We get a lot of aspiring business owners coming through our doors every day. Many of them have great ideas and plenty of enthusiasm. By the time they get to us, they’ve researched enough to know they need an online presence, which is awesome, and we’re happy to help. Whether it’s a website, e-commerce, Google advertising, SEO, email campaigns, social media promotions or strategic advice – we can do the lot as a full-service digital agency.

So far, so good.

But after getting to know some business owners one thing is becoming apparent, and if I was a betting man, it’s a strong indicator of future success (or failure).

Now when it comes to someone else’s business idea, I sometimes have to bite my tongue. My leaning towards critical analysis swings into action and I think ‘how will that ever make money?’. Sometimes I’m proved right, and sometimes, to my pleasant surprise, I’m proved completely wrong. It’s these times when I’m proved wrong that I start thinking about a fundamental key to running a successful business – and sometimes it has nothing to do with the actual business itself (don’t take this the wrong way; your spider petting zoo business will still fail…).

The key to a successful business – is you!

Ultimately what separates most successful businesses from those that don’t make it beyond the first year, which according to some reports is about 50%, is the founder.

And what is the most important quality a business founder needs?


This might seem like an obvious thing to say but over the last 10 years of helping develop websites for new business owners, and seeing which ones succeed, and which ones don’t, we’ve isolated this as probably the most important ingredient you need to make your beloved business take off.

What is ownership?

Starting a business takes courage, innovation, determination and endurance, call it grit if you like. But if you don’t have ownership, you can quickly give up, blaming the economy, the competition or just fate for things not working out.

If you’re a business owner who takes ownership you’re likely doing this sort of stuff…

  • Being responsible for all parts of the business – This doesn’t mean they won’t delegate; it just means they are monitoring all parts of the business and if the person/agency they’ve outsourced to isn’t performing they step in to manage it.
  • If something’s broken, they fix it – Because they’re alert to everything happening in the business, they’ll take personal responsibility to get it fixed. If that means educating themselves so they understand the problem, then they’ll do that too.
  • They don’t play the blame game – Yes, sometimes others contribute to the problems, challenges or issues you face as a business owner but a smart business owner knows that the buck stops with them. It’s up to them to make the business work and that means good planning, good advice and good follow through.
  • They find a way – Ownership is about being the captain (that’s the ‘ship’ part of ownership 😉 of your own destiny, well the destiny of your business. A good business owner charts their own course, never abdicating this responsibility to someone else. The smart ones will ask for advice but the final decision is theirs.
  • Owning mistakes – Maybe you underestimated the competition, maybe you had mistaken assumptions about online business, maybe you thought just build a website and you’d have thousands of customers automatically show up out of nowhere, maybe you didn’t understand that something you thought would be easy is actually really complicated. Taking ownership means having humility to accept when you’ve made a mistake and owning it instead of just passing the buck.

Will you have the right stuff to make your business succeed?

It’s an important question to ask yourself before embarking on the ‘start your own business’ journey. With the right idea and a strong sense of ownership you can be very successful. Conversely, it can just end up being a costly mistake.

Here’s a quick checklist for the things you’ll need to succeed:

  • Money – You don’t need a lot, in fact some of the most successful businesses were bootstrapped (started with only a little seed capital).
  • A realistic outlook – Just because you think it’s a great idea doesn’t mean paying customers will, do your research.
  • Having a reasonable expectation of your service providers – We all appreciate good customer service, and when they go the extra mile, and don’t charge more for it, we’re tickled (because it’s so rare), but it’s easy when you get ‘above and beyond’ service, after awhile you can take it for granted and start to expect it. Your hairdresser might have some ideas about how to fix your car but you don’t expect it (or even expect their ideas will work). Your website developer can offer suggestions about marketing or stock management but it’s not their job so don’t expect it.
  • Know the right places to get help – Sure, it might feel like starting a business these days is tougher now with all the red tape and business compliance hoopla you have to jump through but the reality is that in many ways it’s so much easier. Living in the information age, there is a wealth of resources you can access without even getting out of your PJs – you just need to know where to look. A good place to start is the NZ government’s business start up guide, and take it from there. We also welcome your questions, and will do what we can to help or point you in the right direction.
  • Manage the timeline – You keep things moving. You have a reasonable timeline established for stages of your business setup and you do your best to stick to them. You project manage the timeline and this includes agreeing on clear deadlines for any service providers you outsource to, and check in with them regularly to make sure they have what they need and get feedback on any potential delays.

Starting a new business can be scary, you’ll have times when you’ll doubt yourself or even wonder if it’s all over, but stay positive, ask for help and, most of all, take ownership of your business – you can succeed!

Small business success – What’s the main ingredient?