose business to the consistently good performer. As Ex-American President Calvin Coolidge once famously said:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into soloism, don’t be put off by doubts that you’re not an established guru in your field. If you’re good at what you do and great at all the important business administration, chances are you’ll be winning new business.

Or, if you’re already a soloist keep making sure you’re on top of the small, administrative, non-creative stuff, because that’s what’s going to keep you in business in the long run.

If you’re a well-organised genius, like Bill Gates for example, then please remember me in your will.

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