A million dollars ain’t what it used to be, but it’s still pretty good money--especially if we’re talking about annual income, as opposed to net worth.
So, how do you get to that milestone? Since I haven’t done it myself (yet), I reached out to a group of people who actually have made at least $1 million a year. (Hint: If you didn’t inherit a fortune, it’s all about entrepreneurship.)
Here’s their advice. (Got something to add? Let me know.)
1. Love your customers.
Tim Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of BeSmartee:
“Everything you do should center on your customers. Taking a vacation? Ask yourself how that will affect your customers. … Thinking about revising your employee incentive programs? Consider how that will affect your customers. Don’t worry about the sale, and definitely don’t focus on the money. Focus on your customers.”
2. Solidify your foundation.
Margot Micallef, founder and CEO of Gabriella’s Kitchen:
“A good foundation [includes] a network of investors … or a strong relationship with a banker or institutional lender. … In any situation where I have enjoyed significant returns, it has been based on a foundation built years earlier.”
3. Focus on culture.
Steve Starr of StarrDesign:
“If you get the culture right, the money will come. After buying out my partner, our design firm spent the past two years transforming our approach, process, and firm personality. We increased our gross revenue, while driving our net revenue up by 15 percent to more than $2 million. … In any business, it’s essential to define and keep sight of what inspires your team. Nearly every group begins with passion--and holding on to that passion is vital to success.”
4. Focus on product and metrics.
Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama:
“My best advice for joining the million-dollar-earnings club is to create an awesome product and then continue its growth. Pick a single, straightforward metric, such as sales units or revenue, and aim to beat yesterday’s total every day. This growth strategy is both sustainable and manageable.”
5. Understand other stakeholders’ fears.
Ted Leonhardt, career and negotiation expert:
“Yes, I have made a million or more a year. … I did it by understanding the interpersonal issues that drive all social groups, helping my clients reduce their fear, [and] helping people achieve their goals. My one piece of advice is to truly understand the fear that accompanies spending of large sums, and know how to reduce that fear for your clients.”
6. Be persistent.
Ajay Prasad of GMR Transcription:
“Succeeding in business will be harder, cost more, and take longer than you planned. My advice for success is persistence.”
Heidi Burkhart, president of Dane Professional Consulting Group:
“At 21, I got into commercial real estate brokerage in NYC … My first three years I was hustling, working 24/7, and surviving on peanuts … Fourth quarter of my third year, I finally started closing deals. Ever since, my income has consistently been in the six figures, with many 12-month periods producing more than $1 million. … I credit all this, though, to the initial hustle that is now forever embedded in my system.”
8. Grow things organically.
Romy Taormina, “Nausea Relief Chief” at Psi Bands:
“There's no overnight success here. I have led our company organically, and this has kept us in business and allowed us to exceed the $1 million threshold. Case in point: The Psi Bands team pitched our first retailer using a prototype. We landed that account--400 Long's Drugs stores--and garnered a coveted spot in Oprah's O magazine as an "O Pick.” The associated credibility gave me a great sales opener, and I was able to land more accounts.”
9. Build personal relationships.
Andrew Royce Bauer, CEO of Royce:
Royce is able to make more than $6 million a year by maintaining personal relationships with every single one of our customers. We are a company built on human interaction with our end user … a small amount of really good customers that we truly treat like family rather than trying to be the business that serves everyone.”
10. Stay focused on the ultimate goal.
Zach Halmstad, co-founder and partner of JAMF Software:
My best advice is to stay focused on where you want to be, and not on what could go wrong along the way. … 99 percent of the things that you worry about never happen. It's the things that you don't worry about that actually happen. This has stuck with me.”