By Michael Gunther

Twenty years ago this month, I started my business in Atlanta, Georgia (I always have to put Georgia because my friends the Johnsons always get mixed up as to which Atlanta I am referring to) and have been plugging along evolving and changing over the last two decades. In reflection, I have identified lessons learned as an entrepreneur and a leader, that have allowed me to continue thriving both personally and professionally even after two decades of consulting: the 7 P’s of sustainable entrepreneurship.

  1. Purpose – my drive and motivation has always been to be of service and to assist individuals in achieving their goals. Over the years, I found myself getting diverted from my mission due to potential opportunities or challenges that were presented to me as a business owner. Having a clearly defined purpose or mission has become more important as I have grown my businesses to ensure I stay the course, which provides both intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction.
  1. People – they are the most critical component of any business – whether it is employees, customers or suppliers. Therefore, being relationship centered and truly caring about those you interact with only allows you to grow as a leader and achieve the goals you desire. It is not enough to have great people on a team. It is more critical you know how to lead and manage a team to optimize their strengths and abilities, which inspires them to want to help you accomplish whatever tasks are at hand.
  1. Perception – you may feel you have all the answers or understand what is really happening with your organization, but you probably don’t truly know. There is immense value is obtaining an outside perspective from mentors, coaches, customers and employees. Don’t be afraid of receiving feedback. Approach feedback as one of the greatest gifts you can provide yourself to grow as a leader.
  1. Persistence – owning a business can be overwhelming and it can often feel lonely at the top. You may even question your own abilities or approaches as recessions, slumps, or marketplace challenges engulf your best-laid plans. Believe in yourself and in your team. Trust you can, as a group, get through any issue that presents itself by being creatively disciplined and adapting to any situation that comes your way. Don’t lose faith in the process or yourself.
  1. Perseverance – you cannot rest on your laurels. You must constantly be striving to challenge the way you are doing business to ensure your relevance in the marketplace as well as to your customers. Become a relentless learner and never stop developing your knowledge or skills, otherwise you will eventually become extinct.
  1. Profit – at the end of the day, you must be able to create a profitable entity. If not, your purpose, efforts and goals become meaningless. Become outcome focused not just with your internal metrics of performance, but also with the financial well-being of your organization. The lack of consistent profit growth is a symptom of other issues within the organization and must be addressed feverishly as the leader.
  1. Playfulness –have fun with your business. You are going to spend more hours on your business than you do with most other adventures in your life. You have to make sure you are enjoying the journey, even with the ups and downs, along the way and capturing all the amazing moments and stories that you have experienced.

Bottom Line

I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I love and create a business that impacts people’s lives and organizations in amazing ways.  It hasn’t always been easy (there have been times when I wanted to give myself a two weeks notice), but I could not imagine a greater privilege than to have the opportunity to live your dream everyday through influencing others to achieve their dreams and potential, alongside an amazing team. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Here’s to the next 20!

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