By Michael Gunther

I’ve begun the process of writing my first book. I’m focusing on why some business leaders seem to be able to grow their companies successfully, while others struggle and struggle just to survive.

This journey started many years ago, as did my interest in this topic, but as of late, I’ve begun to more clearly identify the similarities and distinct differences between these business owners. You’ll find many books about what it takes to be a successful business owner—the internet is full of resources, too, as well as the plethora of seminars and workshops available. But after nearly 20 years of working with business owners and leaders, I’ve identified three critical elements necessary to break through from the ‘always surviving mode’ to the ‘truly thriving mode.’ The bottom line: it’s all about you.

It’s about your ideas, energy, and passion, but more importantly, it’s about three additional key elements: 1) an inclusive proactive attitude, 2) a willingness to be continuously learning, and 3) a readiness to change your behaviors. There are other components needed, like strong internal structures, processes, communication, and a solid measurement system, but you could have all of that in place and still not thrive at the end of the day if you don’t have the right attitude, skills, and behaviors.

I know you may feel like you’re working hard and you have all of these attributes, but I believe that if you’re not achieving the goals you want, if you’re not building your business like you want, it’s your fault—not the economy, not the marketplace, not your employees. That’s right—it’s all about you.

If you truly embraced these concepts, you’d be thriving. I think many people have a higher sense of self and believe they’re doing the right things—but once you peel away the surface approaches or strategies, it boils down to these key components:


  • “Survivors”: Individuals who blame everyone else for their lack of success, from elected officials to their customers, everyone but themselves. In addition, they have a negative attitude towards their situation and their employees. Who wants to buy from or work for a leader who’s a downer?
  • “Thrivers”: People who are willing to jump in and lead the charge to solve any issue. They also have a solid vision, but are realistic as to what it’s going to take to achieve their goals. In addition, they tend to have a strong belief in the power of their people—they realize if they make their team successful, they will be successful.

Continuous Learning

  • “Survivors”: Also known as seminar roadies, book junkies, guru followers—they know the latest information on management, seek out the one right answer, and yet they’re not applying anything. And then they wonder why they keep getting the same results time and time again.
  • “Thrivers”: Continuously learning from everything they do—small decisions and big decisions. They seek out counsel, whether it’s from other leaders, consultants, or industry peers. They realize they don’t have all the answers, but are willing to find the right answers. Most importantly they’re willing to apply and change their behaviors and processes.

Which leads us to the third key element…

Behavior Change

  • “Survivors”: They have the knowledge and tools, but are not willing to truly change how they’re doing things. This is by and far the biggest hindrance to a company becoming a thriving entity. Sometimes their behaviors are deep rooted, and sometimes they are just habits. But the lack of a true desire to change will only bring the same results, if not worse results, over time.
  • “Thrivers”: They realize they’re the ones who need to change. They are humble and willing to adjust as necessary to reach their goals. Think of top athletes, consistently changing their approaches and skills. Sometimes even a small modification can lead to significant improvement in results. They’re focused on their goals—not their ego getting in the way of their goals.

Bottom Line

Not reaching your goals? Take a hard look at yourself. Better yet, get real, honest feedback from those around you—employees, peers, partners, etc. Be open to their input (if you’re defensive it might indicate that they truly identified an area for growth). Learn from it, and change your attitude, behaviors, and/or skills. Then we’ll talk about how you’re moving forward!

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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