> Caring. It starts with caring enough about yourself and your dreams to stay committed to achieving your goals. You have to care enough about yourself to firmly believe that you deserve success and the good things that come with it. Just as important is caring about your staff and creating a positive work environment for them. Protect their sanity from the clients who want to chew them up and from new-hires who don’t fit in and hurt morale. Be supportive when stressful situations arise in their lives outside of work. And ensure everyone has the knowledge and tools they need to be successful. Of course, none of us gets far at all if we don’t care about our customers. Give them the best exchange possible for their money. Be willing to listen to their concerns, take responsibility for mistakes, and correct them.
> Courage. Thirty years ago, I probably would never have said it takes courage to lead a small business, but without it, I assure you, you’ll fail. There are dragons and quicksand and dark woods all around. You’ll find them in the day-to-day problems, the obstacles you didn’t see lying in wait, the risks you must take, and the stresses involved with honoring your obligations to everyone working with and for you. Trust me, your courage will grow every time you push your fear behind you and deal with what frightens you.
> Confidence. Think of the many challenges you’ve faced in your life, and the many times you’ve overcome them. Bring that confidence to your business. Believing that you can reach for and achieve your short- and long-term goals is essential to getting you there.
> Competence. Competence comes from knowledge and experience. Hone it by staying up on the trends and disruptions in your industry. One of the most important roles a leader plays is as the visionary for her company. That means you can’t, and shouldn’t, take on jobs for which you’re not qualified. You’ll make yourself miserable and your business will suffer. Hire an accountant to handle the financials. Get marketing help if that’s not your thing. As for employees, take the time to hire competent people who you’ll trust in their jobs — and then trust them!
> Commitment. Stay dedicated to your goals no matter how difficult that becomes. That may mean taking painful measures, as it did for me after the 9/11 terrorist attacks put the brakes on the economy. There came a point for my business when all hope looked lost. I had to make drastic cuts, including letting go beloved employees. For more than a year, I ramped up marketing efforts, diversified our services, and took other steps to get the business out of the red. In 2005, I succeeded — and it has been upward and onward ever since.