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Small Business Success: There is no single secret but many key ingredients that make a business successful

Updated on August 14, 2012

The past few years have been marked with economic uncertainty. The unemployment rate continues at above 8 percent but more than that, some businesses have lost jobs for good. The people who held these positions either continue to be unemployed or have taken less desirable jobs.

Because of this, an increasing number of people are starting their own businesses. Many others are considering it. They either do so as a part-time sideline to add to the family income, or they plunge into it full-time so that they, not some company executives, control their economic future.

For the past 16 years I’ve not only owned a small business, I’ve helped hundreds of small businesses with their advertising needs. During that time I’ve seen many businesses succeed and, unfortunately, also witnessed some failures.

Sorry, there's no single secret to success

Most of the businesses I work with have fewer than 15 employees, many employ five or fewer and quite a few are single-person operations with the occasional help of family members. They range from manufacturers to retail stores, and from farmers to artists. Some were well established when I began working with them, others were start ups that I have been fortunate to work with as they’ve grown.

Each of these business owners has his or her own reasons for being in business. Some inherited a family business, some had skills that were in demand and others simply wanted to control their own futures. One thing they all hold in common, though, is that they want to be successful.

There are many definitions of success, but for most small business owners success simply means doing something they enjoy and making a sustainable living at it.

Because of my experience in working with small businesses, people starting a new venture often ask me what the secret is to having a successful business. The secret is that there is no secret – that is, there is no one thing that you can do that will assure success.

Because each business is unique, what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another, even if they’re nearly identical in what they do and who they serve.

Successful businesses combine many ingredients

However, during the past decade and a half, I have observed many successful business people. I found that while there may not be any single “secret” to success, there are a number of key ingredients that work together to help a company succeed. These are things that almost any business owner can incorporate into his or her business.

Among these key ingredients are vision, organization, innovation, service, friendliness, education, commitment, talent, investment, collaboration, pricing, uniqueness and promotion.

Over the next several weeks, I will explore each of these ingredients in more depth. I don’t believe that just picking one of them will lead to success, nor will doing all of them necessarily guarantee success. But by incorporating these key ingredients into your business, you will at least increase your chance of being successful.


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