Just about every day, the first thing I do is read. I use Feedly to source the many things I read. Each morning I flip through the headlines and see what looks interesting. I have a subscription to the Wall St. Journal, and even have that feed included here.
Much of what catches my eye are things about successful business owners. You can search Inc.com, Forbes, and Entrepreneur.com, and many others to find these kinds of articles. Not long ago I read one where they interviewed Richard Branson and some other very successful entrepreneurs to see what their daily routines look like. This was done, of course, in an effort to better understand what might make them successful.
On my way to and from Cape May, NJ I was checking out a book called, “The Hard thing About the Hard Things,” by Ben Horowitz. In his book, he goes in-depth to share his experience, what worked really well, and what was a colossal failure!
Based on my collective reading as well as direct personal experience, I thought I would compile my own list of the top 5 things that seem to be common to “successful” entrepreneurs.
There are two that seem to be on every single list. In fact based on all of my research, and my own direct experience, I would say that these first two are the most important. Here are all 5:
- Get up Early
- A Good Night’s Sleep
- Good Communication
This seems like a no-brainer, yet so many of us (myself included) struggle to get and stay in a routine of it. Richard Branson, who may well be the busiest person on the planet, finds the time to exercise every day. He say’s it’s even important for the business related activities he will pursue during the day.
“No matter where I am in the world, I try to routinely wake up at around 5am. By rising early, I’m able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business.”
Getting Up Early
This follows along nicely with the exercise option. Often times the best time to do it is early in the morning. This way there are no excuses. When I was with my client recently in Cape May, we got up at 6 am, and we were on the beach, walking his dogs by 6:30. Then we came home, had a leisurely breakfast, then we showered, and got to work.
It is so important for that first part of the day to be about me, and not about work, what clients need, etc… This gets me grounded, and frankly it gives all of the work that I do the rest of the day better meaning.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Taking this on the heels of the previous tip, you can do the math and figure that you probably want to get to bed early. Many people ask me the same two questions;
- Do I ever sleep? and
- How do I get so much done?
When I am in my optimal routine, I am in bed by 8:30 pm, and up at 4 am. That’s about 7 hours (leaving ½ hour to fall asleep).
The fact is that when I am in this routine, I am at my best. I am well-rested and better focused. I can get more done in far less time. I don’t need to put in 80 hours a week. I can work 8 am – 4 pm, and fool people into thinking that I never sleep in order to get done all that I do.
Getting a lot done isn’t about time. It’s about focus.
I am much less prone to distraction when I am well-rested.
Honesty was especially reinforced for me while reading “The Hard Thing About The Hard Things.” Ben Horowitz talks about the importance of this. When companies are in trouble, business owners tend to want to hide it. They’re afraid that their employees will want to jump ship. Ben talks about the importance of creating a “great company” as defined by the fact that people like coming to work there. When you create a company culture like this, people stay. Experience has proven that people value having an enjoyable workplace more than they value the money they’re paid. Having an open book and open door policy seems to be the way to go. Employees will appreciate that you’re not hiding anything and not insulting their intelligence in the process of attempting to do so.
I’ve also found that the more brutally honest I can be with people, the less I have to hide, and the less power others have over me. Most importantly, when you are always honest with people it builds trust. So if your ship is sinking, you can talk to your people and know that they will trust you. They are much more likely under these circumstances to stick around and do everything they can to support the team.
This is really the parent of the honesty tip. Honesty is one example of good communication.
I love what Ben Horowitz described about effective communication in his book. The short version of the story he tells is that someone complained about the cursing in the office. Ben happened to be the worst offender. The dilemma was that this was very common in software development companies. Part of the culture, if you will. At the same time he couldn’t ignore the complaint. Moreover what would the solution be? You can’t really “regulate” cursing and say that people could only do it some of the time. If he ruled it out completely, that would make a lot of people uncomfortable, because for some people, they just talk that way.
At the next company meeting, he addressed it, and he addressed it perfectly. The official policy was that cursing by itself was okay, however, what would not be tolerated was cursing in a manner that was aggressive towards another person. Obviously sexual harassment would not be tolerated, nor would any form of intimidation be tolerated in the workplace.
Ben explains that this was never an issue again.
What happened here? He communicated something very clearly. You can’t ignore issues as they come up, so you have to deal with them head on, and communicate clearly. If you are the leader, the job is yours to set policy and communicate it well. If communication is not your strength, then hire someone for whom it is.
It is my opinion that good communication really comes down to patience. Good communicators have patience to figure out how to explain things well.
There is your list compiled from my own direct experience, as well as the many, many articles I’ve read on the subject. There are many more skills that make up the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, but these are the top 5.