What makes a Small Business Successful-Learn from 5 great entrepreneurs


People ask -what makes a small business successful? Lots of Capital, a winning mindset, mother luck or a combination of all three?

Well, for those of us who don’t have millions to invest in starting a project, there’s good news: you don’t need a huge capital to start up a small business, and neither is it required to make your small business successful.

While it may be nice to have lots of cash to throw around on your project, it is not necessarily a must-have for a new startup. So what makes a small business successful?

Let’s start with stories from five self-made millionaires and billionaires who started from scratch and were able to turn their small businesses into multi-million dollar empires.

Number 1 on this list is whats app founder Jan koum.

jan koum

Jan koum grew up in a small village in Kiev in the outskirts Of Ukraine. There was no water, and they were far from connected to the outside world. When Jan Koum was quite young, he lost both parents, but this did not deter him from his purpose. He taught himself computer networking engineering by buying used books and reading up on everything he needed to know about computer networking.

And then he met the Yahoo team, a fledgling yahoo team at the time,and they were so impressed with his work they hired him. In his seven years working with Yahoo, he was able to save a substantial sum of $400,000 which he used to set up WhatsApp, a term coined from the  American greeting- whats up.

In 2014, this young boy from a slum city on the outskirts of nowhere sold his WhatsApp empire to Facebook for a whopping 19 billion USD. The irony of it was that he had been rejected by Facebook years before when he applied for a job with them.

Key lessons learned from Jahn Koum; Creativity, Focus, Will to win, resourcefulness, investment mindset

The multi-billionaire and motivational black leader Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey

oprah winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s life as a young girl growing up in Mississipi in the United States was sad, and far from ideal. She was constantly moved from one home to the other, sexually abused, rejected, and made to feel inferior because of her gender and skin color. Finally, she found a place of refuge staying with her father and managed to complete high school.

Oprah took a calculated risk and chose not to move on to grad school, but rather to pursue her passion for the entertainment Industry. She joined a media agency, and the stories of sexual harassment and discrimination continued until she was fired barely eight months after joining.

Driven by her passion and motivated by her desire to succeed, Oprah landed a job with a morning talk show that was dying and revived the show with her exceptional creative talent. In a year, this show became the Oprah Winfrey show, and today, Oprah’s Net-worth stands at 2.8 billion dollars.

Key Lessons learned from Oprah’s success story- determination, resilience, focus, passion, creativity, value creation, sense of self-worth.

Frank Nneji Uzoawaotu, the founder and owner of ABC transport Nigeria.

Frank started from abject poverty living in a small village in Imo state Nigeria. His success story is a unique one because he started his first business with 500 Naira. Frank is an example of combining resourcefulness and creative thinking to deliver valuable services to consumers.

Frank studied Zoology in University as a prerequisite to studying medicine- his mother’s dream for him. However, all Frank ever wanted was to be an entrepreneur and at the earliest opportunity, he began to look for ways to satisfy needs within his immediate environment.

While still in school he was able to identify a need for learning resources in the form of past question papers and was able to invest in collating and selling these question papers to fellow students. With the five hundred Naira he made from selling these questions, he then went into several small business ventures which all involved identifying a need in his community and positioning himself to provide the service.

His foray into the world of transportation business began with a particular experience he had when he was traveling to the east, in which he was squeezed together on a narrow seat with a woman and a wailing baby. He felt so much for the woman and her child, and this got him thinking that he could make traveling more comfortable for Nigerians, especially for special categories like women and children. And so the idea to build the ABC transport line was born.

Today, he is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and the small transport business he started with three leased vehicles is now a conglomerate.

Key lessons learned from Frank Nneji’s success story – determination, passion, people-focus, value creation, resourcefulness.

Oil tycoon and telecom Industry Mogul- Mike Adenuga

Mike Adenuga

Did you know that Mike Adenuga, founder of Globacom and one of the richest black men in the world was once a taxi driver and security man? Yup, the multi-million dollar telecom industry mogul and owner of several oil investments in Nigeria had to rely on driving people around in taxis and also working as a security officer to pay for his University education in the US of A.

