Growing a successful business is not an easy thing to do. It takes money, talent, passion, skill, commitment and luck. It does not necessarily take them in that order.
After running a few small businesses and consulting for many more, I've noticed a handful of traits which seem to be a part of every successful small business:
CUSTOMER FOCUS -
Business owners who approach each decision with "What's in it for me?" are less successful than those who approach each decision with "What's best for my customers?". It seems obvious (customers = money), but it always surprises me how many owners will surrender a sales opportunity because it personally inconveniences them or requires that they admit a deficiency to a customer. While "the customer is always right" may not be a rule to follow, "the customer is ALMOST always right" is the mentality of the most successful businesses.
THINK ABOUT "INVESTMENTS" RATHER THAN "EXPENSES" -
Every business has expenses, the trick is to keep thinking about how those expenses can be helping to grow your business. By thinking about expenses as "investments" rather than just money lost, successful owners are willing to take on additional expenses which could provide resources for growth (such as Advertising, Payroll or higher quality vendor relations.)
FOCUS ON CREATING A SUPPORT TEAM FOR YOUR BUSINESS -
In the early stages of a new business, you may be able to handle all of the tasks yourself, but we are all limited by the same 24 hours in a day. If you want your business to grow, you need a team to support it. A good business team consists of employees, vendors, key customers, advisors, investors (sometimes) and friends. You need employees and vendors to increase capacity and improve efficiency. Key customer relationships help you keep your finger on the pulse of sales opportunities. Good objective advisors, professionals rather than drinking buddies, can help you plan for future success. Investors can help to accelerate growth (and sometimes provide expertise). Sometimes forgotten, friends are needed to help you recharge and retain your sanity. A company with a good team can become a successful and large enterprise. A company where one person handles all the key tasks, is going to be limited by that person's stamina, experience and waking hours.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but these key traits are an excellent place to start when looking to build your business for long and sustainable growth.