18 Surprising Success Habits of World-Class Entrepreneurs
The Right Habits Can Make or Break Your Entrepreneurial Career
Running a business consists of many different decisions, strategies and elements, any of which can influence your chances of hitting it big. A well-thought-out product, a winning personality trait, or a streamlined process can all drive your company to achieve targets and surpass expectations.
However, one of the most overlooked aspects of becoming a thriving entrepreneur, is having the right success habits—a set of repeated decisions and a system by which you're able to do more of the right things for your business.
That's why I've interviewed dozens of the world's top entrepreneurs for my podcast.
For this post, I pulled from their business advice and chose the best success habits that these world-class entrepreneurs exhibit on a daily basis. Here are their most impactful success habits:
1. Focusing on Providing Genuine Value
If your business doesn’t solve people’s problems, then it will be difficult to ever bring in profits. Responding to a question about how to launch a startup, Sir Richard Branson says, “If you can improve people’s lives, you have a business.” The most successful entrepreneurs make a habit out of connecting one-on-one with their customers to make sure they're truly doing the best possible job of solving their problems. If they're not, it's time for a change.
2. Embracing the Fear of Failure
Failure happens to the best of us and you can either accept it and take the chance, or flee from it and forego the opportunity to shine.
Successful entrepreneurs use failure to push their own personal limits. Sophia Amoruso grew Nasty Gal from a humble store on eBay into a multimillion dollar clothing line that was named 2012’s fastest retailer. She said, "Don't give up, don't take anything personally, and don't take no for an answer; you never know what you're going to learn along the way."
3. Building Relationships With People in Your Industry
Asked about the biggest mistake first-time entrepreneurs make, writer and success coach Chris Winfield replied, “not asking the right help from the right people.” Meanwhile, angel investor and best-selling author Tim Ferriss said, “The best advice I’ve ever received is that you're the average of the 5 people you associate with most...It’s also said that ‘your network is your net worth.’”
4. Not Inventing Something Completely New (Without Cause)
While it's commendable to launch an entirely new product, novelty does not guarantee success. Like Henry Ford, you can just adopt what works and modify as needed to stand out and become unique. Serial entrepreneur and top podcaster Nathan Latka said, “The most painful mistake I see first-time entrepreneurs make is that they try and invent something totally new because their ego tells them they have to... don't invent something new. Copy what works and make tweaks to push over the top." While this concept of not reinventing the wheel is something that product managers, engineers and scientists get in-depth training on, it's not as intuitive to many aspiring entrepreneurs.
5. Getting Paying Customers Long Before Raising Money
Entrepreneurs can become so intoxicated about a business idea that they automatically assume that it will drive revenue, skipping the sales planning aspect and approaching investors too soon.
Don’t tread this path. Serial entrepreneur and CD Baby founder Derek Sivers believes that useful products don’t need funding. He says, "Start now, you don't need funding. Watch out for when you want to do something big, but say you can't until you raise money to fund the idea. It usually means you're more in love with the idea of being big than with actually doing something useful."
6. Launching Before You Feel Ready
Sol Orwell runs a multi-million dollar business. Asked about the worst thing an entrepreneur can do, he cited “inaction.” He says, “Don’t overthink the things that don’t matter... just do it. Do a minimum viable product, talk to some friends, and see if they would be interested in it. If so, make a quick version, and go from there." For business speaker Tara Gentile, “waiting” keeps entrepreneurs from achieving success.
She says, "They wait to get started. They wait until they have more information, more experience, more, more money, and a more perfect version of whatever they have created… stop waiting and do... something."
7. Not Creating Solutions to Problems That Don't Exist
Even the most brilliant idea won’t go very far if it doesn’t resonate with people. Full-stack marketer and prolific writer Lauren Holliday says, “The biggest mistake new entrepreneurs make is banking on an idea that isn't valuable to anyone with actual, real-world problems." It's easy to come up with a solution that sounds great to you, but do five, 10, 20 other people (that you don't personally know) agree? This success habit of world-class entrepreneurs will help you avoid wasting money building a business that doesn't actually solve a real problem.
8. Listening to Your Customers and Collecting Feedback
You’re not running a business for yourself, it's really for your customers, the people who need their problems solved. Bizzy co-founder and COO Chiara McPhee says, "I've found it incredibly helpful to have a framework in place to systematically collect, prioritize, and implement product features based on customer feedback—both from customers you have, and the customers you want!" Meanwhile, Scoop.it co-founder and CEO Guillame Decugis believes that many entrepreneurs fail to validate their business idea. He says, “They tend to dismiss negative feedback on their products or neglect collecting some. And they end up missing product/market fit… my advice is to talk to potential customers or users from day one and for every day after that. Never stop collecting feedback.”
