The highest common factors of success

Success is the product of a process. Success doesn’t just happen, it is made to happen. Success is rarely accidental, but usually the outcome of carefully thought-out and deliberate actions. For any individual or organisation to be successful, some conditions precedent must be satisfied. However, it is not every person or organisation that is willing to take the steps that would ensure success; hence, while success is always within the reach of everyone and every organisation, the inability of some persons and organisations to do what is required always makes it perpetually elusive to them.

Among all success-enabling factors, here are the six highest common ones. These are found in everyone and every organisation that has recorded considerable success.



Every great endeavour starts with a vision. A vision is a guide into the future. A life without a vision is a recipe for disaster. Just like an aircraft cannot fly successfully without a compass, so can’t men and organisations excel without a clearly stated vision. Without a carefully crafted vision, life will be laborious. As observed by J.J. Watt, “If you don’t have that vision for the end goal, you have no clue where you’re going, and you’re going to work very hard to go nowhere.”

Without vision, there is nothing to aspire to. Without vision, motivation to beat odds will be nil. Without vision, several options will beckon. Vision is great because it brings focus to activities and prevents wasteful deployment of resources. Once a person or an organisation decides on a vision, all energies are channeled towards the actualisation of the vision, other things become insignificant.

However, having a vision is not a guarantee for success because the vision has to be broken down into actionable parts to be meaningful. It is when the actionable bits are religiously executed that success is achieved.



To be successful, you must be willing to render a service. Service is making life easy for others, it is also solving problem for others. Every great person knows this and uses it; every great business understands it and applies it. Rendering high quality service is the edge which world-beaters have over others. Those who render high quality service as well as those that solve problems are held in high esteem by the rest and have access to many things which are denied others. To register your name among the list of the highly successful, render services which even your detractors cannot pooh-pooh.

While offering great service is the pathway to success and immortality, rendering poor services is the pathway to failure and mortality. This fact was not clear to the management of the Nigerian Telecommunication Service (NITEL) until it was too late.

Before the advent of GSM in Nigeria, NITEL, the government agency saddled with the provision of telecommunication services in the country, was a lord unto itself and a pain to everybody else. Being a monopoly, the organisation rode roughshod over its customers. It had zero respect for those who used its services and had little consideration for their feelings. Customers were treated as a burden; complaints by them were swept under the carpet. To get any service from the organisation would involve either acquaintance with the company’s top shots or a willingness by the service seeker to grease the palms of NITEL staff members. To get a small problem fixed, customers would be subjected to a range of traumatic experiences and would often have to sacrifice a whole day.

To improve telecommunication service in the country, the government liberalised the sector and licensed other service providers. After the GSM licence auctions for operators, the government gave NITEL a free licence and was asked to compete with others in the provision of mobile telephone services. However, the company was worsted by competition because its services could not hold a candle to its competitors’. Its inability to offer quality service sounded its death knell.

For those who plan to succeed, offering quality service is non-negotiable.

Great service is fuelled by knowledge and excellence. If you do your work the way others do theirs, you will get a result that is not different from others’. Offering quality service will not be realisable without increasing knowledge. Therefore, to position yourself to continually offer first class services, you have to be unrepentantly committed to deepening your knowledge about your industry and the market. When you deepen your knowledge, you are able to champion innovations and you keep your customers worshipping at your altar. That is the secret of Apple, Virgin, MTN, Globacom, Amazon and others in that class.

To be successful, you have to be outstanding and that means exceeding expectations. So, becoming successful requires going the extra mile to keep your publics satisfied and happy.



The average human being is selfish; everyone wants to take advantage of others.  Therefore, those who demonstrate selflessness stand out and position themselves for success and greatness. When individuals exhibit selflessness they become heroes, when organisations show that they are not in business just to milk and bilk customers, they tower above their peers.


An Imam’s heroic act

When suspected herders stormed a village in Plateau State a while ago, about 300 of the villagers, mostly Christians, had no choice but to flee to the neighbouring Nghar village in Gashish District in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area. On arrival at Nghar, they found out that the only safe place for them was a mosque. They went into the mosque and were sheltered and shielded from harm by an 83-year old Imam, Abubakr Abdullahi.

When the attackers got to his village, Abdullahi, in spite of the obvious danger to him, did not give up the Christians. There were sporadic shootings and stampede but he ensured the safety of the Christians.

The news about Abdullahi’s heroic act later got out. He was recognised by the Plateau State government and was also invited to the State House by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Until that development, Abdullahi was a nobody. If he had put his own safety first and had refused to protect the Christians, he would have remained a nonentity. But by being selfless, he now enjoys national recognition.

Many business owners believe that a business exists to make profit, so their focus is maximisation of profit. They try all they can to squeeze as much as they can out of their customers. But such businesses always end up struggling. The companies that thrive are those that are not focused on profit but on doing more for their customers. Companies that are motivated by doing more for their customers offer excellent services at affordable prices. They also get involved in corporate social responsibility. Organisations that put profit before quality service struggle with low patronage and poor cash flow.



Donald Trump, a former president of the United States of America, says “Without passion, you don’t have energy; without energy, you have nothing.”

He is very correct.