His major break came through networking and cultivating powerful relationships. He made some powerful friends in the Nigerian military and relied on those relationships to corner lucrative state construction contracts. When the then military president of Nigeria, Ibrahim Babangida, awarded him an oil prospecting license, he used that to build Conoil and became the first Nigerian to strike oil in commercial quantities. Before he entered the big leagues though, he had already shown his resourcefulness and investment mindset. Apart from his chauffeur activities, he also ran a sawmill owned by his parents and traded in lace, soft-drinks and other small business investments.

Today, he is worth 9.1 billion dollars and is the 156th richest man in the world according to Forbes.

Lessons learned from Mark Adenuga’s success story- Resourcefulness, determination, investment mindset, excellent networking skills.

The Legendary Steve Jobs- Founder of Apple and Pixar

Steve Jobs

Last but not least on this list is Apple’s Co-founder Steve Jobs. Perhaps there is no story of a rise from rags to riches that is more profound than that of Steve Jobs. His parents put him up for adoption, and he developed his love for technology from his stepdad. Initially, his life was directionless, and he dropped out of school.He took to drugs and street life and was headed down a downward spiral of destruction.

As good fortune would have it, he was able to meet with the right partner that helped him co-found Apple. Unfortunately,some years later, he left the company under a negative cloud and some accounts even say he was kicked out. He never gave up but went on to build another company, Pixar, and when he grew successful, he came back to Apple.

As at the time of his death, Steve Job’s estimated worth was $6.5 -$7 billion.

Lessons learned from Steve Jobb’s success story: passion, determination, resourcefulness, learning mindset, will -to -win.

What are the ten must -have skills and attributes you need to make your small business thrive.

There are a good number of attributes  and skills required to make a success of your small enterprise. The 10 critical qualities  you need to be successful,based on these true life stories are:

1. Creativity: What is creativity and how crucial is this skill to the success of your small business. Creativity means stepping outside your comfort zone and taking calculated risks. It means thinking outside the box. Even if your business involves selling what ten thousands of others are already marketing, how can yours be different? You may fail a lot of times but when you succeed you will have created one more way to make something work. Creativity may well be an ability that some people are born with, but thankfully it’s also a skill that can be learned. Creativity should not be confused with having an imaginative and curious nature.

Although both qualities are required to foster creativity, they are only half of the equation. In other to be truly creative, you must act- create. Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. creativity at work.

When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.-George Carver

There’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering. Elon Musk

Determination: Determination means focusing on your goals regardless of obstacles or failures. It connotes resilience and will to win in spite of the odds. To make your small business successful, you need a good measure of determination. ‘Determination’ is a positive emotional feeling that involves persevering towards a difficult goal in spite of obstacles.

Determination occurs prior to goal attainment and serves to motivate behavior that will help achieve one’s goal. Wikipedia

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson .

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” ― Vince Lombardi

Adaptability: Why does your small business need adaptability? Because your customer’s tastes grow, technologies evolve, and trends in customer behaviors also change. If you do not develop yourself to meet these trends, your small business will remain the way it is or worse become crushed under the weight of business revolution.

A good example is how marketing has changed over the years. About 10-15 years ago, radio and TV jingles were the in-thing for promoting your business. Today, the internet is all the rave and customers looking for products and services like yours are likely to search on the internet first. Which means if you don’t have a website, a Facebook page, and your business isn’t listed on online business directories e.t.c then you’re missing out on a vital link for reaching your target customers and making your small business successful.

It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself –Charles Darwin

Adaptability is not imitation. It means the power of resistance and assimilation.” Mahatma Gandhi

Adaptability enforces creativity, and creativity is adaptability.” Pearl Zhu

Value Creation: The business dictionary defines value creation as the performance of any act that increases the worth of services or goods and your business. Ultimately, your purpose for going into business should be to satisfy a need identified ( customer-focus) and to create wealth for yourself and your business partners/investors (business-focus).

These two ideas have to be married together for your small business to be successful and the more value you create for your customers and make them see you as a partner, the more value you add to your business.

