Finding the Right Business Model or Being the Right Business Leader?

by Dave Kahle

“Is there one business model that you would recommend to a budding entrepreneur?”

That was the question a young man asked me recently. I reflected for a moment over the past 25 years, and answered this way:

“No. I’ve worked with over 500 businesses, and in that pack there were lots of different business models. What I’ve seen is that the model is less important than the implementation on the part of the company’s leadership.”

Let me explain. It is, of course, possible to have a flawed business model. But, honestly, I have only seen one or two of those, where, no matter what the leadership does, the business is not going to survive. It’s just a bad idea.

These are usually the result of people who are passionate about a product or idea. Unfortunately, that passion displaces common sense, and they ride that idea until it has siphoned their resources and depleted their energy.

The world is not full of bad business models. On the other hand, it is crammed with models that can and do succeed, providing the leadership is effective.

The path toward success is rarely formed by the business model. Far more important are the skills and character of the leadership. Drop a highly skilled, high-character entrepreneur into any model, in any market, and watch as he/she leads that company to growth, prosperity and market leadership.

The ultimate path for business success is far more about improving yourself than it is about finding the right product, market or model.

If I had another crack at my budding entrepreneur, I would take him off to the side and counsel him this way: Business always involves money, people and systems. Learn all you can about each. Consciously build your character. Find a high purpose for your business.

Alas, that’s not the answer my budding entrepreneur would want. He was looking for an elixir, an easy option that would enhance his chances of success. Can’t he just Google it on his cell phone?

No. The real answer is a much more difficult path.

Building Character

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘character’ as: “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Simply put, it’s the way that we generally act. So, we can be known as industrious for example, or lazy. These two words: ‘industrious,” and “lazy” describe certain traits or qualities of our character. We can be counted on to act in harmony with those qualities. If we are known as industrious or lazy, it’s because we have acted that way, repeatedly. Now, those who know us expect us to act that way. Character ultimately expresses itself through our actions.

Our character, then, is the combination of all the qualities, or traits, that we have developed over time. The individual traits are what we call ‘qualities of character’, while the composite of all those individual traits is what we call our character.

Notice a couple of things, here. First, our qualities of character are both reflections on what we have done in the past as well as predictors of our future behavior. In other words, qualities of character are habits. The reason people think we are lazy is because we have acted that way in the past, and now those around can predict that we will act that way in the future.

Second, since our qualities of character are habits of action, they, more than anything else, determine our path in life, and our success or lack of it in business. Since character traits are habits of actions, they generally produce the same reactions, over and over again, in every situation we find ourselves, for the course of our lives.

Character traits develop. We are all born with tendencies toward certain habits. At some point, however, we make a choice – a decision based on free will – to do or not do something, to think or not think a certain way. That choice leads to an action. Later, in another set of circumstances, we make a similar choice.

So, our character traits develop over time as the result of individual choices we make to think or act in certain ways. Our thoughts lead to our actions. Our actions, repeated, turn into habits. Habits harden into character traits. Character determines our destiny.

Since we can choose our thoughts, we can choose our qualities of character, and we can choose our destiny. One of the fundamental steps in that process is to first describe those traits that we want to develop.

If the qualities of character in the CEO are more important indicator of business success than the business model. That begs the question, which qualities of character are most important to business success?

Respect for others, discipline, honesty, integrity, curiosity, commitment to learning and improvement, prudence, generosity. The list can go on for a bit. One good starting point is the Bible,

“….make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly love and to brotherly kindness, love. If you possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…” (2 Peter 1: 5 – 7)

Over the next series of posts, I’ll be describing those character traits that I have come to learn have a positive impact on business success.

First, a disclaimer. This is one person’s point of view. This is not the result of some study that surveyed 10,000 business owners. Instead, it is the result of my personal, anecdotal experience. I’ve spoken to and with thousands of business executives, in the US and ten other countries, and personally and contractually worked with over 400 of them. I have, I believe, achieved a breadth of experience in the world of business that, coupled with a touch of wisdom, has a validity of its own.

Read Leadership Character Trait #1 – Unshakable Work Ethic >


Dave KahleDave Kahle has been a Bible teacher, elder, house church leader, short-term missionary and Christian executive roundtable leader. For 30 years, he has been an authority on sales and sales systems, having spoken in 47 states and eleven countries. He has authored 13 books, including The Good Book on Business. Sign up for his weekly messages here. More from Dave at: