There’s a saying that the two most overrated things in life are the joy of natural childbirth and the joy of owning your own business.

And while that’s an obvious, comic exaggeration, business ownership is not for the faint of heart. At the risk of sounding trite, it takes a lot of sterling qualities-like determination, passion, and drive-in order to succeed. Hence the reason the vast majority of business startups crash and burn within three years.

Optical, of course, is a business built on entrepreneurship at just about every level of the distribution chain-vision care practice, lab, and supplier-representing many varying degrees of success. For those business owners who are high achievers, however, there are certain elements of their businesses that they all have in common, such as the following:

They each stand for something. A successful business offers its customers a unique proposition that distinguishes it from its competitors, whether through service, products, or the customer experience. Without that distinction, the business is just another purveyor of commodities.

They each have a plan. These business owners generally start with a plan, sometimes but not always formalized, and they revisit it periodically to make sure they stay on course. They only alter their plan if or when business conditions change, and they make sure to share it with all the stakeholders in their business.

They each anticipate the outcome. If you don’t know where you’re going you certainly don’t know how to get there. The plan is the map and the anticipated outcome is the destination. Marginal or unsuccessful businesses start a new year with no specific financial or growth goals. Successful business owners, on the other hand, know on January 1 where they want to end up on December 31 and plan accordingly.

They each prepare for contingencies. Plans and outcomes are nice but every now and then a business gets thrown a curve ball. A punishing winter weakens sales or a new product launch is delayed. Even successful businesses get hit with adversity. Again, the distinction between such businesses and their less successful peers is their ability to respond and make adjustments quickly.

They each cultivate and surround themselves with talent. The successful business owner knows he’s not a one-man band. A thriving business is based on talented people who contribute to the outcome and the business’ culture. They know the plan, have it down, and are given sufficient autonomy to make it happen. Micromanaging such people is a recipe for failure.

Success is not an accident in startup businesses. It only happens because it’s meant to.

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