I have been fortunate enough to spend that last two years completely immersed in deep conversations and interviews with a few of the world's high achieving leaders. From Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank to Tom Colicchio of "Top Chef" to Jamie Kern Lima of IT Cosmetics, I have learned many of their personal and professional principles for success. 

Beyond the common theme of taking more risks and working hard, I have learned many valuable lessons that have become beneficial to my own success today. Here are the 7 principles that I have learned from these conversations that will get you one step closer to crossing the million-dollar mark in your business. 

Read 

 "Leaders are readers." Such an age old colloquialism, but true. The moment you are present in high-level rooms, you will be asked about your reading list or library. It is a common reference point in leadership. Do not skip this step. 

Be selective with time 

Highly ambitious entrepreneurs often make the mistake of giving away too much time for unproductive meetings, vetting unqualified prospects and taking on tasks that need to be delegated to others.

Successful leaders are always aware of the value of their influence and time. As a result, they decline more requests than they accept to preserve their time for productive meetings. I remember the first time I read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, I learned how much time I gave away to unproductive conversations with the least ROI. Remember, being busy does not have the same value as productivity. 

Avoid distractions 

I recently visited the corporate headquarters of It Cosmetics, and after walking into Jamie Kern-Lima's office, I immediately noticed that "there were no laptops or phones here." We spoke for hours without any phones going off during our time together. It was void of all distractions. Turn off your distractions throughout the day, it will give you the clarity and focus to be creative and productive. 

Never compete 

When I had a moment to speak with Barbara Corcoran, I asked her about how she landed her seat as the first female "shark" on the show. She said, "if the seat means something to you, it will not come easily, but you cannot worry about what the competition is doing." As she described how she was able to convince the show's creator to reconsider her for the role, she was confident in her ability to dominate her space on the show, rather than compete with the other sharks. 

Focusing on your competitor is another form of distraction. 

Celebrate progress 

I have learned from these conversations that you cannot focus on the big wins without small victories to see if your concept is valuable in the market. 

Sara Blakely shared at last year's Inc. Women's Summit that Spanx was born by cutting off the bottom of panty hose to have the shape-wear and support from the lycra in the garment. She focused on the small victory of finding a solution and went to several manufacturers before finding the one that worked. Those small steps made her one of the first self-made female billionaires. Large wins are the accumulation of small steps in the concept phase. 

Build relationships 

As cliche as it may sound, today's leaders often underestimate the amount of time it takes for real relationships to flourish. Over the years, I have become increasingly aware that people assume that a connection on social media and a DM has the same value as a relationship, and if that connection does not pay off "fast," they will criticize or leave. 

I attended a private dinner with Kevin O'Leary recently, and he shared several stories of long-term business relationships that have helped him grow his investment portfolio. As he was talking, I took note that he was sharing stories by decades, not days. Meaningful and productive relationships take time to develop, be patient. 

Mentoring others 

I believe mentoring is a seed that you plant into the lives of others as a result of your own achievements. Tom Colicchio of the hit show "Top Chef" wrote an open letter to all male chefs, and I had a moment to chat with him about the significance of taking a stand. He replied, "with all of my success, I viewed it as a teachable moment for future male chefs who are coming into the industry." Think of mentoring as part of a larger legacy plan. 

Published on: Aug 31, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.