If you ask any entrepreneur if they feel they have achieved success, whether their business is a new startup or has already reached astronomical heights they will probably tell you that there is still so much to accomplish. Look at any famous entrepreneur and you will see that while they all differ greatly from one another, the single trait they have in common is an unrelenting drive to see their business continue to greater heights. It’s a scientific fact that our brains crave safety and reliability – a comfort zone where we feel familiar, safe and secure. Unfortunately, it is that very craving that often causes businesses to fail, because within the comfort zone there isn’t much incentive for people to reach new heights of performance. Simply put, in order for a business to obtain long-term success its leaders must stay hungry.
As the third generation to run our family-owned company, I grew up watching my father grow the business from a single location to a chain of barbecue restaurants and then franchise business. When I took over as Chief Executive Officer, I went into the job with the mentality that if a company isn’t growing – it’s shrinking. My grandfather had created a wonderful foundation on which my father built, but I knew its reach could go even further. Up until that point, Texas barbecue was much-loved regionally but it had no national presence. Rather than being satisfied with the company operating as a small chain, I sought to take it to the next level and began the push to take our food across the nation. It was certainly a risk, but by operating with data driven results and making capital investments in infrastructure such as marketing and real estate management we were able to grow to over 500 locations.
All of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t feel pride in your accomplishments as an entrepreneur. When your business is doing well that is of course a reason to celebrate. But rather than letting that sense of accomplishment stagnate you, it is important to always be looking to the next level. Below are a few examples of why remaining driven is absolutely vital to entrepreneurship, as well as a few tips for maintaining it.
Adapting to changes within your industry
It is inevitable that no matter what industry you are in, shifts and changes will occur within it. Just because a way of thinking or system worked in the past doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and it is remarkable how easy it is to be blindsided and left behind. Whether it be shifting markets or a new technology, change happens all the time and with an increasing rapidity as the world becomes more globalized and technology continues to advance at an exponential rate. In order to keep up you, yourself, need to become faster and smarter to be able to contend with the pace, but in order to truly be competitive you need to get ahead of the curve. One of the biggest mistakes that an entrepreneur can make is resisting or failing to notice that all of their competitors are using certain new technologies that are streamlining their businesses, while you’re left eating their dust. Embracing and utilizing innovation in technology for your industry will only increase your ability to be more productive and provide more for your customers.
At my company, we have made significant capital investments in information technology, as I firmly believed early on that it was the way of the future. Although today many are seeing its applications in practically every field, at the time nobody was utilizing it in the restaurant industry. We created a proprietary data platform that allowed us to amalgamate information from our point-of-sale systems, marketing promotions, customer surveys and inventory systems, which we could in turn utilize to ensure that our rapid expansion efforts were backed by hard data.
Sometimes, change can come at an even more rapid pace such as last year with the novel coronavirus pandemic. In times like this it is especially important for entrepreneurs to remain relentless and determined to overcome obstacles – because there will always be obstacles. If you only take what comes, you’ll find your company slipping backward. Although Covid-19 presented unique challenges that we had never encountered before, we worked to quickly adapt by shifting much of our marketing spend to digital channels, and we were one of the first fast-casual brands to launch contactless delivery. In order to grow with your industry, you have to have the drive to get ahead of technological trends and shifts in the market.
Setting a tone of excellence
As the leader of a business, it is you who ultimately sets the tone and culture of the company. Whether you realize it or not, people are paying attention to how you conduct yourself on a daily basis, and the practices you put in place for yourself will naturally translate to better practices within your business. You’ll find that your employees will, in fact, follow your example if they see that you have a lot of positive traits that they would like to have themselves. If you are complacent with the way you operate your business, your team will assume that they can do the same.
If all businesses were self-sufficient machines in which employees simply “did what they were supposed to,” sales grew on trees, and customers kept coming back it would be much easier to keep them alive and growing. While a healthy workplace culture is of the utmost importance, equally as important is making sure that employees understand that the goal is not to simply maintain course, but to grow and evolve.
From our corporate offices all the way to those working in the barbecue pits, our company seeks to create an incomparable experience for each of our guests. New owner-operators must go through “Barbecue U,” an intensive program we created that educates each franchisee on not only how to run the restaurant, but also the high standards we hold ourselves to at every level. Even if you’re not so much of a people person, it’s not necessarily about giving motivational speeches to your employees or sending out inspiring emails. Even a quiet example of an inner fire will motivate those around you to seek that in their own job performance.
Be honest with yourself: do you feel the unrelenting drive that is necessary in leaders to succeed? Or have you let yourself – and by extension your business – become complacent? Complacency is the mark of death for all entrepreneurs. Whether it happens quickly or is a slow death, it is important to start addressing the matter before it spirals out of control. Here are a few options:
Reassess your business plan
While you may think your business plan is something you create when you start a company and follow with rigidity from then on, it should in fact be a living, breathing document that evolves with each passing year. When was the last time you reviewed it and determined whether the goals you had when you developed your success strategy are still in line with your goals now? If necessary, take the time to rewrite or realign to ensure that how you are operating is in line with your current priorities and goals.
Reevaluate your staff
Once you have revised your business plan, make sure everyone who is working toward that plan is on-par with your goals and the goals of your business. By communicating with your staff regularly and establishing an atmosphere that encourages productivity, creativity and growth, you can motivate them to perform extraordinarily and as a result stay hungry themselves.
Take a look in the mirror
At the end of the day, as the leader of your business every action and attitude you have will ultimately reflect back on to the business. If you have found that lately you lack the unrelenting drive you once had, try to determine the root of the issue. Are you burned out from overwork? Do you no longer feel a passion for the industry that you once did? Determining why you no longer feel a passion is perhaps one of the most important steps to reviving it.
Ultimately, one has to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Trying new ideas, stepping out of your comfort zone and constantly looking over the horizon ensures exploration, demands constant growth, and consistently produces next-level results. Overall, nothing is more of an entrepreneurial driving force than continuously wanting to take a project or idea to the next level. A lack of contentment doesn’t mean a lack of gratitude, rather it means appreciating the good while staying hungry for what’s next.