According to Jay Abraham, also known as the "Billion Dollar Man," being a true entrepreneur has always been about finding a way to connect with the human spirit and providing value to people's lives. This may sound easy, but accomplishing it is rare.
In his time in the industry, Abraham has become a renowned force in original thinking, and his work has helped generate billions of dollars in increased capital within hundreds of industries.
Abraham recently shared with me some of the valuable lessons he's learned in his more than three decades as a preeminent business-growth expert and direct-marketing guru.
His observations will get you thinking about how you can implement these creative ideas in your own business.
1. Connect with human nature.
"Human psychology makes us predictable creatures," Abraham said. We like the familiar.
"Who we are as people isn't going to change, and that means that the methods we use to reach people -- and how we market to them -- are enduring and translatable, even as the tools we use may change. They just have to be modified. So if you're talking about how you are going to do marketing through an email, how to use it in social media -- it's a different construction, but the drivers have never changed."
According to Abraham: "You've got to be able to put into words for people the feelings or the desires or the fears that they struggle with but have never acknowledged."
2. Be aware of shrinking attention spans.
Abraham said while human nature is a constant; attention spans aren't. Different people are able to listen for different lengths of time, and when you were born matters. "What era you were born in," he said, "Baby Boomer, Gen Y or Gen Z, is an indication of how long you will stay focused."
He noted that people in the present era have far shorter attention spans, which is both wonderful and terrible. Abraham chooses to focus on the positive. "It's wonderful if you understand that the key to everybody's heart and mind -- and also wallet -- is determined by making it really clear that you can deliver something they really crave."
3. Take a critical look at your processes.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is failing to take a critical look at the strategies they use to market their product or service.
"Most people end up following the approaches that everyone else does because they don't look beyond their industry," Abraham said.
They end up doing what they do -- not because it's the best, fastest or most profitable way -- but because they model what everybody else does.
However, Abraham explained, if you introduce methodologies, approaches and strategies that may be commonplace in another industry, but that are new to your industry, you can blow people away.
"Most people never learn how to maximize their selling approach because they spend their whole business life focused on the selling approach, which they never look at critically," he said.
Sometimes even a small tweak can have significant results. Abraham said he once helped a furniture store increase its sales simply by studying how they greeted people.
"We tested approximately 30 different ways of merely greeting people at the front door," he said. "One way we discovered tripled the number of people that bought and tripled the size of their sale, and also massively increased the repeat and referral business."
4. Stop making excuses and get creative.
Don't let a seemingly insurmountable roadblock keep your business from moving forward. Be creative and flip the problem on its head.
For instance, many companies complain that they can't get a loan or don't have the capital that will help them expand and grow. But you don't have to have capital to accomplish this goal.
Abraham's advice -- if you are looking to expand your manufacturing and open up new retailers, look for another business that is complementary, not competitive, and create a mutually beneficial partnership to share assets.
"Look for someone who's got a big factory they're not utilizing fully, that's already got salespeople and retail distributors in your areas, and do a partnership," Abraham said. "What company wouldn't be interested in an ancillary, incremental or sustainable windfall income as long as it doesn't compromise their main business?"
5. Develop a strategy of preeminence.
The next step is to become preeminent at what you do, which means taking on the role of a trusted provider.
"You've got to have an alternative view of life that is different than everybody else, so you're not just a commodity," Abraham said. "You've got to be able to distinguish yourself and be a provider of advice, not just the taker of a transaction."
Most important, you have to be able to create value and add a meaningful difference to the lives and experiences of your customers.
Abraham's tip -- "What's going to make you preeminent is falling in love with the clients you serve and living in a world where you see the impact of what you're doing."
6. Become an entrepreneur, not a proprietor.
Being impactful and providing real value to your clients is how you will truly make a difference, according to Abraham. "It's also the main distinction between being a forward-thinking entrepreneur and a business proprietor."
Most people never become true entrepreneurs. Instead, they become commonplace business proprietors, or someone who seeks to meet a basic standard in business. They don't raise the bar.
"A proprietor is just trying to provide a good commodity; their goals are really just to make a living," Abraham noted. "An entrepreneur starts before he or she even opens, with a vision of 'How am I going to make this experience better? How am I going to make it so desirable that people can't help but come back?'"
7. Ask yourself the ultimate question.
Finally, you have to have the confidence to overcome the internal struggles that torment so many would-be entrepreneurs.
"It's 'Am I worthy of the goal?' Meaning, can I really keep this small business stable or growing? Is my ingenuity, tenacity, sales-marketing ability really enough to keep this going?"
When you recognize how much you can achieve by putting in the effort, and by knowing what tools are available to you and how much value you can contribute, then you know you are on the right path.
When that happens, Abraham said, "your question becomes not 'Am I worthy of the goal?' but instead, 'Is the goal worthy of me?'"
This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on August 29, 2016.