So to the best we can, what we do is focus on creating value for others, and how do we do that? We do it by trying to produce products and services that our customers will value more than their alternatives, and not just their alternatives today, but what the alternatives will be in the future. We try to more efficiently use resources than our competitors, and constantly improve in that, and we try to do the best job we can in creating a safe environment, and environmental excellence, and constantly improve at that. Charles Koch

Oh, I’m all about small business. I think what we’ve learned from big business, and big Wall Street is that unchecked greed and the creation of false value gets us all in trouble. If we look at the American economy, who’s really creating value? It’s the small businesses. Robert Herjavec

Resourcefulness: Resourcefulness is the ability to think on your feet and react to situations quickly and with the required competence. Being resourceful in business demands creativity and a strategic mindset. It means thinking up a plan A and B and C. Resourcefulness is planning ahead of time and being willing to adapt when situations occur that require it.

Sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry and being resourceful is what you need to turn your resilience and determination into success.

I wouldn’t suggest that being resourceful has anything to do with doing something illegal or unethical, but I’ve definitely noticed a pattern of being ‘creative.’ –Scott Weiss.

Networking skills: Networking is not only about connecting with people on social media. It’s often useful to meet and make connections with the right people face to face to help your small business grow faster. Local functions, school reunions, church events are great places to connect with people. Always have your business cards handy wherever you are as you might meet with your next customer or business investor when you least expect. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.

”That old saying is as true today as ever. When you want to get ahead, it helps to know people. So a key business skill every small business owner needs to master is “networking” — how to get out in the world and make lots of acquaintances and friends.USA Today

Investment mindset: To be an entrepreneur you have to think like an entrepreneur. To grow your small business, you need to reinvest more resources and manage your invested capital. Develop a habit of saving a substantial part of your profits ( 10-30%)and plow this savings back into your business.

Do not save what is left after spending but spend what is left after saving.” Warren Buffet

“I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” Warren Buffet

Develop a learning mindset:

People with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence can be developed through hard work. They possess a passionate love of learning and view failure as a gift. In contrast, people with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is fixed, that mistakes are signs of failure, and that talent, void of effort, is what creates success. –project life mastery.

There are so many channels where you can learn and develop your business skills. The good thing is that quite a number of these online tutorials and seminars are free and abound on the internet. So, there really is no excuse why you shouldn’t excel at what you do. Even if you have to pay for some of these online courses, the knowledge you gain is a part of you forever.

Get a Mentor: 70% of small businesses with mentors survive past the five-year mark, compared to 30% of enterprises without mentors. While its good to be independent, having a mentor could help reduce some of the mistakes you make as a small business entrepreneur and improves your chances of succeeding n your enterprise. Your mentor is someone you look up to who has been successful in his/her field and should be someone you can have regular conversations with. All the successful entrepreneurs mentioned above had mentors that helped them, especially in the early stages of their careers.

  • Oprah had a mentor in Maya Angelou.
  • Steve Jobs had a mentor in Bill Campbell, and he had the good sense to pick a partner, Steve Wozniak, who gave him direction in his early days.
  • Jan Koum had a partner who also was his mentor- Brian Acton.

Passion . I left this for last because I assumed (correctly I hope) that you would be starting a venture that you love. Passion for what you do is the first critical attribute required if you are to be successful in your business enterprise. If you do not have a passion for what you are currently involved in, then the likelihood of success is next to nil.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Harriet Tubman.

Finally, let’s talk about dreams: What is that burning desire in you: that idea that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going all through the day -your passion, not your fear. “I have a dream that one day all my dreams will be made real, and I’ll ride on the back of the winds and reach for the sky with no boundaries to stop me”.Ella Bonor

And, hey, before you go away , please check our posts on how to advertise your business on a tight budget. For more information Why spend money creating a website that people can’t find when they look for your services? our services, you can look us up on our services page. To contact us directly, call or send a whatsapp message to +2348130973023.

At the articles depot, we tell the best stories to sell your Brand.

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About the Author ellabonor

Hi, I'm Emmanuella; a mom, a writer, and a sales professional.I have seven years of experience in selling premium brands and growing sales from ground zero with my persuasive negotiations skills. I also have a background in search engine optimised copywriting which is about defining user intent to create web copy that is optimised to attract, engage and convert the right kind of customers for your brands. Most of your potential customers these days, don't want to be told where to buy. They would rather browse on the internet by themselves. My job is to improve your website visibility on the internet with the right copy. And when customers click on your site, they find relevant, and engaging information that convinces them to subscribe.
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