November marked 19 years since Ark Advance began. Given that between 43% and 58% of New Zealand businesses fail within five years, this anniversary is something to celebrate.

The last few months have tested the resilience of the most well-established businesses, and I’ve been reminded that loving what you do is essential to long-term success. Willpower will only get you so far and may not be enough when times get tough.

Loving what I do has helped Ark Advance reach this milestone, and I’d like to share some other lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Team culture, values and mission

These things do make a difference. I discovered this when I finally engaged a company to help the team document Ark Advance’s values and mission statement – 10 years in. I should have done this in year one.

Looking back, there were several instances when it would have helped to have a clear statement of what we believe in and how we expect our people to behave—with each other, with customers and suppliers, and with other stakeholders..

Some marketing problems are harder to solve than others

A super smart person with an average business opportunity can sometimes make it work, but if the business proposition is too challenging, it may be that no-one could make it work.

On the other hand, a great business opportunity can be successfully managed with a much wider range of capabilities. That said, great businesses don’t automatically grow on their own. While they may get some organic growth, word of mouth only gets you so far.

Investing in marketing will bring your business the growth it deserves. 

You are not your business, but who you are will affect how your business runs

If you like risks, then your business will probably take risks. If you are conservative, then it’s likely your business will operate this way too. Sometimes, however, what’s best for your business will require you to act in a way that is not like you. That’s when you need to grow so that your business can grow too.

Your attitude sets the tone for the day

When you enter the office or the Zoom meeting in the morning, like it or not, what you say or the energy you exude will set the day’s mood for the rest of your team. 

We all know attitude is contagious and it’s important to check yours at the door. If you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, your team will demonstrate the same. Conversely, if you are withdrawn, abrasive or sarcastic, life will get sucked out of your team.

Money is about value, not time or things

Designing a business that delivers great value is more sustainable than trying to create a business that will make you the most money. It may take longer to achieve your goals, but once you get there, your success will last a lot longer.

As a bonus, you will make more friends than enemies along the way!

Find someone who is good with tax

The devil is in the details. I have been fortunate to have my wife Claire by my side all the way.  Without her, we would have barely made it past the first tax payment. As many hopeful business owners have learnt, tax is one of those things you may not realise you’re getting wrong until it’s too late.