The truth about successful entrepreneurs, as they will openly and frankly admit themselves, is that typically years of hard work come before the “good times”. They have many qualities in common, regardless of the type of business ownership. There are several consistent practices they live by. Without using them; they usually say they would have been out of business!
KEY 1: POSITIVE SELF- DISCIPLINE. From the first entrepreneurial sketch of what a business could look like, to the first year the business runs in the black, these business owners practice relentless self-discipline. From the moment they wake each morning, through the entire day, they have a sense of urgency about their business and the need to ensure they are staying on task. This means, among other things, that they avoid distractions like the plague. For those who work out of their homes, especially when the business is new, this can be especially difficult. The family needs boundaries to ensure that the business owner can operate efficiently. It becomes somewhat easier if the owner has a dedicated space with a door to minimize interruptions. There are two interruptions frequently mentioned – the telephone and email. Many comment that the telephone and email can both literally destroy a disciplined approach to business needs. Successful entrepreneurs learn techniques to avoid the temptation to “take just this call” or “just check their email for a minute or two.” They have learned how to manage their resources, rather than letting their resources manage them. One way to work toward this is to use a daily or weekly planner, with blocks of time reserved for specific business needs. For those particularly distasteful business issues (and yes, we all have them), many use a digital timer, set in 15 to 30 minute segments, to ensure they keep on target, with a positive, determined approach.
Key 2: EFFECTIVE PROJECT MANAGEMENT. Successful entrepreneurs understand the difference between tasks and projects and how to prioritize their resources. Some owners use Excel spreadsheets, some use project management software or some combination of both tools. The point here is that projects are clearly defined, with goals, objectives, action steps and frequent assessments along the way.
These business owners apply self-discipline to ensure they are on track and make adjustments to resources as circumstances dictate. They also seek the advice of others when appropriate. Having someone far more experienced in business review projects can be invaluable. The successful entrepreneur puts their ego in their pocket and seeks the opinions and advice from those who have been there. Many times, they have an inner circle of advisors they put into place very early in their business efforts, and while some may stay and some may go, the successful owner typically keep this practice in place as long as they own the business.
Key 3: FOCUS ON THE FINISH LINE. The finish line will change over time with any business. In simple terms however, focus on the bottom line in terms of quality of services provided, money made after expenses, and the number of people helped by the business are three frequent indicators. Many use visual reminders to provide a constant focus; others may write simple phrases and keep them where they can be easily accessed. Some use a business coach or participate in mastermind groups to provide the support they need to remind themselves of the critical need to finish successfully. This also means that in most areas, the tendency for perfection is absolutely unacceptable. The operative word here is “finish”, preferably on time and under-budget.
Entrepreneurs who have been in business for a number of years will tell you that these are not easy to accomplish, and that they failed in one or more areas at some time in their careers. Yet, learning to master these key elements and practicing them until they are consistently part of the daily routine will illustrate to others that you are a mature professional, serious about taking your business to the next level.
If you are a new entrepreneur, I might further suggest that you find several experienced business owners to interview about these three keys. Listen carefully to their experiences, and to what they do not say, as well as what they do say. Make this part of your continuing professional education and pass their wisdom along to others. In this way, the broadening support will make us all better and stronger. My wish, as always, is your continued success!