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5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Stay Ahead of the Game

John DeSimone
John DeSimone

With so many opportunities to accelerate personal and financial gains, entrepreneurs must continually sharpen their skills to prove to customers (and clients) that they are the best in the business.

As the former CFO and current president of Herbalife Nutrition, I am in constant contact with entrepreneurial independent distributors in 94 countries where our products are sold. I understand the mindset of business owners, and during my years at Herbalife and working closely with its distributors, I've learned the five traits and skills that successful entrepreneurs have that allows them to stay ahead of the game. Here is what I have observed over the years:

They possess curiosity.

Curiosity may seem like an odd choice to put at the top of my list, but trust me, it is an essential ingredient that successful business owners possess.

Curious people take the time to know their customers honestly. They are not superficially interested in them – they are genuinely motivated to understand what makes that person tick. They learn what their customers' challenges are and what they need to do to be successful on their behalf. They care not just about them as business associates, but as a person. Successful business owners learn about their customers' families, their hobbies and their interests. And they remember them, with a note acknowledging and celebrating life moments and supporting them through difficult times, because the most enduring relationships are personal. Successful entrepreneurs understand that business is more than a transaction; it is a relationship that grows over time.

The most successful entrepreneurs are also curious about the world. They read voraciously, and are always picking up information from a variety of sources. They are interested in their industry and become an expert that others rely on. They stay ahead of trends and have current insights that help their customers succeed. They take a deep interest in best-in-class examples of other businesses and learn from others' successes and failures. This continuous thirst for knowledge enables them to stay current and deeply connected to their industry, customers, and the world, and potentially make decisions that help them stay ahead of the game. Curiosity helps expand entrepreneurs' understanding of people and business, and allows them to make and maintain connections that others may miss.

They reframe challenges.

A lot is written about grit – that some people do not embrace failure, but during challenging times, find it in themselves to rise above the situation. It takes a lot of determination even to consider becoming a boss. It takes even more grit to leave a secure paycheck to embark on your own. But it takes incredible stamina and strength to withstand the business world's ups and downs, mainly when you alone are responsible for your company's success.

In the nearly 13 years I've worked with our independent distributors, I have found that the most successful entrepreneurs possess an unfailing ability to turn a challenge into a positive experience. I have worked with people who took every customer "no" as the opportunity to review and revise the value proposition they were offering. Instead of being depressed and feeling that their business was suffering, talented business owners pause to reframe and rethink.

They stop and ask for feedback, they try new tactics and never give in to defeat. Nor do they allow themselves to see a negative response as a failure. As one distributor proudly told me, "I don't hear the word 'no,' I hear, 'not yet.'’ It allows me to pivot and rethink what would make this person change their mind and how can I provide them with the information to help them get to 'yes.'"

They build a community.

Many entrepreneurs dream of leaving behind chatty co-workers or annoying bosses, yet find that running their own business can be lonely. Just because you are embarking on your own does not mean that you have to be alone in the process.

Entrepreneurs need the support of a community even more than those in a larger company. From the chamber of commerce to industry-specific forums, networking groups provide valuable resources to help you launch your business. A networking group can give expert business advice – senior leaders who can help guide you through challenges and provide new contacts for possible business.

Many business organizations also have valuable online resources for startups and others going through the same journey you are on. Being part of a group can also create a network of colleagues – even from different industries. Industry organizations provide opportunities for ongoing learning, helping you keep ahead of industry trends and news. When you hit a bump in the road, you can tap into your community's brain trust to bounce around ideas and gain valuable perspectives.

Entrepreneurs know that being on your own does not mean being without support. Successful business owners value and build connections, and find every opportunity to grow their network of contacts.

They give back.

With so much time invested in your business, it is vital to carve out time for your family, friends and to support organizations that help those in need. Giving back – whether, through product donations, services, time or money –  fills an essential requirement in your community and for yourself.

Giving back and being of service to others takes you away – in a positive way – from your business and reminds you to take the time to provide to others. Working with a community group or nonprofit also puts you in touch with your local community members, opens doors to new connections and can provide a much-needed break from your business. As your company grows and employs others, getting your team involved in a common cause can also build teamwork and engage everyone to work together outside of the day-to-day business.

Whether supporting a team running for a special cause, funding a local youth sports group or providing food to those in need, giving reminds us how much we have and the opportunity to share with others.

They understand what customers want.

The most successful entrepreneurs relentlessly ask questions and continue to modify their offering to ensure that they are delivering the best product (or service) for the right consumer.

Great entrepreneurs never stop seeking feedback. They welcome and seek comments – both positive and negative – and then learn and grow from the knowledge.

Entrepreneurs have grit. They leap and venture out on an exciting journey. Successful business owners remain curious, are continually learning and upping their game. They build connections – both in the industry and by giving back to their communities. They stay close to their customers, and learn and evolve to adapt to their needs. And above all, they never stop learning and growing.

Image Credit: jacoblund / Getty Images
John DeSimone
John DeSimone Member
As president of Herbalife Nutrition, I manage the Company's regional leadership, who are responsible for growing the Company's premier nutrition business and driving performance in 94 countries around the globe. In addition, I manage the Company's financial planning and investor relations operations. Having joined Herbalife Nutrition in November 2007, I first served as senior vice president, finance, followed by an eight-year tenure as the Company’s chief financial officer. I have more than 25 years of experience in the corporate finance sector. I served as the controller, vice president of finance,and chief financial officer of publicly traded Rexall Sundown, Inc., a multinational manufacturer of nutritional supplements and sports nutrition products. Prior to joining Herbalife Nutrition, I was chief executive officer and an investor of Mobile Ventures, LLC, an automotive aftermarket accessory retailer.