One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is in thinking that building a great business just "happens." These founders see business through the lens of rewards, as opposed to approaching each and every step of the journey with focus, determination, and patience. Great things take time to build.
Over the course of my career, there are three things that jump out to me as "Must Do's" for every entrepreneur or high-performing employee within an organization. These are qualities I see in massively successful CEOs of publicly traded companies, as well as young founders sprinting with their first venture. And these "Must Do's" are much more habit-oriented than business-related--because it's your habits as a founder that ultimately shape you, the people you work with, and the future of your company.
If you want to build a business that will be around for the long haul, then you need to implement these three habits into your daily life now:
1. Show up--every single day.
As an entrepreneur, you immediately lose valuable momentum the minute you start slacking--or decide to switch into cruise control mode.
It's easy to see growth when you're first starting out because literally every decision you make impacts your business in a tremendous way. A single hire can make or break you. One bad month can put you into damage control mode. And a few good weeks can make things seem better than they really are.
In the beginning, you can't help but "show up." You're the founder. Nothing would be happening without your involvement. However, once you start generating cash, and you've made some key hires, and you've gotten your business to a point of profitability, that's the moment it becomes harder to see your impact. You start to realize you could go a day or two without "showing up," and business continues to operate as usual.
But this is the worst thing you could possibly do. Failing to "show up" for even a few days on a regular basis, suddenly turns into longer and longer vacations, a passing on of responsibilities, and a window of opportunity for your competitors to catch you.
I've seen founders who fall into this pattern completely lose their edge--and it ends up costing them, big time.
2. Constantly reinvent your learning process.
Some founders are incredibly good at continuing to supplement the lessons they learn in the trenches with business books, mentors, training courses, podcasts, and more.
Unfortunately, this is far from the majority. Too many entrepreneurs think that what comes with building a company from the ground up is enough. They stop reading, stop asking as many questions, stop seeking out new forms of education--and as a result, they stagnate.
But reading, listening, even grabbing coffee with people who are successful at different things than you, all of these forms of teaching are a vital part of your growth. In my book, All In, I talk about how important it is to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and I believe one of the best ways to cater to those needs is to always be learning. The more you read, and talk to others who have experienced things you haven't, the more perspective you'll have--on the world, your business, and yourself.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of self-development books that can help you work toward becoming a better entrepreneur. I would know, I wrote one of them.
3. Always be looking for the next mountain to climb.
There's a great quote that says, "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."
One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is that you become the lone leader. Sure, you might have a co-founder, or an executive team, etc., but for the vast majority of companies (especially small businesses and early-stage startups), years upon years of building will be largely your responsibility.
As a result, many entrepreneurs get stuck being "the smartest person in the room." They hire people to fulfill smaller, more scalable roles. They show up to work every day telling other people what to do and how to do it. And all of a sudden, years go by without them experiencing the reverse dynamic, where they're the person in the room with something to learn.
Part of building and scaling a company means hiring people to handle tasks you aren't good at. And I believe that's true. But the other part of building and scaling a company is to hire people smarter than you, who show up and teach you something new on a regular basis. Another way of achieving this same goal is to bring on advisors--people who are older, more experienced, and willing to mentor you along the way. These voices can be incredibly valuable to you along your journey, since they will be able to tell you the truth about your actions--whereas your employees and sometimes even your partners will not.