As a Success Coach to numerous entrepreneurs, I can’t help but to continuously compare and analyze the works of the successful entrepreneurs and the less successful ones.  I have noticed overtime, that successful entrepreneurs do the right thing constantly, in all their transactions, in the best possible way, whereas the less successful ones repeatedly make the same mistakes.

This begs the question, what prevents successful entrepreneurs from making mistakes and less successful ones from doing everything the right way at the first instance? And,  what are the prerequisites to ensuring that less successful entrepreneurs can be made to attain excellence in their enterprise?

For entrepreneurs to achieve excellence in whatever they do, they ought to try to understand how habits are formed. Whatever they do repeatedly become a habit and the habit turns permanent. If we habitually practice our mistakes then we ultimately perfect them. Conversely, if we practice the right way of doing things we excel in all our endeavors.

In order to understand how habits are formed and to see if it is possible to influence habit formation at any stage in life, let us observe a child’s learning process of riding a bike. There are typically four stages of learning involved. The first stage is called unconscious incompetence. At this stage, the child does not know that he doesn’t know how to ride the bike. You see, the child doesn’t know what it means to ride a bike (unconscious),  nor can he ride a bike (incompetence). The child therefore, is in a stage of unconscious incompetence.

Sooner or later, the child becomes aware and conscious of what is required to ride a bike, but unable to ride it by himself. The child is now in a stage of conscious incompetence.  Then the child starts learning to ride the bike and reaches the stage of conscious competence. Now he can ride the bike but requires the assistant of secondary side wheels for balance with total concentration on the task at hand. In this stage with conscious effort and adequate precaution, the child is competent to balance the bike on his own.  The child is now feeling great but always tense that anything can go wrong that may cause him to fall over.

When the child has practiced consciously to ride the bike to such an extent that he doesn’t have to think, the fourth stage of unconscious competence has been attained.  Bike riding becomes an involuntary act, a second nature for the child. No longer is he bothered about any uncertain event triggering which can make him lose the control of the bike. The child can now ride the bike while chatting with his friends or waving to his parents. Soon he starts to perform acrobatic moves on the bike. He has now reached the stage of unconscious competence. At this level, he doesn’t need to concentrate and think because the practice has become a habit.

Entrepreneurs need to understand that to achieve excellence they must operate at a level of ‘unconscious competence’  at all times. Realizing the goal of reaching the fourth stage of unconscious competence for the average entrepreneur is difficult, but not an impossible task.  A conscious effort can generate astonishing outcomes.

When an entrepreneur starts out in business, he or she has only generic skill sets, and in the stage of unconscious incompetence in many aspects of the entrepreneurial excellence including strategic planning, leadership and business acumen.

The important task for the entrepreneurs is to realize that they are in the unconscious incompetence stage, and then identify what they don’t know with respect of entrepreneurial excellence so that they can acquire the knowledge and the required habits to transform themselves into the unconscious competence level.

For entrepreneurs to operate at the highest level of excellence, i.e. ‘unconscious competence’ level requires them to excel at everything they do. It is imperative that they first identify what they don’t know, get coached, practice what they have learnt and apply this knowledge to their daily business activities.  It’s prudent to note that quite often this may also require them to unlearn the mistakes they habitually and unconsciously absorbed along the way. To do this they must consciously practice to unlearn, by learning a complete set of new excellence tasks the right way.

Finally, over a period of time the entrepreneur reaches a stage of ‘unconscious competence’ where the quality of his or her business and lifestyle are not only flawless, but also ready to breed and transform their unconsciously incompetent  people into the realm of excellence.