These days, with the Internet being what it is, anyone with an idea to sell is potentially an entrepreneur. Gone are the days when only a select few were able to have their own business. These days, for many people, all they need is a product or skill to sell, a computer with a good Internet connection, and a space to call an “office”. Well, that’s just to start anyway.
As anyone who’s managed to launch and run a successful small business knows, it’s one thing to get a business off the ground and quite another to keep it going. An excellent product and a little bit of luck aside, the things that make the biggest difference, for the most part, lie within the entrepreneurs themselves.
There are many people in the business world whom we would class as successful entrepreneurs, and these are the folks that we want to learn from. Read their stories, and you’ll soon find that they all have a few traits and characteristics in common, such as their drive, ambition and self-belief in the product or service that they have developed.
That’s just one part of it. Successful entrepreneurs also, on an almost daily basis, carry out a number of activities and tasks, and demonstrate a certain approach to their work. For the rest of us, those are the things that we should be seeking to emulate.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
When you’re starting out in business, it is easy to put your head down and be the person who carries out everything. In many cases, it might be that you cannot afford to do otherwise – at least in the early stages.
But a successful entrepreneur will soon recognise that micro management is one of the biggest factors in business failure. That’s why they’re not afraid to delegate tasks using online resources where possible, and recognise the skills and abilities in others to take on more work and bigger responsibilities, thus leaving themselves free to focus on driving up productivity and taking the business forward.
As Virgin mogul Richard Branson put it: “You must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back. The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”
There’s no shame in acknowledging that you cannot do it all; in fact, it’s one of the smartest things you can do as an entrepreneur. Better yet, if you can, find a partner who shares your passion and vision. Google and Apple were founded by partners: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak respectively; while Paypal was actually started by a team of five people.
Plan your day, every day
Successful entrepreneurs are proactive not reactive, and a big part of this comes from the discipline of planning their day.
They recognise their peak productivity hours and maximise those by focusing on the things that really matter. They consciously carve out time slots that will allow them to work without being interrupted. And they never let their email inbox dictate what they deal with next – instead, they set aside time to go through their emails in manageable chunks just once or twice a day.
Understanding yourself is key to maximising your productivity, and successful entrepreneurs are very good at that. Another thing they are good at? Taking five minutes or so at the end of each day to plan what they will tackle tomorrow. Author Tim Ferris is a huge proponent of writing down your working goal for the next day when you finish work. Not only will it help you to feel motivated the following morning, it also allows you to switch off and enjoy your evening.
Focus on focusing
Multi-tasking is often seen as being the key to success, but in fact, moving in between different tasks and only giving a few minutes of your time to each can lead to confusion and work overload.
Prioritising the work that needs to be done most urgently, and then giving your full attention to each task gets work signed off properly so that you can move on to the next job in hand.
Being a Completer/Finisher – someone who reliably sees things through to the end, ironing out the wrinkles and ensuring everything works well – is a trait worth emulating when it comes to your tasks. Just be careful that you’re not so possessive of the work that you end up over-worrying about it and not trusting others to run with it once your part is done. Remember the first thing we talked about: delegation is key!
At the same time, focusing on their individual goals in a relentless manner is a key trait of many successful entrepreneurs, and is often the thing that sets them apart from most. As an entrepreneur, maintaining that self-belief is important not just for yourself, but because it will also encourage the team around you to do the same.
Take time out
As the German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.”
Being focussed and driven is important, but so is not burning out. Successful entrepreneurs don’t just plan their work; they also plan for leisure. In structuring their day (or week), they know there has to be time planned into a busy schedule to allow for a break, both for their personal wellbeing as well as for the “health” of the business.
Ensuring good mental health and wellbeing, as well as taking care of yourself physically, is something that you definitely should emulate. Avoiding burn out, having “email/mobile free” time with the family and “planned downtime” are all crucial.
The media likes to glamorise the image of an obsessive, dangerously driven entrepreneur, but the fact is few of those truly succeed in the long run, and those who do succeed often pay a heavy personal price. A successful businessperson recognises that a drain on their energy will not help them to focus on their goals and ambitions, so they work hard to stay healthy – almost as hard as they do on their business.
About the author:
David Dalli is the owner of A Better Driveway. With more than 20 years’ experience in the domestic concrete industry, he knows what it takes to start a business, and more importantly, to go the distance and succeed.