From the outside, every client’s business is different. But look a little closer at the ones that stand out from the pack, and you’ll find that one thing remains the same — they all have a mindset that makes them unstoppable.

To uncover what defines that out-of-the-box way of thinking, we talked to the talented folks who work with hundreds of small businesses every day — our accountant partners. Marissa McKinney of Logistis, Nick Pasquarosa of Bookkeeper360, Vanessa Kruze of Kruze Consulting, and Donny Shimamoto of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies shared their knowledge on the characteristics they’ve seen among top companies. After studying their patterns and behaviors over the years, these are the four qualities that keep popping up, time and time again.

Successful businesses…

1) Are hungry and take action

McKinney says there are two main traits she sees in extraordinary founders: a balance of vision and tenacity. “A visionary doesn’t wait for opportunity, but instead prepares and creates it.” Express your hunger for growing your business by taking action and putting in some hard work. You might fail a little at first, but that’s the best way to learn — and the only way to succeed. Shimamoto also stresses the importance of setting deadlines to help you get things done. “Just like taxes and financials, set a deadline and hold yourself to it.”

2) Choose technology that makes life easier

Successful companies always ask themselves, “Where can technology help me deliver better or higher-value services?” says Shimamoto. Then, they find solutions that fit the bill. The secret is not just to sign up for services for the sake of it, but choosing ones that are automated and free you up for more high-impact activities.

Our accounting experts recommend several tools that can help you shift your focus from transactions to strategy.

  • Expensify: With an easy-to-use app, submitting expenses is no longer a headache. Pasquarosa says administrators and employees love Expensify’s hassle-free service.
  • Xero: The cloud-based solution makes invoicing and cash flow easy to manage for Pasquarosa and his team. Plus, it has a beautiful interface.
  • Gusto: Kruze uses our platform for payroll and filing business taxes for more than 100 of her clients. She likes how our platform lets her give every client the unique experience they need.

3) Are comfortable with numbers

“Your number one responsibility as a CEO is to never run out of money,” says Kruze. For example, if you don’t understand how spending resources on acquiring customers relates to the lifetime value that those customers create, you could easily be wasting your money, she says. You need to do research, and understand the return on investment you’ll achieve every time you put dollars into a new initiative. A strong financial model will also help you test out different situations, which can allow you to make smarter decisions. If numbers aren’t your strong suit, that’s okay too. You can work with a partner to help steer you to success.

4) Walk in their customers’ shoes

Successful companies put people front and center. By “understanding the inner workings of your customers’ goals, you’re more likely to solve a problem they didn’t even know they had,” Pasquarosa says. To get more insight into your user base, consider meeting with a customer monthly or setting aside an hour each week to get to know them. Talk about their needs, pain points, and dreams for the future. Your users will start trusting you more, which will give you the opportunity to have a sounding board for the ideas you want to try as your business grows.

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. But by studying the traits top companies share, you can discover new ideas, explore opportunities, and according to Kruze, “change the world.”

Christy Roach Christy Roach is a partner marketing manager at Gusto.
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