I'm not going to teach you anything new this month. Instead, I'll be sharing a bunch of stuff as old as humanity--maybe older. Why? The key to business success is as old as human society. In fact, the latest evidence is that monkeys become successful the same way entrepreneurs do.

Monkey Business
A recent study called Scientists Monkey Around With the Economy showed that monkeys live by the same basic economic principles people do. Scientists taught one member of a tribe of monkeys how to open a jar of apples. The monkey opened the jar so everyone could share. She got groomed a lot. For monkeys, grooming is like money in the bank. A second monkey was taught how to open the jars, and the grooming was split between the two talented monkeys.

What are the lessons from all this monkey business? To succeed, add value--that is--give people something real that they really want. Doing something unique is better, but it doesn't have to be completely unique. Keep it simple: Provide value; receive payment.

The idea of adding or providing value is really simple, but there are many industries that don't add value at all. Many of them seem like great ideas entrepreneurs seem to love. We add value by:

  • Providing basic needs, such as housing, food and effective health care.
  • Providing healthy enjoyment, such as relaxation, fun and games.
  • Providing education and opportunity to improved quality of life.
  • Providing coaching, mentoring and guiding people to realize their full potential.
  • Caring for animals, plants and the environment to make the whole planet healthy.

Are you doing one of those things? If not, ask yourself if your business is really adding value. Here are two key points to help you decide if a business adds value:

  • Value is good for everyone involved. Taking from one person and giving to another does not add value. That is called a zero-sum game.
  • Talking doesn't add value. There are some networking systems that teach you that if you meet with other people and give them leads you're adding value. That can be true. For example, if a dry cleaning service, an auto mechanic and a children's tutor meet and share leads, then each might get more customers. When three marketing people meet and share leads, all anyone gets is more business cards! The lesson: Marketing is great, but only when you have something to sell.

It's also important to be unique but keep it simple.

This could be easier than you think--and harder.

It's harder because it is the opposite of everything we learn in school and everything we learn from society. School says we're not good enough. School says we have to learn more. School says "only rocket scientists succeed, and you're no rocket scientist." Society says to follow the herd. But you can't be unique if you follow the herd.

It's easy because each one of us is unique. In fact, each one of us has a unique gift to offer the world. Being our unique selves feels wonderful. Sure, it's also scary--every performer gets stage fright. My advice: Get over it. Get out there and dance, sing, do your best and be yourself.

Nothing could be simpler than that.

The steps for success are also simple:

  • Find a business idea that makes you sing. If you're going to dedicate years of your life to this business, why not do something you love?
  • Feel your purpose. For the long haul, the only way to refuel is to know your purpose, say it aloud many times a day and then return to it after every disappointment and defeat.
  • Make your plans. Every business needs a strategic plan, a business (financial) plan, a project plan for launching and a marketing plan.
  • Get funded. Make sure you have at least twice as much money as your plans call for, either in hand, or coming in steadily from a reliable source.
  • Get going. Nothing replaces long hours of steady work. And the work should be hard, in the sense of challenging, and also fun and exciting.

Following these steps means not getting tangled up in complicated financing. It means not having long meetings with people who promise a lot and do little. It means avoiding bait-and-switch tactics from vendors. Success coach Kim Fulcher recommends staying focused on your original goal when faced with an obstacle. Don't focus on the obstacle. Your focus should always be on your business and your vision.