Growing up in a small Canadian Mennonite farming community, I was surrounded by many uncles, aunts, cousins, and other close-knit family. We focused on faith, family, and work, and our daily lives were filled with service to others. If a storm or fire damaged a barn, the neighbors would come together for a barn raising. No one needed to ask for help. This was just how things were. We knew we could accomplish more when we joined forces and worked together.
This example has guided me throughout my life and taught me that being an entrepreneur isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. You have to devote yourself fully to your business, be fully engaged, and do whatever it takes to succeed. The most important thing for me and most of my entrepreneurial friends and family members is creating businesses that benefit our families and employees while positively impacting our local communities and our world.
However, I’ve also known driven entrepreneurs who’ve acquired enormous wealth only to wonder why their expensive cars, wine collections, and palatial homes don’t bring them the joy and peace they thought they deserved. It’s a simple answer: although they’d worked hard and succeeded on many levels, they’d failed in their relationships and souls. They ended up with a mountain of cash but a lonely life.
You may be tempted by grey-area businesses that claim to offer low up-front costs, significant returns, and minimal effort, but before taking the plunge, decide if the risks are worth damaging your reputation and your relationships. Trust your instincts. It probably isn’t worth your while if a business doesn’t feel right to you.
As many entrepreneurs do, I learned the hard way that deals that seem too good to be true usually are. I learned about dealing with unscrupulous characters, and I reaffirmed my resolve not to be that type of business person.
In building our businesses, we strived to develop a strong foundation for our families, to create jobs, and to contribute to economic growth in our communities all while providing goods and services that filled societal needs. They not only became profitable, they also served a greater good.
But how do you build such a business? Here are a few tips for laying a solid foundation in your business ventures:
1. Recruit great team members
Without the expertise and skills of a highly skilled and experienced team, it’s impossible to grow a business into a highly profitable one. When employees are enthusiastic and productive in their jobs, I do everything I can to keep them. I initially hire a headhunter to identify and recruit new team members because they can target people with specific skill sets more efficiently. They generally provide a guarantee to replace people who don’t work out. Recruiting services often charge 20 to 30 percent of the salary of each hire as a fee. Usually, they find people I would never have been able to locate on my own who are very well qualified. The headhunters will help you define the job and its responsibilities, recruit candidates, and conduct interviews to narrow the field down. I recommend attending interviews with the top applicants. I have to remind myself to resist hiring someone I like merely because we have a lot in common. I don’t want a duplicate of myself. An entrepreneur should hire those whose skills and experiences complement and ideally surpass their own.
“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
2. Treat customers and clients like royalty
Our chain of PeopleCare Heritage Centers and a paving stone manufacturing business have been my two biggest business successes so far. My involvement in both businesses was delightful because we built companies that provided excellent services and goods to appreciative clients and customers. Successful entrepreneurs recognize the value of excellent customer service. Unfortunately, we often become so preoccupied with growing our businesses that we lose sight of how to build and maintain relationships with our customers. Staying disciplined, focused, and personal, you can grow your business, attract new customers, and serve your existing clients. But developing personal relationships with each customer becomes more challenging as your business grows. That’s why it’s important to hire and train people who will follow the values of excellent customer care that you set for your company.
3. Build trusting and mutually supportive relationships
When you consider your employees as team members who follow the company’s values and mission while also pursuing their own goals, you create a bond that elevates your partnership above the transactional workplace. My goal is to create an environment that’s trusting and mutually supportive. To depend on my people, I must make sure that they know that I’ll be there for them. It’s my sincere wish for them to succeed both professionally and personally. Treating people with humility, respect, honesty, and kindness will build trusting and mutually supportive relationships. If you share your gifts unselfishly and focus on serving others as you develop your business, you’ll never regret it.
4. Focus on making a positive impact
Instead of thinking about how much money you can earn or the things you can buy with it, I encourage you to think about the good you can accomplish. While I’m all for building wealth and providing comforts for your family, no one makes it on their own. You don’t want to find yourself alone because you focused on individual success or financial success rather than building mutually supportive and loving relationships. It’s essential to keep gratitude in mind as you embark on your business ventures and entrepreneurial life. With gratitude always in your heart, no problem will seem insurmountable, and even the most minor blessing will lighten your load. You’ll be drawn to opportunities that serve a greater purpose when you have gratitude in your heart as an entrepreneur.
5. Rely on your angels
As an entrepreneur, I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve made much money with successful businesses throughout my life, and I’ve experienced times when it appeared as though I might lose both my companies and wealth. My family and friends rallied around me during those difficult and frightening times. They were my angels. Similarly, if you wish to be financially and personally successful in business, you’ll need angels by your side. To get through difficult times, you’ll need the love and support of your life partner, family, friends, and those unseen guardians who will show up in the darkest hours and guide you. My advice is to make sure you attract your angels as avidly as you do business partners, great team members, and loyal clients.