The characteristics of sustainable success

At our Cog:ent Group meeting on 18 April 2013, run in partnership with HSBC and Chantrey Vellacott , we will be exploring the key characteristics of sustainable success for ambitious business owners.

These characteristics are drawn from practitioner observations and academic research with over 1000 business. The work has resulted in a range of complementary and overlapping themes:

These themes will be explored further at the meeting. For some more background information, please click on each of the links above.

The journey of the ambitious business owner

The following themes summarise our learning and key observations drawn from years of working with hundreds of business owners.  They look to identify what is required to create success for an ambitious business owner who is keen to create a business that builds a heritage and thrives from generation to generation.

These, and further themes, have been developed and explored in depth through our work and at our regular Compass Meetings. To view them in presentation format please click on the link (130409 ABO themes of sustainable success).

Starting the journey

What fundamental question or problem is your business trying to solve?

Curiosity might have killed the cat but it made the entrepreneur. Of all the success stories that we have seen over the years there is one thing that connects the founding moment – it was born from question rather than a dream. Meanwhile, the people we met with the dreams appear still to be dreaming.

Making it happen

Who has the problem you want to solve and how can you help them solve it – now?

Openly exploring the question with others builds the energy and momentum required to help an idea take flight. The process of solving small problem builds the confidence to take on bigger ones. Soon the magnetic attraction to the idea becomes so strong that there is no other option than to make it happen.

Maintaining a driving ambition

How driven and wise is your ambition?

It is ambition, a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the current state combined with a belief that it can and must be better, that the drives a business forward. The ability to maintain this youthful driving energy and combine it with the wisdom of experience is essential.

Building resilience to crises

How will you survive and thrive in your next crisis?

Crises are inevitable in business, they also stimulate growth. Creating personal and business resilience to these crises and learning to sail on the changing tide is critical to the achievement of continued growth.

Learning to lead

What team do you need to build, to allow you to do what only you can do?

Many business owners change the title on their business card as the business grows. Very few manage to adopt the behaviours required for their new role. Learning to act and behave as a CEO of your own business is perhaps the most fundamental and challenging aspect of achieving success.

Holding yourself to account

How will you ensure you achieve what you plan to achieve? And, do it for the long-term benefit of the business?

Owning, leading and ensuring good governance of your own business comes with a great responsibility, behaving as a good steward is critical. The act of creating formal and informal ways to build accountability for thought, action and result is an absolute necessity.

Achieve a successful exit

What will allow you to exit with a strong sense of pride?

Exit is not about selling the business – it is about creating options for the business to live out the founding principles whilst finding the right leadership and ownership for the next stage of growth. The focus must be on building a strong business and exploring how and when the transition will take place.

If you would like to discover more about our work with ambitious business owners and would like a conversation to explore the relevance of these themes to you and your business, please visit our website or contact