Within the first five years of a small-business venture, about half do not survive, according to the government’s Small Business Administration. And after 10 years, only a third are still around.
“Successful entrepreneurship hits the bull’s eye of the American dream, but most simply do not make it,” says veteran Texas businessman David M. Smith, author of “The Texas Spirit.”
“You don’t have to have extravagant wealth or a degree from Harvard to make it; a successful business requires essentially the same thing for a successful life – perspective.”
Smith reviews some common denominators for success.
- Aim at nothing and you always hit it. “If you’re like me – perhaps with a touch of ADD and someone who wants to do too many things than you have time for – this is a helpful aphorism,” Smith says. Not every idea that comes to mind should be pursued; be very selective with your time, and when you go after something, go full-throttle.
- You cannot win on the defensive in business or any other endeavor. Don’t think in terms of defense; instead, think of counterattack. To take a defensive position on anything means that you have conceded at least some of your position.
- Work toward optimal employment for everyone in your company. “At least once a year, I have a one-on-one discussion with every person in our companies – a renegotiation to hopefully renew employment for a longer period,” he says. “This adds an important personal touch and attention to detail.” Of course, the same approach will offer an excellent return in your personal relationships, too.
- Keep in mind Union Pacific’s motto: “Safety is my responsibility.” Safety should always rank high in your priorities; it’s easy to take it for granted until a catastrophe happens. Texmark celebrates more than 25 years without a production-halting accident – a remarkable record in the industry.
- Organize projects, planning and profit action with at least three people, but never more than five. You need a point person for the meeting and at least two compatible partners – more than five people gums up the process. Meet weekly; the point man should set priorities and is most responsible for action.
- People chemistry is more important than process chemistry. Just as you must have a process for making chemicals built around operating conditions that are best for the desired chemical products, so too should you have the right chemistry of people working together. The right chemistry is trickier than you think.
- Promote voluntary participation regarding medical benefits and thrift and savings plans. It’s always best to put individuals in charge of their health and financial destiny – to let people consciously choose their plans. Monolithic systems arbitrarily imposed by institutions are the beginning of stagnated individual responsibility.
About the Author: David M. Smith is the author of “The Texas Spirit,” www.TheTexasSpiritBook.com (2014; Halcyon Press). He’s the founder and owner of Chemical Exchange, Inc. and Texmark Chemicals of Galena Park, Texas. An El Paso native, he attended the University of Texas in Austin. Early in his career, he moved east to Houston and established himself in the petrochemical industry. His new book, “The Texas Spirit,” features a series of essays about the ways in which the United States can benefit from Texas’ example, including economic models and moral fiber.