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Wider World of Business: Successful Small Business Owners are Like Roombas: December 27, 2011

Wider World of Business

Successful Small Business Owners are Like Roombas

By: Anita Campbell

My friend and colleague Ivana Taylor, asked me a question today: "what one habit do all successful small business owners share in common?"

As I thought about it, I realized that success comes from not just one habit. Most successful small business owners that I've observed cultivate multiple "success habits". Together, the whole package is what makes them successful.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that successful small business owners are like Roombas, those ingenious little self-propelled vacuum cleaners. "What?" you say? "Like vacuum cleaners?"

Let me explain the success traits that small business owners have in common with those quirky little Roombas:

  • Quiet persistence — Small business owners keep a low profile and go about their business with quiet dedication . They do it every day, no matter how boring their work may seem to outsiders. Likewise, Roombas go about their business quietly and without fanfare — just getting the job done.
  • Resiliency — If we encounter an obstacle, successful business owners bounce back and figure a way around it. The same happens with Roombas. Roombas bump into walls and furniture, and just back up. Or they go around. They're designed to figure out how to circumvent obstacles, not quit as soon as they bump into something.
  • No whining — Successful business owners don't whine or act like victims when something challenging crosses their path. Roombas are the same way. Coins and chunky objects that might clog up a bigger vacuum or cause it to whine loudly are handled with ease. Roombas "suck it up" without complaint.
  • Picking up new ideas — The most successful business owners are constantly observing and learning from their surroundings and picking up new ideas. We keep our ears to the ground for faint signals and small marketplace changes. After picking up faint signals we internalize them and make adjustments that lead to competitive advantage. While Roombas don't pick up new ideas, they do go around picking up stuff. It's amazing how much they pick up, even when the floor doesn't look obviously dirty. They manage to find the smallest stuff and take it in.
  • Fearlessness – Successful small business owners give the appearance of being fearless. Maybe we feel fear, but we manage to overcome it and go places we've never been before. We do it all the time, because life throws new situations, issues and problems at us daily. Roombas are the same way. They are not afraid of the dark. They gamely go into nooks and crannies, regardless of what may be lurking under that sofa or behind that door or in that closet.
  • Self-starters — Successful business owners have a sense of internal self-motivation. Small business owners are the ultimate self-starters. We "drive" ourselves. Likewise, Roombas are self-propelled. They don't need someone to tell them what to do next or when to do it. As soon as they wake up, they go off on their way, every day.
  • Appreciation for others – Yet, no matter how much we are self-starters and may operate independently, we know that no business is an island. We still need others — be it employees or service providers or partners ... and most of all, customers. Roombas may be self-propelled and make their rounds independently, but they still depend on someone to turn them on, empty them, and recharge them.
  • David vs. Goliath sense — We do battle with the entire world, every day. Even if we don't consciously think of ourselves or our businesses as battling larger Goliaths, in essence we do that without shrinking. That's because our businesses tend to be smaller than our competitors; smaller than market forces; and much smaller than government agencies around us. Like Roombas, we don't quit or give up just because we run into something bigger than us. Roombas are not intimidated by their own small size.
  • Reliance on technology — The most successful business owners know it's better to work smarter, not harder. We take advantage of technology for efficiency, ultimate productivity and to avoid unnecessary manual labor. Guess what? Roombas also rely on technology under the hood for their efficient operation and productivity. Through technology they avoid inefficient human intervention as much as possible.

Yes, we can learn the habits of success from those crazy little Roombas.



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