During the course of this series, there have been many buzzwords coined and repeated. These all have a time and a place, and can be useful to help you figure out key concepts of entrepreneurship, but there is one thing which stands above all of these on the scale of importance: FOLLOW THROUGH.
It's incredibly easy when you're the "boss" to get tunnel vision, and not see details orbiting the thing you're concentrating on. It's also easy to let certain to-do items slip, because you're not being held accountable to someone else day-to-day.
However, if there's one thing which will grow your business faster than anything else, it's follow through.
It's easy enough to say, but much harder in practice. Large corporations are guilty. Business titans are guilty. But if you do nothing else when building your business, make sure you clearly articulate what you're going to do, and meet or exceed that expectation, every time. This means everything from returning phone calls of companies interested in you in a timely fashion to setting up realistic expectations with clients, customers, and partners, and consistently delivering to those expectations.
Internally, this means meeting your deadlines. If you can't for some unforeseen problems, it means owning your problem, making amends, and getting buy-in on another course of action. Make sure you close the loop.
Externally, this means making your communications with others as clear, concise, and regular as possible to maintain a high level of trust, and to prove to the other stakeholders that you are a trustworthy person.
When you are starting out, anyone who's going to visit your website, become a vendor, or a partner is taking a leap working with you. You are not necessarily established. When you're not in the power position, you need to be better. How you get better and build credibility is by doing what you say.
It is shocking how few companies in their infancy adhere to this credo, and over the course of the last 9 months, my company, Shyndyg, has had to deal with our share of promises from partners which weren't kept. Most of these weren't maliciously not followed-through, rather, a product of a lack of organization on the part of the individuals responsible. It's detrimental to small businesses to behave this way, because, while you might "get away" with not having fulfilled your end of the bargain (and you never do -- it's just that the other person didn't take the time to tell you they were displeased), you have still missed an opportunity to actually do good business with a strategic partner
So, how do you stay on top of what might start out manageable, but becomes a 99-headed hydra?
There are many ways to get things done (and many excellentbooks which can help you if you didn't grow up in a house run like the military) but all you really need is a checklist of every promise you make, and the deadline.
How do you keep track of everything? For me, I use Siri, and I dictate orders to her all day long. She reminds me which appointments I have, when projects are due, and what is required. This isn't for everyone, but it's how I stay honest and on track.
The older system I used before Siri became available was the Post-It Note method: colour coded, and arranged in a grid pattern, stuck to my desk, arranged in order of urgency. This system survived for a long time because of the excitement of ripping one of those notes off the desk, crumpling it, and sending it to the recycling bin.
It really doesn't matter HOW you achieve it, you just need to make a commitment to putting paid to the business moves you set in motion.
Woody Allen once said "90% of success is showing up," but what's true for entrepreneurs is that 90% of success is following through.