Tony Little: How your gut feeling, staying grounded and remembering how you initially achieved success will move you forward

Tony Little, founder, president and CEO, Health International Corp.

Tony Little, founder, president and CEO, Health International Corp.

In his autobiography, famed filmmaker Frank Capra wrote, “If you have to think about it, forget it.” The idea that one’s gut instincts were the best guide to success certainly served the man who made such timeless classics as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

I’m a firm believer in that notion. Because I’m in the business of consumer products, I try to look at things from the customer’s perspective, from concept to delivery. What do they want or need? How will they use the product? What can make it more appealing or useful? What will differentiate my product from other similar products out there?

Trust your gut

I’ve learned to always trust my gut. The bottom line is that if the customer doesn’t like my products, he or she isn’t buying them. It’s that plain and simple. And if they’re not buying from me, I’m not going to stay in business for very long!

A huge mistake people often make in business is to overthink things or make things too complicated. For example, you should make purchasing easy for your customer — buying from you shouldn’t be a chore. So if you have a product that your customer doesn’t understand right away or if you make them think too much about it, the intrinsic benefits of the product will evaporate. Either way, you’ll be doomed.

I thought about getting into the high tech watch business a few years ago. Everywhere I looked, I saw watches that would monitor your heart rate, check your workouts, interface with your computer, create a workout program and cook dinner, too!

Yeah, it was revolutionary stuff, but for me, that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Because I’m a consumer, too, I asked myself what I personally wanted in a watch.

First, I wanted to be able to actually read the dial without squinting at a tiny display.

Second, if there were too many buttons, or I needed three hands to get to the function I needed, that would be a big problem for me. Truthfully, most of the watches out there were not what I wanted to buy.

I figured there were other people out there just like me, so when I had the opportunity, I came up with a vastly simplified watch that was easy for the average person to use. It had a nice, big read-out and didn’t need a phonebook-sized manual to figure out how to use it. The odds makers would have said to go high tech, but my gut said low tech. I followed my instincts, went with low tech and wound up with a huge hit.

Still, do your homework

Bear in mind, I’m not saying you should ignore the world around you. Doing your homework and keeping aware of business trends is always important. In fact, we have more resources at our disposal than ever before, and research studies, product test launches and focus group data can be invaluable.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in all the information and have it cloud the big picture. All the data in the world doesn’t guarantee success (no matter what your marketing department tells you!) but it can help reinforce one’s decision-making.

Like everything else in our world, the science behind business has become increasingly complex over the years. But sometimes it’s wise to take a step back and evaluate your business or a new opportunity from a wider view. If you do so, you’ll often find that a broader perspective offers you a much clearer look at what you’re dealing with and the solutions will also be easier to spot.

As you move forward with your business, always remember what got you there. What did your customer or client like about you? New ideas and opportunities will continually come your way as you expand and you should always be open to them. At the same time, it’s important to follow your instincts. Stay grounded and never forget how you initially achieved success. The path to a bright future begins by believing in yourself to make wise decisions.

Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp. and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at [email protected]