Starting a business can be tough. For most, it’s blood, sweat and tears, a lot of anxiety, money lost and plenty of stupid mistakes along the way. Even for those who meticulously plan and prepare there is still no guarantee, with oft-reported small business failure rates and horror stories. Others - despite their dedication – languish and never reach their potential,.

When looking from the outside, it’s often easy to see why most small businesses don’t get to the summit: no planning, not enough capital, unskilled owners or products that don’t fit the market. In my frequent discussions with business owners, however, there are a few businesses that come along that seemingly go against all the conventional wisdom, that even defy logic. For example, would you expect a business with very high staff turnover, toxic culture and 6-hour meetings (with no outcome) to be turning over 8-digit revenues? Or another (also with multi-million dollar revenues) where the owner is vague about most business details, and has very limited communication with their team?

Such performers are mind-boggling and, initially, I thought of them as outliers or freaks of the business world. Are these just rare species in the business world where luck just keeps going their way, despite their apparent clumsiness? After seeing a few of these, I am beginning to wonder if there just maybe some clues in there that we can learn from. In fact, when looking at the way they run their businesses, I found some patterns worth knowing about.

All about timing. Much has been written on the advantage of surfing the rising tide in business. With markets constantly moving and industries in growth and decline, smart business moves and market entry at just the right time can reap the benefits. Even if their business management techniques are not so great, the rising tide has floated these boats.

In for the long haul. Over many years in business, brands are grown that cross generations and relationships get deep, interconnected and highly intertwined. Once junior clients become CEO’s and CFO’s. For these business owners who have all gone the distance, these relationships have endured and been the foundation for their businesses.

Keep customers happy. Whilst management skills are not always great in this cohort, they all know how to keep their customers happy and spend a lot of time doing it. Whilst often unsophisticated, these owners keep things simple and focus on performing their service well.

Own the niche. Sometimes unsexy businesses in waste, earth moving, aged care or sewage are less competitive when these industries are forming and growing, which opens a space for businesses to provide great service (to thankful clients) and in doing so, become one of the few players in very profitable industries.

Supportive team. Somehow these owners manage to get good people around them (even by accident), who often take over key roles and manage them effectively.

Know their industry. Almost with blinkers on, these owners forge their own identities and the business in their industry, making an invaluable personal brand that drives the business.

It’s not recommended to start marathon meetings or ignore your staff, but with success that most of us would love, there are a few pearls from the clumsy business owners that the rest of us can learn from. Imagine if they were great at all parts of the business.