Habit #1: Follow Your Passion

Work is life and life’s too short to hate your work; this is a known for entrepreneurs. It’s part of what drives us to start, and lead, businesses. I like to relate this habit to the story of Cesar Milan. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s a Mexican-American dog trainer with over 25 years of canine experience and is widely known for his Emmy-nominated television series Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, which is broadcast in more than 80 countries worldwide. Cesar illegally crossed the border into the U.S. when he was 21; spoke no English and had $100 to his name.  His first job in the U.S. was as at a dog grooming store. Jada Pinkett Smith was one of his first clients and supporters when he was working as a limousine driver. It’s because of her that he speaks English; she sponsored a tutor for him. They remain friends to this day.

If an illegal immigrant, who didn’t speak English, and had $100 to his name can take his passion, for dogs and turn it into a multi-million-dollar brand including an Emmy-nominated TV show and three New York Times bestsellers, so can you!

Habit #2: Trust, and Care For, Yourself

Many entrepreneurs learn this lesson the hard way ending up with hospitalizations, break downs and other stress-related issues. The entrepreneur mindset is to push yourself so hard and do absolutely anything for the business (translation: ignoring your body and it’s warning signs).

Trust your body to know when it needs care. That’s different for everyone and that’s okay. For me, it’s meditation, yoga, walking and taking time to enjoy myself on Sundays.

(Yes, that’s the one day/wk. I give myself off). Maybe yoga and meditation aren’t your thing, maybe it’s hitting a bucket (or 5) of balls at the driving range. Whatever, it is, do it. Self-care is essential not just for your health but the health of your business.

Also, when you learn to trust yourself you’ll realize that failure is part of this journey. Expect to fail and embrace failing fast and failing forward.

Habit #3: Build a Great Team

If you’re an independent contractor, you work “in” your business. When you’ve excelled outside that point to being a founder, an entrepreneur, a leader, you work “on” your business and that means you need to hire a team. Define your skill set and outsource the rest. Trust your team to do the right thing for you, your customers and your business.

Wondering how to build a great team? Check out this article on FastCompany360. It includes advice from several entrepreneurs (including yours truly) on how to build your best team. As you embrace having a team, be sure to get engage with them; don’t just let them go off on their own and expect great results.

Habit #4: Always Look Forward

I tackle this by setting aside 2 weeks each year for strategic planning, with my team. We look at what’s working, what’s not working, our best clients, our worst clients, and the like and create an annual plan from there. We also look up to three (3) years out so we know the star guiding us. To make this a fun experience, we head to an off-site in Mexico for planning and do work while we play.

The organization’s CFO or COO, if you have one, is all over this as they’re focused on projections but, you as the entrepreneur and founder, need to be driving those projections and the strategy.

In addition to this, I regularly update and manage a monthly income and expenses reconciliation chart. (I use Excel for this). Yes, we have QuickBooks and I have both a bookkeeper and accountant but no one knows the numbers better than me and it’s essential I keep a finger on the pulse of the business; the finances.

If you’re a perfectionist, like many of us entrepreneurs, think of the saying “profit before perfection” and let it be your guide. In the words of Nike “Just Do It”.

Habit #5: Time is Money

We all get requests for coffee, lunch, networking meetings, etc. and with how pervasive automated LinkedIn requests are, entrepreneurs are getting more than ever. It’s a good thing to accept some of these requests to keep expanding your network and reach. However, too many lead to a busy, non-productive situation. Also, knowing what you’re worth (your value) and that time is money means you’ll start to schedule things differently.

Think about this: a 20-minute coffee meeting, that takes 15 mins. to get to each way, consumers nearly an hour out of your day. Pivot and do three (3) 15-minute mini networking sessions via Zoom…with your coffee at the office. You save the wear of commuting, still have your coffee and network with three people instead of one. Realize that human: human connection cannot entirely be replaced and, for those high value individuals, it makes sense to meet in person.

This also relates to Habit #3: Build a Great Team. When you value your time, you know it’s more financially intelligent to outsource your non-earning tasks. For example, calendar management can be done automatically via Calendly. Can you hire a VA to manage your email, calendar updates, editing client docs, preparing decks and invoicing? We all need help and the sooner you realize your time is money, you’ll lean into this.  Speaking of money, know your value and don’t negotiate on it. If a client doesn’t want to pay your rates, let them find a cheaper provider with less value.  

Habit #6: There’s No Good, Cheap Marketing

When it comes to marketing, you get what you pay for, like many things in life. If you’re going to lean into digital (like most brands do now), then invest in a digital marketing agency that can build your SEO, Social Media presence and manage paid ads on your behalf. Of course, if your expertise is marketing, you can do this by yourself. But if your expertise is owning a boutique, selling products, or personal services such as consulting, let this one be done by the experts. Know that, to save money, you may end up with several agencies or contractors. You might hire one for social media, one for SEO and another for paid ads. That’s okay provided it’s not taking 3x the time to manage, then that savings is out the window as it’s offset by your time value.

While we’re talking marketing, build your personal brand as well as your company brand. As an entrepreneur, what you wear, say, do, etc. is a direct reflection of your company. I’ve been coaching on how to build, maintain and excel at personal brands for nearly 20 years. Steve Jobs had an excellent personal brand down to his famous black shirts, jeans and white tennis shoes. (Branding is more than your clothes). He was also known for pushing the envelope, being innovative and making no excuses for his brash approach to teams and business. Another strong brand is Oprah Winfrey. As much as her physical appearance has change, she’s known as the “Queen of the Talk Show” and she leans into this. She’s re-imagined the traditional talk show to one:one sit downs and pivoted into the modern-day Barbara Walters.

Habit #7: Trust Your Gut

Last but certainly not least, always trust your gut. This doesn’t mean to manage your business by shooting from the hip. Instead, it’s a balance of facts, data and intuition that allows you to succeed at being an entrepreneur. My approach to leadership is “head, heart and gut.” This means I look at the facts and data (head), evaluate any personal impacts to me, my team and my customers (heart) and then listen to what my gut is telling me to do. It allows for a balanced approach and, so far, has done well for me.

Aziz Rahim, CEO of Sabio Mobile, embraces this philosophy saying, “Take advice from as many people as you can but trust your own instincts. It’s the instincts paired with hard facts that will help you succeed.”