Entrepreneurs – Seven Habits to Make and Keep

What is a habit? Generally a habit is something you do or do not do repetitively. It can be as important to break a bad habit as it is to form a new good habit. Many experts have tips on how to accomplish this. Over time, I have found that it takes daily practice for a minimum of 30 days to own or disown a habit and another 60 days to place into your daily life so that you do not have to think about it at all – simply to do or not do something.

Frankly, I have learned to take this one step at a time and work on one habit at a time to ensure long-term success. I use Outlook to remind myself at the beginning, with daily reminders, as well as sticky notes on a mirror if needed. You may want to use a mobile note, call your number and leave a message or some other method – simply make it one you will follow.

As many entrepreneurs know, you are responsible for many facets of your business and may wear a number of hats. Time becomes even more golden to you, so when I ask that you put one more thing on your plate, I do not do so lightly. The guides I suggest are critical to your long-term success.

Guide 1: Understanding. When dealing with prospective clients, current clients or former clients, practice understanding them, and then practice being understood. Create dialogues, not monologues. Do not just listen; listen for concerns. This involves active listening skills and patience with what is being said and what is not. If this is an issue for you, I suggest you find someone you are comfortable with and do some role-playing, either in person, via Skype or telephone. If you have a video camera or a camera on your computer, think about a real-live situation and re-create it. You might be surprised at what your facial expressions and voice actually bring out.

Guide 2: Values. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses in this area. Take the time to jot down your most important values and ask the question “Am I practicing these consistently – and if not, why not?” This also means avoiding gossip, reacting to situations, rather than quietly stating or showing your value system and modeling your values, regardless of your mood at the moment. This too requires patience and practice.

Guide 3: Improvements in yourself and others. Recognize even the smallest effort in this area! We are human and fall down. The secret is to get up, put on our big kid pants and keep working on making things better. A personal case in point – I have been working steadily toward keeping a neat desk and desk drawer. I took some photos several days ago and know right where to find them to remind me of my goal. Each day that I hold true to this goal, I find a way to give myself a virtual pat on the back. At the end of 90 days I will reward myself with something I have wanted but would not get for myself – ever.

Guide 4: Good Manners. Learn to remember names. Ask rather than order. Acknowledge helpful actions with thank you notes. Be Prompt. Names are a real struggle for me; this will take more effort on my part. I have a drawer full of unused note cards. I have established a goal of having an empty drawer by the end of the year. At least two Mondays a month, I have scheduled time in the morning to get notes done and mailed. Again, the point here is to take action and reward yourself frequently.

Guide 5: Initiative. Form the habit of doing more than expected for your clients; under promise; over deliver; and be generous with positive feedback. I recognize that you are in business to make money and many do more than expected for their clients. What I talking about here is making the time to do little things they would not expect – forwarding an article or notice of a conference they might be interested in, or a publication you think might help them.

Guide 6: Avoid People Pleasing. Delete the word “try” from your vocabulary. When you mean yes, say “yes”. When you mean no, say “no”. There are times when a client may make an unreasonable request and not even be aware. This is when you can suggest an alternative that hopefully they will accept. If there is no common ground, then you simply have to say “no” and be prepared for any consequences. Especially if you are new to business, this can be a very scary proposition. However, learning how to handle this appropriately is very important.

Guide 7: Physical and Mental Health. Take responsibility for raising your energy. Use humor and prayer or meditation for those things we may not ever understand. Your face radiates your image, inside and out. Smile! I have adopted a habit of meditation when I first enter my home office each day, leaving my computer off until I am finished. This has taken self-discipline and placing materials where I can easily access them; it is amazing how much calmer I am at the conclusion of this exercise.

Please feel free to share these with other entrepreneurs, especially those who are new to the world of being in business for themselves. I suspect you have stories around each of these guides you could use to illustrate the points made – some made with a grimace; some made in laughter so strong, it brings tears. The more we support each other, the better we become as business owners. My wish, as always, is your continued success!

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