Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Twenty five years ago this month I founded my business. “Experts” advised me that my business would likely fail within the first five years. Thoroughly encouraged, I set my sights on creating the kind of business that I would want to patronize, one that would be successful. I was determined to do it my way.

I knew that developing and maintaining solid plans, including strategic communication plans designed to create and leverage engagement, would be essential to my success. Recently I found myself wondering, how does a business measure success other than the bottom line?  If you succeed, what will it look like?

Success, in business, has always been about the fundamentals.

Have a business plan. Without a plan, you only have a dream. It doesn’t have to be best-selling novel, but you need a few pages outlining specific objectives, strategies, financing, sales and marketing plans, and a determination of the cash you need to get things done. Writing it all down is a important first step.

Have a Strategic Communication plan. How is this different from a business plan? Your strategic communication plan will guide all of your communication efforts.  It identifies who your target audiences are, how to best reach them, what kind of messaging will be utilized, the engagement activities that will take place over time, human and financial resources, and ways to measure your success.

Listen to others. Advisors are essential. You need people to bounce ideas off, inspect what you’re doing, and push you to greater accomplishments. Always be good to your word and follow through on commitments, even when difficult and challenging. Don’t take things personally and stay out of emotion. Do not let your ego take control.

Delegate to employees, and/or consultants. Don’t be a control freak (this one is hard for me). If you delegate effectively, you will get more and better results than you expect.

Check in with your clients/customers on a regular basis. Surveys, focus groups or simple chats will let you know how you are doing. To maintain success over time you have to get feedback, good and bad.

Know what is important to your target audiences. If you don’t know, you are setting yourself up for failure. No business can survive if they don’t understand and engage with their target audiences.

Understand the importance of relationship building. My entire business has been built this way. Relationships build loyalty and trust. Relationships provide referrals. Relationships will help when times get tough, and when it’s time to celebrate!

Develop key partnerships to further your goals. The only way to increase capacity for producing goods and services, other than hiring additional people, is to partner with key organizations and individuals that will help you grow and accomplish your mission.

Always keep learning. When my business was founded there was no internet or social media! Part of being successful is developing your staying power over time. You can’t be successful if you don’t stay current. Separating simple trends from important fundamentals ensures you won’t spin your wheels or waste time.

Finally, understand that success isn’t static. Some days are better than others. I’m very fond of Calvin Coolidge’s thoughts on the matter.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Now, what to do for the next 25 years?

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