Success is a habit—and like all good habits, you have to work hard to achieve and maintain it. We talked to 11 small business owners about the daily habits they believe contribute most to their success. From exercise to quiet time to diligently tracking sales in QuickBooks, here’s what some successful entrepreneurs do every day.
Todd Brabender, President, Spread The News PR, which specializes in generating media exposure for innovative products, services and experts.
- Research: I spend the initial part of my day researching the media markets applicable to my client base. I scour multiple media outlets and formats to see what topics are being covered. What angles are popping, what trends are developing? Based on that research, I forge messages incorporating my clients with those solid news pegs and pitch to my media contacts all over North America to consider.
- Respond: I pride myself on being as immediate as possible in my email and phone correspondence replies with clients, associates and media contacts. When it comes to communications, my mantra has always been: Review. React. Respond = Results!
- Relax: By relax, I mean breathe. Several times a day I stop working, look away from the computer screen for a few minutes and take a string of cleansing circular breaths. It refocuses the mind, eases stress and helps stoke new creativity for ideas.
- I spend time at the beginning of each day in prayer and reading a daily devotional. This helps me start with the right frame of mind and reflect on my many blessings. I also use this time to think about my challenges ahead for the day.
- Aside from our formal weekly production meeting, I also meet with my department managers daily to discuss project status, challenges or anything else on their plates. This gives me valuable time for mentoring and coaching and helps me forecast any obstacles.
- In my office, I update a whiteboard daily of long- and short-term projects. Having a visual status board in my office keeps me focused.
Laurel Delaney, founder of GlobeTrade, president of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global™ and best-selling author of Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.
- I write a blog post every evening that is published the following morning (except Sundays) at the Global Small Business Blog. This has helped grow the blog’s readership and bring in new consulting opportunities. If you build an audience, you can build a business. After I write the post, I read The Wall Street Journalto relax and keep up with world affairs.
- Even though I meet with exceptional business owners all the time through my consulting work, I still turn to business books for answers to burning questions, challenges I face or ideas I wrestle with. I scan a book a day, many of which can be esoteric or quite old—from Winners Never Cheat by Jon Huntsman to Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney to On Second Thought by Wray Herbert.
- I try to either run or walk outside every day to get fresh air, clear my head, change the scenery and take photographs of simple things with my iPhone. This alters my state of mind and eases business pressures. When I return to my office, I have newfound energy, a better perspective on what needs to be tackled next, and a far greater motivation to get things done.
Jill Dominguez, President, ESSERGY,a consulting firm that helps businesses, nonprofits and governments harness energy for social change.
- First thing every morning I check my email, review my schedule and task list before the open of the business day (which means 5 a.m. PT, since my clients are all over the U.S.). This practice keeps me organized on what can be a complex schedule of activity with several projects happening at once [and dealing with] many team members.
- Every evening I update and review my company task list with “To Do’s,” each color coded according to urgency with a drop-dead date. Every team member who is involved with a task is asked for an update or status regarding the task with the corresponding date.
- I write everything down in my notebook. It is with me at all times. I prefer taking handwritten notes, as it does not require me to look away for long periods. I am a firm believer in eye contact, and when [you take notes on] a tablet or phone, it seems as if you are not paying attention to the meeting. The notes are the basis of our digital archiving system for the company. All notebooks are archived chronologically; I have notebooks going back 27 years. I doubt that is necessary, but I have been asked to go back and check on an issue or conversation for a client many years later, and recalling details is much easier when looking at my own notes.
Monika Jansen, Head “Kick-Ass Copywriter” and Strategist, Jansen Communications, a boutique marketing agency.
- Every morning, I go for a two-mile walk, which I consider a walking meditation. I don’t listen to music or podcasts; I just let my mind wander.
- I do a quick check-in with myself: Is everything I’m doing that day contributing to my greatest and highest good? If not, I will cancel or reschedule projects and calls.
- Finally, I don't schedule calls or meetings before 10 am. This allows me to settle into “work” mode, which is especially helpful on Mondays!
