For any business -- online or not -- the odds are stacked against success. In fact, sources indicate as many as nine out of 10 businesses fail within five years.
Having the fortune to work with a host of successful businesses -- from independent designers to global service providers - you start to recognize winning characteristics.
But what are the treacherous traits that are responsible for the demise of most businesses? Based on an accumulation of notes over the years, following are answers by some of the most renowned business experts of our times.
1. Undefined values
Entrepreneurs need to define their values, which guide all decision making, insists iconic motivational speaker Tony Robbins. If you know what you value most and truly want out of life -- be it love, health, success, freedom, power, or comfort - Robbins noted you'll find you can make more effective and rapid decisions. He added: "Your beliefs determine whether or not you feel like you're meeting your values - they can either limit or liberate you." Where do you start? Ask yourself this question: "What's most important to me in my life?"
2. Business plans don't target a market
The biggest mistake most companies make when writing a business plan is not having a target audience in mind, suggests Michael Miller, author of 75 non-fiction books. Ultimately, he said these businesses end up creating something generic, without a purpose or defined goal. "Looking at it another way," noted Miller, "if you don't know who your audience is, you really don't know why you're creating a plan -- and a plan with no purpose is a plan for failure."
3. Just dabbling
Learn every detail of your core business because the market only pays excellent rewards for excellent performance, stresses motivational speaker and self-help author Brian Tracy. In contrast, below average performance pays below average rewards, failure and frustration. His advice: "Read all the magazines in your field. Read and study the latest books. Attend the courses and seminars given by experts in your field. Join your trade association, attend every meeting and get involved with the other top people in your field."
4. Being afraid to lose
Failure inspires winners, and failure defeats losers, wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki. He noted: "The greatest secret of winners is that failure inspires winning; thus, they're not afraid of losing." Kiyosaki explained there's a big difference between hating losing and being afraid to lose. "The main reason over 90 per cent of the American public struggles financially is because they play not to lose," he stated. "They don't play to win."
5. Fear of being judged
The fear of being judged, looking stupid, being wrong, failing or taking blame lurks just beneath the surface in the clever disguise of caution, claims marketing innovator Kay Allison, founder of Energy Infuser. And when you can't put the full force of your enthusiasm and passion behind a new idea, she suggests that idea will be dead on arrival. "One thing I've learned is that whatever I focus on grows," offered Kay. "So if I focus on the anxiety that gnaws in my belly, it gets so big that it's paralyzing. On the other hand, if I focus on what my next appropriate action should be, it gets me into motion."
6. Ignoring your gut instinct
Writer Malcolm Gladwell stated in his national best seller, Blink: "...if we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments." He went on to say, "We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that -- sometimes -- we're better off that way."
7. "I can do it all" syndrome
If you don't focus on your strengths and hire others to take care of the rest, you're in trouble, says Mark Wardell, business author and Founder of Wardell Professional Development. "To be good at business does not mean you have to be good at everything," he stated, suggesting business owners need to place more value on time. "When you invest your money, you expect it to return a profit," explained Wardell. "Your time works the same way. When you invest rather than spend your time, its value increases dramatically."
8. Pointing fingers
When you point a finger at someone, warns NFL coach Herm Edwards, three fingers always point back at you. "When you're involved in something that fails or in something in which a mistake is made, more often than not, you're to blame, too," he wrote. "It's just easier to blame the other guy, and this is a device that most people can see right through." Before assigning blame, Edwards says it's always best to ask yourself what you could have done differently yourself that might have avoided the error or mistake in the first place.
9. Fighting change
Accept change, insists Jack Welch, former GE CEO and best-selling author. "Business leaders who treat change like the enemy will fail..." he stated. "Change is the one constant, and successful business leaders must be able to read the ever-changing business environment." Accordingly, it's important to promote an openness to change by teaching colleagues to see change as an opportunity -- "a challenge that can be met through hard work and smarts."
10. Neglecting points of contact
Consider every point at which your company makes contact with a prospect: your office, receptionist, website, business card, sales call and so on. Business advisor and bestselling author Harry Beckwith stresses the need to study each point of contact, and improve each one significantly. Otherwise, it may be your only one -- or even your last.
11. Wrong packaging
Author Robert G. Allen, who is credited with making many millionaires in the U.S., cited an "info-preneur" who spent years and tens of thousands of dollars creating a product called Compact Classics, which condensed all the great classic fiction and non-fiction books into a two-page format. No one bought it until it was re-titled to The Great American Bathroom Book. Allen reported: "The idea caught on and millions dollars later, the idea is still pumping out cash."
12. Culture of bureaucracy
Good to Great and Built to Last author Jim Collins warns businesses to avoid bureaucracy, which he calls "the cancer of mediocrity." He explained: "Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives away the right people on the bus, which then increases the percentage of wrong people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy..." The solution? Build a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship to get a "magical alchemy of superior performance and sustained results."
The late Napoleon Hill, credited for influencing more people into success than any other person in history, wrote: "The person with a 'closed' mind on any subject seldom gets ahead." In fact, he noted, intolerance means that one has stopped acquiring knowledge. "The most damaging forms of intolerance," he documented, "are those connected with religious, racial and political differences of opinion."