The Secret Sauce to a Successful Business

Uncategorized May 24, 2022


There is no magic bullet, no one key to success, and no one thing that you can solve to make your business successful. Every business and business owner is unique. Your mix of employees is unique. Every industry is unique. And every business is at a different stage in its growth. 

These 4 stages of growth are:

  • Startup
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Renewal or decline

Each comes with unique challenges that your business will need to find creative solutions to overcome.

Many people consider the first stage of a business's life cycle to be the riskiest. In fact, only about 80% of startups with employees survive the first year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, whichever stage of business growth you’re in, knowing where you are can help with your company’s strategic planning and long-term success.

But at the end of the day, is there really a formula for success? 


The Three-Legged Stool

The three things all businesses need to sustain long-term success.

The theory of the Three-Legged Stool goes like this: Imagine your business is a stool and that stool is being supported by three legs --- the company or business owners, the customer, and the employee. Take away any one of the three, the business will fail or fall just like a three-legged stool without one of its legs. 


It’s a critical way to think of things in a small business environment where you have to satisfy the needs of these three branches.


My version of this theory begins by asking these three questions:

  • What’s in it for the Customer? 
  • What’s in it for the Employee? And, 
  • What’s in it for the Company?

The Customer

Are you addressing what matters to your customers? You may have spent quite some time identifying your key performance indicators (KPI) to measure customer satisfaction. But, it’s also important to go deeper and discover if you are asking the right questions. 

Specifically, what’s in it for a customer to buy from you instead of Brand X? 

Without a unified strategy that defines what you do for your customers, it’s difficult to establish what is needed to maintain customer satisfaction. 

“Satisfied” can be vague. It may just mean the customer isn’t actively looking to replace you. This, however, opens a small window of opportunity for your competitors to sneak in and win your customers away.  Especially if they are clear on their company’s strategy and why they are the better option. 

A clearly communicated message that provides a compelling reason to the customer easily replaces “satisfied” with “excited” --- and excited customers are generally loyal customers.


The Employees

Create a culture where your leadership team communicates a clear strategy that encourages employee engagement. How do you do that? You find an answer to this question: 

Are they a good fit for the company? If not, then they have to go. It’s better for both the employee and the company for them to work somewhere where their values and goals do align. 

By determining if their values and goals align with the company, then you would know if  your answer to this question would resonate with them:

What specifically is in it for your employees who work for you instead of Brand X?

By successfully weeding out employees who are not a good fit, you will be able to build trust, confidence, and pride with your employees. Your team will find it much easier to know what to contribute and what they need to communicate to your customers. 


To build an engaged high-performance team, you need to:

  • Identify the strategy in which the leadership shares and believes in. 
  • Align your KPIs and customer satisfaction standards to that strategy.
  • Communicate with your people so that they are clear on the strategy, their role and responsibilities, and how the strategy is being measured.
  • Be prepared to listen to your employees for front line feedback for future adjustments to your strategy. 

The Company

It all begins with identifying the needs, goals, and values of your company, from there you will know your strategy. After all, that’s what everybody is focused on as they show up and work every day, right? This business plan will become your roadmap for making major decisions that would directly affect your other two legs. 

Here are some steps you can take to create your business strategy:

  • Develop a true, actionable vision
  • Define competitive advantage 
  • Define your targets
  • Think long-term but be flexible 
  • Measure your results 


As I learned from experience, there is no single, straight path to starting a successful small business. Many don’t survive their first few years --- it’s hard and unpredictable. Business owners can’t control everything, but you can set yourself up for success by learning what makes profitable businesses different from those that fail.

So, what would I do differently if I could do it all over again? I would apply this Three-Legged Theory much sooner. And I can tell you, my life would be a lot easier way earlier than it was.


If you’re interested in learning more about Service Industry Success, subscribe to my podcast “SIS” by Brian Harding.



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