10 Key Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Personal Practices that will Put You on Top of Your Game

Success comes from within. Studies on entrepreneurship have found remarkable similarities among those that thrive. So, what makes the difference between a mediocre entrepreneur and successful one?

Relentless Learning

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia, author and teacher

Forbes magazine lists avid reading as a leading characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Why? Because they are aware of their own limitations. Like the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know”. Entrepreneurs that succeed do so because they put effort into personal growth and education. Greater understanding gives you a competitive advantage. Read journals, read books, listen to podcasts. Attend seminars and stay up to date with the latest industry trends. Consistent learning puts you in the right place at the right time—with the right idea.

Get Enough Sleep

Often underrated, but the benefits are huge. Successful entrepreneurs rely on their ability to get things done and a sleep debt is a handicap. Science has shown repeatedly that brains operating on too little sleep are unable to function properly. A 2007 article from the US National Institute of Health notes that sleep deprivation (even at low levels) impairs attention, memory and decision making. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you have to be in bed by 9 every night. Some people do their best work after the sun sets. It does mean getting enough sleep is critical to peak performance.

Understand Money Management

Money management doesn’t mean becoming a Scrooge and never laying out capital. It means thinking about any expenditure through a single lens. Will spending this money take me closer to, or further away from, my goals? If the outlay is not actively moving your business forward it might be wise to rethink. Being frugal is part of money management, but only as it serves your end goals. If you can cut costs on the non-essentials, you will be in a better position to make your move when opportunity knocks.

Build Useful Networks

Who you know often matters more than what you know. It is critical to have good contacts in your industry, but it’s also important to have personal connections with other entrepreneurs and business owners. Business leaders who are a little further down the road can be a fantastic sounding board and resource as you build your business.

Don’t Fear Failure

“Don’t worry about failure. You only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox.

Failure is part of trying. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. Successful entrepreneurs see failure as a learning tool and are able reinvent and pivot in new directions after a mistake. A willingness to push to the boundaries of what is possible is key to successful entrepreneurship.

Exercise

Like sleep, exercise is often one of the first things to go when time is tight and work is piling up. Yet it is likely what you need in those times to be productive. Exercise dissipates stress hormones and clears the head. Even a 15-minute walk can leave you better able to focus and more productive in your remaining time.

Build Success Routines

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohns, Entrepreneur

Establishing a daily routine frees up your brain to focus on important tasks. Get the most out of your day by creating a routine for when you wake up and before you head to bed. Daily routines really are time management gold. Weekly and monthly routines are also valuable as they allow you to schedule tasks and get them out of your head for the short term.

Consider planning your next day’s to-do list before you go to bed each night. Doing so will help prevent missed meetings and deadlines and allow you to structure your day while you’re still awake and alert– not half-asleep over coffee.

Set Clear and Inspiring Goals

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” – Daniel Burnham, architect (1864-1912)

Ambition is one of the key traits of a successful entrepreneur. As you plan and vision for your business, be aware of ways you might be limiting yourself. There is always the possibility that lofty goals may not be reached, but trying for them can be a springboard to new opportunities. We are limited by our own vision.

Equally important is setting clear goals. For example, a goal of “growing your landscaping business in the next year” is too vague to be easily actionable. It’s got a timeline and a general idea but lacks details for follow through. An actionable goal would include specifics like:

  • What area of your business will be focused on for growth?
  • Will you need new staff?
  • New equipment?
  • New funding?
  • A new advertising campaign?

With specifics you are better able to plan and more likely to put those plans into action. Keep track of your progress. Regularly take stock of what you’ve accomplished and note what still needs to be done.

Prioritize High Value Tasks

“And it (success) comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs, Apple.

How do successful leaders seem to get more done? The answer is in learning to say no to any but the highest value tasks. You can’t add more hours to your day, but you can outsource, triage and turn down any tasks that are not worth your time. Ask yourself, what’s my return on investment for this task? Does it actually have to be done by me or I can delegate it? Does it move me closer to my goals?

Start each day with the hardest task. Brian Tracy, Canadian-American motivational speaker and author, puts it this way, “If you have to eat a frog, get it over with first and the rest of your day will seem easy by comparison.” Doing the hard, high value tasks first sets you up to be productive and limits the monkey wrenches your day can throw at you. Get up, get dressed and “eat that frog”.

Protect Your Downtime

Burnout is real. Unmanaged it will make you ineffective, unhappy and eventually suck the life out of your business. No one can operate at 100% all the time. Avoid burn out by aggressively protecting your time off. Running a business is not a sprint. No one wants to put in the time and effort needed to launch a business, only to find they have killed their health and relationships in the process. Take time off to decompress. You’ll be happier, healthier and better able to stay on top of your game.

Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

As you might have noticed from this list, entrepreneurship skills are less about business acumen and more about personal discipline and growth. Successful entrepreneurs are not always the most business savvy or the most lucky. They are the ones who commit to weathering the storms and pushing through until they reach their goals.

“Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers: They all say, ‘I didn’t quit.’ — Ben Horowitz, businessman and author.

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