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One Personality Trait Most Successful Entrepreneurs Share

By Business Owners

Survey a group of founders about the personality traits that made them successful, and they will be quick to use words like determination, sacrifice, and hard work. Others will show more humility and chalk their success up to personality traits like curiosity. Still, others will credit dumb luck.

However, there is another personality trait that many of the most successful founders have in common: discipline.

They have the discipline to stick to their original vision despite the temptation to veer off course.

The discipline to stick to their original product or service offering despite clients asking for different things…

The discipline to ignore whatever shiny ball is demanding their attention and instead focus on what they set out to do…

Steve Jobs, the legendary co-founder of Apple, said it best:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to one thousand things.”

How Saying No Led to a 7-Figure Exit

Andy Cabasso studied law at university but never really practiced. Instead, he co-founded JurisPage in 2013, an agency specializing in helping law firms with their marketing.

Cabasso understood the marketing services lawyers need, and his partner, Sam Brodie, knew how to build websites that ranked on Google. Their service was popular among lawyers but also attracted the attention of other service businesses that needed a website that ranked organically as well.

Cabasso and Brodie were tempted to wander outside of their niche but ultimately turned down the opportunity to work with other types of companies, knowing they had something unique to offer lawyers.

They also knew the importance of recurring revenue so insisted that their clients use JurisPage for website hosting, which gave the partners a base of recurring revenue. Prospects offered JurisPage thousands of dollars to build them a website for someone else to host, but Cabasso turned them down, knowing that the recurring website hosting revenue was a fundamental component to building a valuable business.

In the end, Cabasso and Brodie’s discipline paid off because they attracted the attention of Uptime Legal, an Inc. 5000 business specializing in technology and practice management software for law firms.

The two companies fit together like “peanut butter and jelly”, which is why Uptime Legal acquired JurisPage in a seven-figure deal that closed in 2016.

The moral? While curiosity and grit are important personality traits for any would-be founder, the ability to remain disciplined in the face of opportunity may be the most important attribute of all

The Downside of Being a “One-Stop Shop”

By Business Owners

Before Jeff Bezos & Co. blew up traditional distribution channels, there was some value in being the local guy or gal. Being the local product retailer was a good business and being a regional distributor of a popular line could make you a mint.

Those days are almost over.

In a world where anything is available at the click of a mouse, the fact that you’re local means very little. To build a valuable company, you need to go beyond your physical location as a point of differentiation and cultivate a new value proposition. We refer to this process as improving your “Monopoly Control.” The name is inspired by Warren Buffett, who likes to invest in companies with a wide “competitive moat” — essentially a defendable point of differentiation. 

 While being a local provider may have gotten you into business, it’s not going to be enough to get you out for a decent multiple. To build a valuable company someone may want to buy one day, you need a fresh sales angle. 

Take a look at the journey of Mehul Sheth, who went from a middleman to the owner of an eight-figure business. Sheth started VMS Aircraft in 1995 as a distributor of airline parts. He offered a “one-stop shop” for airlines and their maintenance crews to find parts and accessories.

VMS was the local distributor and survived on gross margins of 22–23%. It was a subsistence living, and Sheth was determined to build a more valuable company. He decided to evolve his value proposition from just being the local warehouse for distributing other people’s stuff to a sophisticated provider of advanced materials. Sheth chose to focus on the materials that airlines need to be stored and handled meticulously. If the safety of your metal tube flying 300 people 40,000 feet in the air is determined by the quality of a seam of metal, you want that steel to be handled carefully. You also want the sealant that joins the sheet of metal kept at a temperature that maximizes its adhesiveness. You may also want your rivets stored with the same care a surgeon uses to put away her scalpel after performing life-saving surgery. 

Sheth invested in a clean room that minimized dust at his facility. He bought dry ice containers so certain materials could be stored in a cold environment, maximizing their effectiveness. He also repackaged materials into smaller containers so that an airline that only needed a small amount of a particular material didn’t need to buy an entire tub. 

Sheth’s evolution from simple reseller to value-added provider fueled his gross margins to 60–70%. Along the way, Sheth attracted a French company that wanted to enter the U.S. market. Rather than set up shop to compete with Sheth, they realized VMS had created a unique offering with a layer of value-added services that would be difficult to imitate. They decided to acquire VMS for 7.4 times EBITDA.

If you find yourself clinging to the “one-stop shop” sales message, consider evolving to something that truly differentiates you in a world where Amazon (and its various e-tailing competitors) will ship you just about anything, anywhere, overnight. 

Run Your Business Like You’re Going on Maternity (or Paternity) Leave

By Business Owners

How well does your company run when you don’t show up for work?

The answer to this question has a significant impact on the value of your business. Suppose your company could survive your absence for a while. In that case, you will score well on something referred to as “Hub & Spoke,” a driver in increasing your company’s value.

To understand the Hub & Spoke value driver, visualize a big airport like Chicago’s O’Hare or London’s Heathrow. They act as a centralized routing location for the airlines that rely on them. The system works efficiently enough until a snowstorm shuts down a hub and the entire transportation system grinds to a halt. 

Now imagine you’re the hub, and you run your business with important issues coming through you. It’s efficient right up until the point you are no longer there to run things, which is why anyone valuing your business will levy a steep discount. 

The trick to removing yourself is to document your standard operating procedures so your employees have instructions for how you want things done when you’re not around. 

How a Maternity Leave Created a Business That Was Built to Sell

Just like many young couples, Ben and Ariel Zvaifler got a puppy and found themselves trying to figure out how to train their new dog. They also wanted to understand what toys and food they needed. The couple figured they weren’t alone and decided to launch PupBox, a subscription box for new puppy owners. 

Ariel Zvaifler was responsible for operations, among other things. She took great care in selecting products and merchandising them inside each PupBox. She even considered details around how each package would be shipped and how it felt when the customer received their PupBox. 

When Ariel found out she was pregnant with the couple’s second child, she set to work documenting her standard operating procedures. She put together instructions for her staff describing how to order products, merchandise each item, and ship boxes. It took Ariel six months to document everything, but by the time she was ready to give birth, PupBox was prepared to run without her. 

These standard operating procedures were a big part of how PupBox grew and why the giant pet retailer, Petco, acquired PupBox in 2017.

How to Get Your Company to Run Without You

Start by breaking down your job into tasks, and then prepare instructions for your team so that they can follow your standard operating procedures when you’re not there.

Test your team’s knowledge by taking a couple of vacation days to see where your processes have holes. Plug the gaps with more details, and then take a more extended vacation. Keep lengthening your time away from work and tweaking things upon your return so that by the time you’re done, your company can handle your extended absence, similar to a maternity or paternity leave.