As Crown Worldwide celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I am being asked the same question over and over again: What’s the secret to keeping a business alive that long?
It’s not that easy to answer. To be honest, it’s a huge anniversary and one I never thought I’d see when I started the company in 1965.
I remember when we first opened, it was from a tiny office -- just a cubicle really-- in Yokohama, Japan, with very little capital. The fact we have become an international global business of good size and strength -- one that continues to grow -- is a real achievement for everyone at the company.
I don’t know if there’s a "secret" other than hard work and perseverance, getting the right team in place, sticking to the business we know best and doing it in an extremely positive way.
But for anyone starting a business in 2015, there are a few points I can make that I hope will be helpful:
1. Be ready for a bumpy ride.
If anyone is thinking of starting a business, they should be prepared to deal with all the obstacles that come their way. It is rarely ever a smooth ride. You have to be the type of person that will persevere and push through all of those challenges.
I remember when we first started and it was a fragile business -- like all startups probably are -- we were always worried about whether we had enough money to pay bills and whether we were doing the job right. You have to cope with all the ups and the downs.
2. Have a plan and know how much it will cost.
Having a plan and knowing where you are going is key for any new business, and part of that is having adequate funding. Just how much you need is difficult to define because it depends on what type of business you are running. In our case we started out with very little capital but in the modern era, I wouldn’t recommend that.
3. Learn to delegate and choose good people.
It is not possible to do everything yourself in a successful business -- you need to delegate. Look around and think, "Who can do this better than I can? Who has the right skills?" Appoint good people -- then trust and support them.
4. Determination is more important than education.
There are many different types of people in business with different educational backgrounds, so don’t feel excluded. Some successful people are quiet, some are loud, some are good salespeople or good at finance. All can make it if they have a good team to help carry forward their plan.
A degree of formal education is helpful for anybody and I encourage it. But having a degree is not an essential part of being successful as an entrepreneur. The qualities you do need are a lot of stamina and determination.
5. Know your core values.
It is easy to think core values are something you only worry about when the business is already successful. But in fact the reverse is true: Core values are what make you successful in the first place.
Having respect for the people who work for you, believing in doing a good job in the right way, giving the customer a good experience, communicating with people, giving something back to society -- all these things are critical. Do things the right way and you’ll have a better chance of success.
6. Don’t sell too quickly.
Retain ownership of your business if you can. Don’t give it away or sell too early. So many entrepreneurs today say, "I’m going to run it for five years then sell it." But I don’t think that’s what true entrepreneurs do. Instead, that’s being a speculator.
I almost sold once in the early part of the company’s history. I had an offer on the table but had a change of heart and walked away, and it was the smartest thing I ever did.
Now we have a business at Crown Worldwide with a turnover of more than $800 million.