A 'Secret Sauce' Recipe for Success

You won't get there by standing still. Market your business, look for new revenue sources and get financially fit.

By: Chia-Li Chien | Published 04/12/2010

When I was born, it was a custom for grandmothers to consult a fortune teller for a prediction about the baby's life. According to my mother, the fortune teller told my grandmother: "Chia-Li is the most blessed person in the entire family." As I progressed in my life and career, I always resented that prediction. I work so hard, went through the devastation of placing my developmentally disabled son in a facility, learned to speak English, fought in a man's world and built a business. How could that statement be true? Why can't my life prediction be "most successful business owner" or "millionnaire status"? By the way, those were my siblings' life predictions, and they all came true.

Geoffrey Colvin and Malcolm Gladwell did extensive research to uncover the "success secret sauce," which they wrote about in their respective books, Talent is Overrated and Outliers. Millions of self-help books have been written to help people attract wealth, become successful or become "somebody." I even wrote a book, Show Me the Money, about that very topic. There are also books touting the opposite, such as Patricia Ryan Madson's Improv Wisdom, Ken Blanchard's The Simple Truths of Service and even the Oscar Award-winning best animated film, UP.

One of my clients experienced such severe fluctuations in her business revenue that she had to downsize her company to the bare bones just to keep it going. She was depressed, unenthusiastic and often wondered, "What's the point?" She attributes her shrunken revenue to the overall economy. But many businesses out there continue to do well despite the economy. In George Cloutier's Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing, he concluded: "It's not the economy, it's you."

If you are a professor at a university, getting tenure is often your goal or your measurement of success. When you obtained tenure, you felt like you had accomplished something in life. For my fellow entrepreneurs, there is no tenure for any business, not even an Oscar--just the world's 100 richest people. As we watch our fellow business owners close their businesses and take jobs, a few begin to wonder, what's the point? Well, we're coming to the juncture where you are the last business owner standing in your industry. Regardless of your revenue level, if you're still standing today, you'll be ahead of the game when the economy recovers. To successfully stay in the game, you must continue to build a solid foundation for your future and be able to deal with economic unknowns. Consider the following:

1. Consistent marketing in good and bad times. It is not about what the hottest social media tool is, it's about consistent marketing. Most businesses don't do marketing until something goes wrong. I love this quote from Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber: "Nothing happens until money changes hands." All marketing takes time, and it leads to sales if you market to the right target audience consistently.

2. Discover and explore other revenue sources. For many down industries such as construction and real estate, it's never too late to look at other revenue sources. Look deep inside your business's core competency. You might be surprised to find the potential for a new revenue source. Ideally, you want to reconceptualize your business model to ensure you can consistently generate revenue in various niches. If you don't innovate, someone else will take your market share.

3. Get financially fit. One good thing that came out of the economic downturn was many financially fit businesses
are showing a bigger profit after reducing company spending. It's time for financially unhealthy businesses to get fit quickly. This is a great time to re-examine which financial numbers you should monitor regularly. That means weekly, if necessary. In The Upside of the Downturn, another book by Geoffrey Colvin, he lists some of the key performance indicators for publicly traded companies. For example, you have to make a profit on every product or service you sell.

My grandmother's trusted fortune teller was absolutely right: I am the most blessed person in the world. In this turbulent economy, I am still standing strong and continuing to provide value-added advice for my clients. I watch every one of my clients increase his or her revenue and experience a jump in net profit. I am so proud of them, and it's such a joy to work with them.

There's no tenure status for entrepreneurs, but each one of us has to obtain financial independence from our business. Doing nothing is not going to make you the last person standing in the game. Stay focused and on track about what you set out to do.


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at www.chialichien.com or jolly@chialichien.com.


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