Erika Kotite, co-founder of She Shed Living, which helps women create a space of their own by offering custom shed design, build and installation services as well as a proprietary line of exterior chalk-based paints.
- Daily contact with my partner, Sabrina Contreras. Sabrina and I bring different things to the table—she has a business background and I have a creative/marketing background. We keep each other grounded and motivated to do all the things we need to accomplish that day. I firmly believe in utilizing that “second eye” when making important business decisions. Just like a writer needs a good editor to be successful, we need each other's perspective and critique to improve.
- Staying up-to-date on QuickBooksand banking. Since my background leans to the liberal arts, I’ve had to invest considerable time and training into learning how to keep our books. By disciplining myself to check our bank balance daily and input items regularly into QuickBooks, I’ve been able to avoid costly tax accountant charges. In addition, I have a much better idea of how we are doing financially and what we need to adjust in the future. For example, I know exactly how many shed sales per month we need to reach our business goals for 2019.
- Add content and stay engaged on Instagram. We have numerous social media outlets including a growing Facebook Group, but Instagram is where people discover us, present us with opportunities and refer clients to us. I carefully monitor not only our growth in followers but also engagement levels for each post. It’s equally important to support others on Instagram by liking, commenting and reposting, which I do every day.
Mika Leah, CEO, Goomi, which brings onsite fitness and wellness sessions to offices and other workplaces.
- Determine the three things I need to get done that day. Then I focus on only those three things.
- Plan ahead for the following day, review my calendar, write my three things to-do list, and even lay out my clothes.
- Have weekly mandatory status meetings with my team every Monday to connect on a personal note, review successes and failures from the prior week, and discuss the week ahead.
- Determine my two priorities to accomplish that day (and do them) before checking email, social media or anything else.
- Check filtered emails and social media lists for current customers’ and key prospects’ messages or posts.
- Exercise—cycling and karate.
Charley Moore, Founder and CEO, Rocket Lawyer, which provideshigh-value legal services at an affordable price.
- I’ve been doing my best work in the early morning since I was a kid. We had a family business and I learned to open up shop at daybreak. Today, my most productive hour is usually between 6 to 7 a.m., when I can read the news, review KPIs and get a jump on email without meetings and distractions.
- I exercise six days per week. Even when I’m traveling, which is often, I stick to this exercise routine, which includes meditation and stretching. Leading any organization creates stress. Being able to be physically active is a blessing that I cherish as essential to a balanced life.
- Our main challenge is cash flow, so we watch our accounts receivable daily and budget properly. This is an exercise all entrepreneurs should apply, no matter their size. You have to have a good understanding of your cash flow.
- Daily meetings with my operations team. You have to make sure you are shipping daily—and accurately. This all ties into cash flow: When you ship on time, you get paid on time.
- Every day we work on new product development, retaining current clients and prospecting for new ones.
- Wake up early.My best work gets done in the wee hours of the morning; I get a good two hours of work in before things get busy. Once the workday actually begins, calls and meetings make up my day and by the afternoon, my brain is spent. Those early mornings are a time for me to really focus and produce. During the week, I’m often in bed before the kids!
- Eat a good breakfast.I can’t function without [eating] something substantial in the morning. My go-to breakfast is gluten-free toast with avocado and egg.
- Move around.My work tends to be sedentary—me, at a desk, on a computer. After writing the book The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, I learned a lot about the tremendous value of moving your body throughout the day to clear your mind, boost your energy and prevent disease. My co-author, Beth Kanter, inspired me to walk more and to track my steps using a health app, something that suits my need to see progress. I alternate standing and sitting when at my computer and get some steps in walking when I’m talking on the phone. The better I take care of myself, the more successes I see day-to-day in my work.
Reading about other business owners’ daily success rituals is inspiring—but as Delaney says, “We cannot replicate business success by copying another business owner’s daily rituals—we need to cultivate our own.” What are your daily business success rituals?
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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