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What makes a business successful?

Ask your Average Joe on the street what makes a business successful and you'll likely hear something about making a lot of money. But as a business professional, you know there's a lot more to success than just what gets put in the bank. Even companies that start out comfortably in the black need a lot more than sheer luck to survive. In fact, according to Inc. magazine, only 39.8 percent of small businesses last beyond the six-year mark and only one-third survive 10 years or longer. So what is it about these companies that helps them rise through the ranks?

A recent ProOpinion poll found that 43 percent of business professionals considered a strong customer focus as the most important element to a successful business. Using resources effectively and efficiently to execute business strategies was also considered significant, chosen by 33 percent of professionals. The organizational capability to support critical business objectives only received 9 percent of the votes, while 14 percent of the business professionals chose the "Other" category. Here's what might fit into that unspecified "Other."

"Inc. 5000 list companies show a greater use of technology than those not on the list."

Taking advantage of technology
Mintigo, a market trend analysis software company, recently used its technology to research what makes an Inc. 5000 company successful. According to its data, companies on the list showed a greater use of technology to achieve business goals than those not included in the list. Inc. pointed out that services like Gmail, AdWords and marketing automation can help improve a business's productivity and branding efforts. Call center, data warehouse and cloud technology can also be boons to businesses looking to improve their productivity and offerings.

Keeping thorough records
Investopedia pointed out that keeping detailed records helps successful companies know where the business stands financially and which challenges could crop up. Having this information can help business professionals develop strategies to avoid potential pitfalls that could prove disastrous for the bottom line. There's nothing worse than being blindsided by something you could've easily prepared for if you'd only paid a little more attention.

Continuously innovating
As Forbes magazine put it, all radical ideas that have a good base to build off of are going to be imitated. A successful business knows this, and is prepared to fight off the imitators who are looking to make a quick buck based off of their hard work. To avoid getting lost in the fray, companies have to embrace continuous innovation to make sure they're always offering something more than their competitors that makes their business stand out. Don't put a halt to creativity just because what you've been doing has worked so far. You need to be sure that your strategy will continue to work even with others who are crowding the market.

Analyzing the competition
While continuous innovation can help ensure that you won't fall victim to another company's more creative efforts, analysis of the competition can also solidify your business strategies and put you ahead of the game. Investopedia noted that "competition breeds the best results," so make a point to learn all that you can from your competitors. Figure out what they're doing right and what they aren't doing as well as you are, and use this information to tweak your business strategy and achieve your goals.

Successful businesses overcome competition with innovation and analysis.Successful businesses overcome competition with innovation and analysis.

Compromising wisely
There are some aspects of your company's vision that should never be changed, like the mission statement and core values. But, according to Forbes, flexibility in smaller matters is an absolute necessity for successful businesses wishing to remain relevant. "Bending to the market" by using customer feedback to make changes is important to ensure that your business continues to achieve its objectives.

Using lean business principles
Forbes outlined that using lean business principles from day one is an effective way to ensure that a business does not exceed its budget and eventually go under. The goal is to simply keep the business afloat until you've figured out how to achieve success. You don't need flashy offices or fancy business dinners - those things will come later. For now, cut back on business spending. You might even want to build up a reserve just in case something goes sour. Tight budgeting and a few sacrifices along the way can really pay off in the long run.

Making smart sacrifices
Speaking of financial sacrifices, a few personal ones might be necessary in the beginning. Business professionals eager to build up a successful business need to put in a lot of work, and that comes at a price. You may need to work longer hours, spend less time with friends and family or cut back on your personal spending - especially as an entrepreneur. But once you've used these strategies to ensure that your business remains successful, the world will be your oyster.

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