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Why do most businesses fail on an epic scale?

Why do some businesses flourish and have consumers banging down their doors, while similar companies sit idly by, withering away? Let’s talk about the obvious, yet frequently overlooked ingredients of a successful business.

hard work

hard work

Insights from 43 years in business

Sometimes we make things more complicated then need be, don’t we? The ultra popularity of being online and in business has found half of us wondering how to market our product/service, while the other half thinks they have it wired enough to show us how. Clearly, integrity must be the cornerstone of any business, but assuming that’s in place, what are the common denominators shared by long term successful businesses? 43 years ago today, I was given the answer to that question in no uncertain terms. It’s not a ‘secret.’ It’s not high tech, as it was as true a few thousand years ago as it was that day in 1969, and is now.

There are many, but the most important common denominators are the results delivered, along with the knowledge and expertise required to produce those results. Yeah, I know, hard work. But if anyone needs to be told hard work is a requirement of long term business success, they’re not cut out to be a business owner. Fair enough?

Many just reading that short paragraph are scoffing derisively. I get it — ‘Duh!’ right? But take a step back and review all of the businesses you’ve chosen to supply you with the product and service results you require. Are they all delivering you superlative results? Are you ecstatic with the value you’re receiving for the money? In your own view, how many businesses do you know of, whether or not you use them, that demonstrate superior knowledge and expertise while generating excellent results routinely? Go ahead, take your time, no rush. It’s a depressingly low percentage, isn’t it?

What’s the key question?

How do things work, exactly? That is, given the results you plan to deliver, how do you make them happen? Again, don’t scoff. Simple principles are often extremely difficult to execute. For instance, in my town, San Diego, you can’t swing a dead cat without hittin’ a small neighborhood taco shop. They’re definitely not all created equal. In some it doesn’t matter what you order, it’s going to be exquisite. In others, not so much. How hard is it to make a carne asada burrito? A rolled taco? See what I mean? Unless you’re providing a service requiring a Ph.D from M.I.T., there are probably thousands competing for the same customers. The reason the top 5% are where they are is due to their ability to do what the other 95% are doing, but measurably better — and probably in many ways, on several levels.

They’re able to do this for a few Captain Obvious reasons.

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  • Generally speaking, they’re far more knowledgable about what matters, top to bottom, than their competitors.
  • Their expertise, real expertise, resides at a level far and away higher than most in their industry – at least in their market.
  • They literally have thousands more hours of experience — successful experience — than their competition.
  • They deliver the bottom line RESULTS for which they’re paid.

People want results — the rest is HappyTalk.

Marketing experts wax poetic about their place in the process, a well deserved spot if they also produce results. Folks talk about branding, service, and convenience. I’m sure you know the drill well. But when the smoke clears, and the fruits of our labor are put up for all to see, will the typical business owner be proud? Or will they be a bit red-faced? Most businesses, I’d say the vast majority, produce one of two things — results, or endless reasons why the results are weak or nonexistent.

This isn’t rocket science

Everybody talks about bringing home the bacon, but few ever really deliver. Having both the knowledge and expertise to create results are indispensable when the agenda is to produce results. Experience? Obviously to be highly valued, but can be gained while doing– however, NOT without the knowledge and expertise. Failed businesses often find the real culprit was that faking those two factors simply doesn’t cut it. The public knows genuine results when they see it. They’re equally skilled at discerning bona fide knowledge and expertise.

You’re a business owner, or you are thinking of taking the leap and starting one. Are you all that knowledgeable about what it takes to make things work? Do you have the skill sets, the flat out, slam dunk expertise required? If you’re able to answer ‘yes’ without hesitation, my money’s on your business success. I was taught early and often that ‘success begets success.’ It wasn’t until I’d learned these lessons that I finally understood what it meant. In the business world, at least over the long run, success = results. The more often and consistently your business produces the results desired by customers/clients, the more success you’ll have. See what I mean?

This isn’t rocket science. But if it’s so dang simple, why do the majority of businesses fail so miserably?

It’s the difference between a simple concept and its not so simple execution. People will literally chase you down to pay for the results they want.

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Written By

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.



  1. Joe Loomer

    October 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I was going to question the premise of “They literally have thousands more hours of experience – successful experience — than their competition.” Then I realized successful hours of experience didn’t have to necessarily be in the specific industry they are now operating in – but rather that experience could come from a previous industry or career, but carries over.

    • Jeff Brown

      October 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      @Joe Loomer Though thousands of hours of experience in a specific calling is what separates the merely good from the elite, your point is well taken. In fact, I’ll go a step farther. Dad’s firm was in San Diego, a big time Navy town. He never had less than three retired Chiefs workin’ for him. 🙂 Those guys always succeeded, and almost from their first day. They were often awkward and clumsy at first, but once they got their ‘sea legs’ they rocked. I once asked Dad why the Chiefs did so well. That’s when I learned that Admirals don’t run the Navy, Chiefs do. 🙂

      • Joe Loomer

        October 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        @Jeff Brown Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Prest and Naegele

    November 20, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Very interesting article Jeff. I would also add planning next to the necessary experience. Here I mean not just the business plan but cost control as well.
    Additionally, some entrepreneurs believe they can do everything on their own, and keep the bookkeeping and do the accounting, while their time would be so much better invested in growing the business. And many lack vision, including financial vision.
    We actually wrote more on the topic, including business-failure due to the lack of succession plan and even rapid expansion in one of our articles:
    Hope it helps!
    Andrew W.

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