Six Secret Variables To a Successful Start-up

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Entrepreneurs / 3 comments

This is a guest post from Chia-Li Chien, who helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.

For every six new businesses started, five fail within five years.

Although the high failure rate can be attributed to many factors, one common issue I see (even after surviving the first five years) is misalignment with a business model. And a good business model really depends on how well something called the Six Variables factored in when you first started your business.

For centuries, the Chinese culture has passed along the wisdom of these Six Variables, yet many forgot about them or chose to ignore them. Let’s further examine what they are so you too can have a successful start and a long lasting empire. You can see the complete details in my published article Secrets of a Successful Exit.

The Six Variables that you should understand are the following:

The G Variables

The right time.

If you were to introduce the first generation microwave in today’s market, it may not work as well as you expect if compared to when the first microwave came out. Timing is everything, and your products or services will impact how your buyers determine when to buy.

The right place.

Years ago, there was a swimsuit manufacturer which for over ten years could not sell their products, no matter how many different ways they tried. Five years ago, they found themselves with so much accumulated inventory that the owner was ready to close.

Ironically, he was on a tour of the Middle East when he realized that he could potentially sell these inventories to Muslim women who desired to cover their entire body. Today, he is one of top swimsuit providers to predominantly Muslim countries. He simply happened to market and sell his products in the right place this time.

The right people.

We all know that you can’t grow your company ALONE. You need people, especially helpful people. These people can be your staff, team, customers, vendors, mentors, and/or coaches – anyone you come across. Without them, it’s hard to build a team and to gather the resources and systems required to grow your business.

The U Variables


You can operate your business on your own for at least the very beginning. No one knows your business better than you. The goal is, at some point, for you to have a lesser operations role as you mature your business.

Your own profession.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he uses Bill Gate’s example of taking about 10,000 hours to reach perfection in one profession. That is approximately five to ten years of time if you do part-time work.

This does not mean that you can’t change industries. As a matter of fact, you can, but you’ll need to reset your expectations of the number of years for you to be technically very good at your next profession, career, or even job level.

Your own money.

Have you ever taken out a mortgage to buy your own home? Have you ever wondered why the bank requires a 20% down payment in order to avoid mortgage insurance? It’s because if your own money is in play, the smart people at the bank know that you likely will be more serious about making your monthly mortgage payment.

The same thing can be true about your business – if you want investors to come up with 100% of the funding, they may be reluctant to do so since none of your money is involved. Invest some of your own money, and they understand that you’ll think twice about spending profits on something that is NOT an income generating activity.

Okay, so what if you don’t have all six variables lined up like a jackpot on a slot machine? Well, just like when you sit at a slot machine, you’ll try again and again until you hit the jackpot. It does not mean you won’t have success, it just means you may have to spend some money and pull the lever a lot.

There is much to consider when starting out in business. In addition to the Six Variables above, proper discipline, structure and accountability will help you go a long way. Because you’re the boss now – you call the shots. You pull the handle on the slot machine. No one is there to monitor how you choose to play the game.

Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for Women Entrepreneur and Fox Business online.  She can be reached at or [email protected].

  • Great article! Of course there are a ton of factors that go into starting up a business, but these are all the key points!

  • Thank you! You’re right, there are so many factors to a successful start-up. If someone were to teach us about all the key factors, we all will speed up our success.

  • Seems like the key to keeping your startup running is a combination of luck, nimbleness in response and damn hard work. Thanks for these pointers, always helpful for a reality check!

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