How do I succeed in business? This question probably only falls second to “what business can I start”? While the latter has many answers and most of them good the former is a little bit more difficult to answer. Simply because business takes a lot and succeeding in business is an exercise in managing complex variables. However, what I can tell you are 5 key factors to focus on in order to have a successful business. Next time you come across a business whose success you are impressed by analyse it in terms of these 5 factors.


While perhaps the obvious starting point product is a very important discussion and a key focus point for success. It seems fairly obvious that having a product people want is a great stepping stone to success. Indeed providing goods and services that people want is great but Zimbabweans didn’t know we wanted prepaid mobile phones, let alone cell phones before Econet with Buddie and subsequently, Telecel with Mango told us we wanted it. The product focus is not limited to the product itself but also issues of product positioning, branding and peripheral issues.


Ok, some of these seem fairly obvious and I’ll admit this one seems common sense. However, we need to slow down a little and contemplate the importance of financial literacy. A South African celebrity once came to twitter to announce he would discontinue his t-shirt business because it was not profitable. He complained that the T-shirts cost him R50 to make and selling them at R100 he had nothing left because after taking the R50 it cost to make the shirt he would be left with R50 which he had to pay back into the business for the money he used to make the shirt. Right. Funny, yes but the man had a very successful business. For you and I, there are issues to consider such as capital expenditure, sunk costs, marginal revenue and so forth which complicate the understanding of business finances. I’ve seen many people contemplate deals without knowing if the deal is profitable for them.


I’ve said before that a business is a system of processes organised to provide products with a profit motive. Businesses with great products have been ruined before by poor processes. Your processes involve tasks such as creating the product, delivering the product and the overall steps involved for the customer to get the product. Complicated payment systems, unclear communication, delivery complications, poor billing system and more depending on your business model. While arranging your business functionally is great for the organogram and external communication, arranging it in terms of processes helps make the best from an operational perspective.


The processes are of course carried out by the people and that brings your team into focus. The modern business doesn’t necessarily.contain all the functions within it. Outsourcing is a common feature of many businesses. Just because it’s being handled by an external partner doesn’t mean they are not part of your team. For example, a courier handling your deliveries poorly could be a major problem for your business. Have a look at Dial a delivery locally and UberEats internationally to understand how big a problem this can become.


Many pieces on this subject matter stop at the aforementioned four without giving any mention to perhaps the most important factor. I’ve already mentioned that just because a group is external to your business doesn’t mean they are not a critical factor that needs to be managed. It has been this way for a long time but I think now more than ever customers are a very important part of businesses marketing efforts. Companies like Apple, Samsung, Disney, Tesla have their customers (past, present and future) driving the online conversation about them. Having customers is one thing, turning them into racing fans and your best marketing outlet another thing altogether. And yet that is a key difference between successful and unsuccessful businesses. Your customer onboarding, after-sales service and communication will determine how your business fairs. Businesses that adopt an “each one brings one” (where each customer feels so happy with your business that they recommend at least one new paying customer to you) approach to business can experience massive growth.

It’s a matter of strategy when we focus on these factors. Do you have a customer strategy or are simply trying to sell your next widget? Are your processes arranged in the best possible manner? Do you know your break-even price? These factors understood regardless of the size or nature of your business can bring you huge results.