The Key to Achieving Business Success—No Matter What Obstacle You Face—Comes Down to This

by Apr 4, 2023

Let me ask you a question. Why do some businesses succeed while others fail? After all, every business face challenges. So why do some companies sail through turmoil while others are forced to shut down? Why, in the face of supply chain problems, rising inflation, the Great Resignation, and the Quiet Quitting movement, do some companies thrive while others fold?

The answer to all of these questions is the same—and it may surprise you. However, after spending more than 20 years working as a CEO for private equity firms and guiding struggling businesses to massive growth, I can say with absolute certainty that the key to success comes down to one thing: mindset.

When you decide you want to succeed—and really put your mind toward making that happen—there’s a high probability you’ll find success. Without that drive and conviction, though, you’re defeated right out of the gate. This is not to say that mindset is the only key to success. But it is the foundation for it. To illustrate what I mean, let me share two examples from my personal life. I believe these experiences will provide a blueprint for you to move forward successfully as well, no matter what obstacles come your way.

The Decision to Quit

When I was in the military, I took up smoking. I was far from unique; a lot of people smoked in the service, especially back then. Like so many, I talked about quitting—but like so many, I never did. For 20 years, the cycle continued: talking about quitting, but never quite fully succeeding at it. Then, things changed. I was getting married, and my wife and I were planning to have kids one day. That realization got me thinking about the fact that my grandfathers both died of lung cancer. My uncle died of pancreatic cancer (which is often tied to heavy smoking). Another uncle—also a heavy smoker—died of cardiac problems.

I came to one inescapable conclusion: for people in my family, smoking equals early death.
That realization shifted my whole mindset. I’d had enough of the excuses, so I quit, cold turkey. Was it easy? No. But that mental shift made all the difference; once I made up my mind that I was no longer going to smoke, every decision I made supported that choice. In other words, my mindset was the foundation for my success.

Facing the Widow Maker

Fast forward to my 50th birthday. I had been feeling a little sluggish, a little fatigued, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. Every test they gave me came back fine. They told me I was in good health, but something felt off. So, I asked them to keep digging.

Eventually, they gave me a 3D CT scan. They found what’s known as a “widow maker:” a 90 percent blockage and an 80 percent blockage in the same left descending coronary artery. Left unchecked, those two blockages probably would have resulted in a fatal heart attack.

As a result, I spent my 50th birthday on a cardiac catheterization table getting two stents put into my heart. No gag gifts of Epsom salts, “over the hill” balloons, or adult diapers for me! But it was okay—I came through the surgery with flying colors. I went to see the doctor every six months, but I didn’t change my lifestyle or diet. Why should I? It took 50 years to clog my arteries the first time, I figured I was home free.

Roll the tape forward eight years. I was at the doctor for my routine stress test, and I failed. Looking back, I realize I had the same symptoms I did when I was 50: fatigue, heartburn, and so on. But after the first surgery, the doctors told me my prognosis was the best possible. In fact, they put me in the “plus 30 years” category, which meant my life expectancy was beyond 30 more years. So how could I have failed?

No More Excuses

When the doctors investigated, they found a new 80 percent blockage inside the stent they had put in eight years prior. That happens less than 1 percent of the time, but it happened to me. Back on the operating table I went. A few hours later, I had a new stent inside the old stent. That night, my wife and I celebrated with margaritas at Chili’s, but as I was drinking mine, I started reflecting.

My diet was bad. I lived a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Just like I had decades earlier, I had a choice to make – continue the same path (which would probably lead to an early death) or make some changes and live. Would it be easy? No. But it was necessary.

I started walking four miles every day. I stopped eating fast food. I cut out sodas and switched to Gatorade Zero. I stopped eating so many carbs and cut out red meat. In other words, just like I had with cigarettes, I stopped with the excuses. At the time of my second surgery, I weighed 223 pounds. Today (just a few months later), I weigh 193 (headed to 185).
To make these changes, I harnessed the same discipline and conviction I did when I quit smoking. It was the same discipline and conviction that enabled me to turn struggling businesses around. Learn to embrace the same mindset, and you will find the same success.

Embrace the Drive to Succeed

To succeed in your personal life—or as a business leader—you must stop making excuses. You must find the drive to succeed. That doesn’t mean you have to go it alone, of course. You can choose to surround yourself with experts who can help you find success, too. Just as I worked with a medical team to help me fix the blockages in my heart, you can hire a CEO coach or talk to your peers about overcoming the specific challenges facing your business.
There’s no question that steps like these will help you succeed. But the first step, always, is to get your mindset right. Because once you do, nothing can stand in your way.

President and CEO, bestselling author, trusted management consultant and acclaimed guest speaker, Adam Coffey is known for building high-performance cultures and driving transformative growth. Most recently, Coffey led CoolSys, a commercial refrigeration and HVAC service company. During his four-year tenure, CoolSys increased revenue by 239 percent and EBITDA by 376 percent while growing to more than 3,000 employees. In April 2019, Coffey led the company through a private equity sale from the Audax Group (Boston) to Ares Management (NYSE: ARES). A licensed general contractor, pilot, former GE executive, alumnus of the UCLA Anderson Executive Program, veteran of the U.S. Army, husband, and father of three, Coffey lives in Westlake, Texas.