The Secret to Entrepreneurial Success You probably care more about your company than any other person does. And that may be all you need to remember to make your business a success.

By Alex Hiam

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We often hear dire warnings about the high failure rates ofstart-ups and smaller businesses. What we don't hear about ishow remarkable it is that entrepreneurs so often beat the odds andgrow successful enterprises, even though they generally lack theresources that bigger companies have ready access to. Entrepreneursoften do the apparently impossible. Just how do they do it?

I think the secret ingredient is caring. If it's yourbusiness, you care about it in a way no hired-gun executive evercan. And that caring extends to the people who make up yourworkforce and customer base as well. I was thinking about thissecret ingredient of entrepreneurial success the other day when Igot an interesting note by e-mail from someone seeking advice. Hewrote:

I think of my business as an extension of my family and tryto take good care of my employees and customers. But as thebusiness grows, my advisors are encouraging me to take a morebusinesslike approach. They want me to begin charging higher pricesto customers who can afford to pay more instead of continuing togive deals to my best customers, and they say I should get rid ofsome of my more loyal employees in favor of younger, cheaperworkers. Do I have to get tougher to grow my business?

Entrepreneurs often feel the pressure to adopt big-company waysas they grow. Some of those ways are appropriate--for instance, youcan't continue to do shoe-box accounting beyond a certain size.But some of those big-company practices are best avoided if youdon't want to lose your edge in the entrepreneurial successgame.

The toughest thing to do in business is to truly care about yourcompany and the people it affects, and then make decisions based onthose feelings. Trust me, businesses grow when someone cares.That's the "secret" ingredient in running asuccessful entrepreneurial venture.

I'm reminded of a news story I followed recently about afamous San Francisco bakery that makes sourdough bread from arecipe and the original "mother yeast" dating back to itsfounding in 1849 by Isadore Boudin. The company stayed in theBoudin family (and carried the Boudin name proudly on all itsproducts) until a larger company made them such a generous offerthey couldn't resist selling. That was in 1993. The companythat bought them out also acquired other local bakeries and brands.But it eventually sold off most of the brands and shuttered some ofthe local bakeries. When the Boudin brand and ovens came back onthe market this year, the original family stepped back in andre-acquired them.

Why? Because they care in a way the corporate owners apparentlydidn't--which means the family is more likely to nurture thisbusiness and make it grow and prosper. How do I know they care?Because Steven Giraudo, whom local papers in San Francisco describeas "the family patriarch," continued to stop by the oldfamily bakery every morning at 3:30 to make sure the morning'sbatch of bread was made correctly, even though his family no longerowned or ran the bakery. For nine years, the family "kept thefaith" and continued to care about the quality of its bread,and San Franciscans (myself included) breathed a sigh of reliefwhen we learned it was back in the safe hands of family membersagain.

Why relief? Because sourdough is a San Franciscan tradition anddelicacy. And because the corporate owners had already sold offseveral old-time brands to a much larger national bakery that, somefear, will not maintain the traditions and quality we careabout.

As for whether my e-mail friend should penalize his mostfaithful customers and employees in order to cut short-term costs,well, what would someone who really cared say to such proposals?Obviously that's no way to nurture a business.

If you're an entrepreneur who worries that you care toomuch, just remember that care is as important an ingredient ingrowing a business as, well, the yeast is in baking a loaf ofbread. When nobody cares enough to keep your special culture ofyeast alive, what happens to the company? That should help youremember the right direction to take.

AlexHiam is a trainer and consultant and the author of Motivating & Rewarding Employees: New andBetter Ways to Inspire Your Peopleas well as Marketing for Dummies. His new book, Making Horses Drink, is now available fromEntrepreneur Press and major bookstores.

Wavy Line

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