Passion is a matter of the heart. It is life’s lubricant. It is a blend of love and keenness. The process starts with love which is buoyed by fervency and results in the total devotion of a person to a particular endeavour. Passion is putting body, soul and spirit into a venture. It is the total commitment of an individual to the actualisation of an idea or a project. For those who lack passion, success will be a mirage.

The focus of passion is beyond pecuniary compensation; it is about making an impact. To be passionate about a thing is to be totally consumed by it to the extent that it is the last thing on one’s mind before falling asleep and the first for consideration once awake.

Without passion life loses its spirit. Without passion life is reduced to mere existence. Without passion life is flat and uninspiring. Passion is what keeps one on the go and makes life a worthwhile experience. Every life that will experience success must be driven by passion.

Though passion is intangible, it is perceptible and distinguishes a person from the crowd. It is contagious and draws people to whoever possesses it.

According to John Wesley, “When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.” That is the power of passion. A passionate person cannot be ignored; he is a centre of attraction. He has got the vigour to accomplish what is required and everybody wants to be part of the show. So, irrespective of his station in life, a passionate person wields considerable influence because people are naturally drawn to him. With influence comes power, and power, among other things, is a harbinger of affluence.


Unilever’s dilemma

Unilever was at a crossroads. The company had tried everything it could to become a more enterprising and competitive industry leader but nothing seemed to work. The more it attempted to hit the set target, the more it remained the same.

Then chairman of the Anglo-Dutch food and health products multinational, Antony Burgmans, captured the frustration of the board thus, “As we launched into our growth strategy, I realised that I didn’t feel right: something was missing. We were doing all the right things: a new, focused strategy; shareholder support; a new organisation structure; and good people in place. But something was wrong – the critical piece was missing. What I saw was that though we had an excellent change strategy, and an inspiring vision, what was really required to bring about change at Unilever was a new culture, a new leadership mindset, and new behaviours.”

Though Burgmans’ prognosis of the situation was apt, his prescription was not. The solution to the company’s challenge was not found until the intervention of a top management staff who noted that “Our leaders have done every kind of strategic planning in the book, facilitated by the best business school professors and management gurus. They don’t need another strategy, and the last thing they need is another stakeholder analysis! What the company’s leaders need most is to put passion behind their dreams and the strategy.”

Unilever did not emerge from the quandary in which it was stuck until it appointed passionate leaders who infused the whole system with great passion. Once that was done, productivity, culture, mindset, behaviour and result changed positively and all the targets the company had long longed to hit became a reality.



Consistency is the room where greatness is conceived, shaped and birthed. Nothing of lasting significance is ever accomplished without consistency. Hence, as observed by Tony Robbins, an American businessman, it is not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It is what we do on a consistent basis. Every great athlete knows this. So does every outstanding artist, musician, engineer, footballer and entrepreneur. The more consistent a person is at executing a task, the more proficient he becomes at it. Consistency results in momentum and compound effect which build a powerful force in favour of the consistent.

Inconsistency often arises from lack of priority. Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, counsels that first things must be put first. He adds that the key to achieving this is not to prioritise what’s on one’s schedule but to schedule one’s priorities. To be consistent, you have to decide what is important to you and do it irrespective of the challenges or difficulties you may encounter. People fail to be consistent in doing a thing when they lose cognisance of its importance.



Without courage, the best a person can be is ordinary. It takes courage to run with a vision, it takes courage to rally people behind the vision, it takes courage to be innovative, it takes courage to expand the market, it requires courage to venture into uncharted areas, courage is necessary to steer an organisation off a dead end into a stirring but little known area, it takes courage to take tough decisions, it takes courage to stay the course when others are making a detour, it also takes courage to admit an error. So, without courage, nothing much gets done.

Any thriving organisation or nation must have had the good fortune of being led by a courageous individual. What most leaders do shortly after assuming office is to settle into a mode, resisting the urge to rock the boat. They do the expedient, not the essential. The expedient is routine, the essential is what transforms an organisation into an institution, a reference point.


Joining the Joneses

A former CEO of the US-based Air Products and Chemical Inc. once lamented that it took his team two months to decide and plan layoffs, two weeks to execute same and two years to recover from the backlash. When asked why the company had to do what would eventually hurt so much, he said that was the expectation of Wall Street and other CEOs. The man was not convinced that sacking his staff would be helpful to his organisation but because the financial markets and other company chief executives expected the action, he did not have the courage to stave off the exercise. However, his company had to pay for his cowardly act for two years. That is the life of many leaders; they choose popularity over exceptionality.

Courage consists of two major components; competence and character.

Competence breeds confidence, which also produces courage. A leader who is on top of the situation in his organisation and abreast of development in his industry will be able to take well-informed decisions and reject injudicious counsel. A competent leader will be able to challenge the status quo, try new things and tread where angels dread because of the information at his disposal.

A strong character is a product of integrity. Integrity is adhering to the highest standards in all situations. Courage is the first casualty of unethical leadership. Anyone who cannot check his own excesses will find it extremely difficult to rein in his subordinates. His moral deficit will rob him of the courage to do the right things because he knows that the basis of his action could be easily challenged. So, he lacks the courage to go against the grain; he cannot afford to defy the odds. Neither does he have the courage to follow his heart when everything looks bleak because he knows that his cupboard is filled with skeletons.


Last line

Success does not happen by happenstance, it is always a result of deliberate decisions and actions.

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