9. Leveraging Your Own Unique Strengths
It sounds cliche, but following your interests is a necessary rule of thumb when starting a business. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban has this to say for would-be entrepreneurs, "What I always ask people is, (1) is it something you love to do and (2) is this something you're good at?" By doing something you're both engaged in and somewhat good at, you're maximizing your chances of long-term success—and reaching millionaire status.
10. Building Products in Public
There’s no such thing as a secret business that succeeded without revealing itself. Your business idea will remain lodged in your head as a mental construct unless you share it with others who can help you act on it. Entrepreneur Laurence Bradford puts it nicely, "The biggest mistake new entrepreneurs make is not putting themselves out there. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to show others what you're doing." That gives you the opportunity to connect with early customers, build relationships with others in your industry and test your ideas with real people.
11. Only Doing Work That Matters Deeply to You
Online media mogul Arianna Huffington says, "If you're going to start a business, you need to really love it, because not everybody is going to love it. When The Huffington Post was first launched in 2005, there were so many detractors. I remember a critic who wrote that The Huffington Post was an unsurvivable failure... [but] when you really believe in your product, you are willing to deal with all the naysayers and persevere."
12. Focusing on Implementing One Strategy at a Time
Remember the time when “multi-tasking” was such a revered ability? Well, its appeal has long evaporated thanks to conclusive evidence that multi-tasking prevents you from being excellent at any one task. New York Times bestselling author John Acuff said, "Hustle the right way. It's not about doing more, it's about doing what you need to do.” Meanwhile, Coach.me CEO Tony Stubbelbine advises, “Focus on the next step and don't try to make your five-year vision happen tomorrow.”
13. Learning Before You Launch
While launching fast is critical, launching too soon can be disastrous, especially if you don’t know what you're doing. At the minimum, you should have a handful of paying customers, or at least a clear plan to winning those crucial first customers. Asked about the most important success habit aspiring entrepreneurs should be building, writer and entrepreneur Caroline Beaton says, “The most painful mistake I see entrepreneurs make is launching before learning. For example, you may decide you want to launch a marketing consulting company, so you hastily make a website, content and reach out to people, but you haven’t yet figured out who your target clients are. What people actually need help with or what you're specifically good at. So no one bites."
14. Avoiding Spending Time and Energy on Minor Tasks
Ignore activities that won't move you closer to your most meaningful goals. To help you do that, Elumynt founder William Harris recommends that you, "Outsource tasks that stop you from doing what only you can do in your business." Meanwhile, virtual summit icon Navid Moazzez says you should, “Only do the one thing that will move the needle for you and your business.”
15. Striking a Harmonious Work-Life Balance
Achieving business success at the expense of other key aspects of your life, qualifies as failure. You can still be successful with your business while nurturing personal relationships, staying fit, and maintaining excellent mental health—in fact, your success in business actually depends upon a well-balanced lifestyle. Bizzy co-founder and CEO Jen Kessler says, “Stay balanced. Get sleep, exercise and have a life outside of just work."
16. Anticipating and Learning From Negative Feedback
It’s better to know what you are doing wrong than to navigate the unforgiving business terrain with a blindfold. Whether they are favorable or not, feedback helps you steer your business towards success. Scoop.it co-founder and CEO Guillame Decugis says, "Don't dismiss negative feedback and never fail to validate your idea."
17. Choosing Long-Term Impact
Making a fast buck can get you through the day, but working towards a solid brand can help you create the landscape for years to come. Drawing from experience, serial entrepreneur Bram Kanstein recounts, “I discovered early on that building long-term value is more important than making short-term money. Sure, you can earn quick cash with some hustle, but that won’t help you win in the long run."
18. Seeing the Big Picture
It’s easy to lose your bearings when you’re dealing with the tricky details of your business. Don’t. Recounting the way people struggled to keep his first business afloat, speaker and author Rhett Power advises entrepreneurs to, “Take time to think strategically about the big picture.” According to him, doing so forces business owners to take a step back and think of ways to deliver their product on a massive scale.
Clearly, starting a business exposes would-be entrepreneurs to a lot of problems, risks, and stress. But it’s worth it if you want to craft your own destiny, and nobody said it would be easy.
Build the right success habits that'll help you become the best problem-solver for your customers. Study how your favorite business mentors lead their companies, adapt their techniques to your context, and you just might replicate their success.