When it comes to a recipe for success, a few common ingredients typically go into the mix, such as hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks and learn from failure. A steady regimen of discipline doesn't hurt either. Take it from these executives who share their words about the daily habits that propelled them to the top and help them stay there.
1. If no one knows about it, you don't get credit.
"I've always loved the simple, clear accountability of the old maxim, 'If a call doesn't get logged into your sales CRM, it didn't happen.' Lately, we've been encouraging staff to expand on this mindset in other parts of our business. For example, if we did something good for a client and we don't make sure the client understands that, then it didn't happen. Note that this only holds for the positive side; somehow the client who never notices the good you do always sniffs you out when you try to sweep something bad under the rug."
--Will Clarify Agency, which partners with campaigns, causes, and businesses to manage brands across digital screens.Bunnett, principal at
2. Fill your gratitude jar.
"In our home, we took the advice of happiness expert Shawn Achor and set up a gratitude jar. Every day, I drop a note of gratitude into a Mason jar. Just as the experts say, being grateful improves your attitude, productivity, and outcomes. But I found even more benefits. At first, I was the only one doing it, but soon, other notes appeared. One came after my wife, a busy working mom, missed a swim meet for one of my daughters. My wife was upset and being way too hard on herself. Here was my daughter's note: 'I am grateful that we can make a thousand mistakes and our family will still love us just as much.' Could there be a better message to develop a risk-taking entrepreneurial culture as you build a business?"
--Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health, a medical data and image management company.
3. Keep good company.
"Having family, friends, and a significant other who understand the difficulty in building a business and the resources that go into it makes it easier to be successful. A strong support system that understands the work-life balance goes a long way in the early stages. No one has ever been successful doing it alone."
--Michael DiBenedetto, CEO of food delivery aggregator Bootler.
4. Block time to deal with urgent issues.
"It is easy for one's day to be consumed by issues that are important and urgent. I make a checklist of issues that are important but not urgent and set aside a block of time every morning to focus on those issues. During that block of time early in the morning, I don't look at email and it is before my schedule gets consumed with meetings and more urgent issues that require my attention. As I can check off the important but not urgent issues, we make better decisions and there is less drama in the business."
--Ron Faith, CEO of Datacastle, which provides enterprise-grade data discovery, backup, archiving, and data protection for mobile work forces.
5. Listen to customers.
"I make time every day to listen to our customers. I read their online reviews and emails and speak with them by phone. Even the shortest conversations give me valuable insight into what they need and want most. Our customers know how they use their luggage, so engaging with them is so helpful."
--David Rapps, director of corporate development at iFLY Luggage, a luggage brand which sells its products throughout Walmart stores and online.
6. Be your authentic self (no matter how weird or nerdy) and ensure others follow suit.
"As a female business professional, there seem to be a lot of dos and don'ts that you are told to follow. I struggled with this a lot in the earlier part of my career, and it felt very false and awkward. When I changed roles from consumer goods to tech, I resolved to work on what I was passionate about and refused to be anything other than myself, every day. Not only did I enjoy going to work much more, but I also saw my productivity skyrocket. I never realized that being politically correct and acting my part had sapped so much of my energy and focus. Perhaps even more importantly, I also found that my authenticity encouraged others to be genuine as well, creating an environment of honesty, trust, and friendship that made our team knit together and work better together."
--Elaine Shuainan Zhu, cofounder of Motif, a Los Angeles-based fashion influencer e-commerce company.
7. Create learning opportunities for your children.
"When you build a business, your kids can learn a lot about entrepreneurship and the fundamentals of a business. We sometimes have our kids help out with tasks like packing or orders. We show them new products and designs. They join us for store checks, and we talk a lot about different elements of the business that they can understand. That is great for us feeling connected as a family and also teaches them some valuable lessons."
--Conny Wittke, founder of luxury face-mask company nügg.
8. Finish a creative project.
"When I am overwhelmed, I paint. My first degree is in art, and I paint miniature oil paintings no bigger than 10-inches by 10-inches. I will sketch out the painting, then paint the whole thing in one or two days, which is typically an eight-hour process. This gives me an instant feeling of completion, which is critical when everything you do is a continuous cycle. Prayer and meditation are also an important part of my daily health routine, along with doing four miles on the treadmill each day."
--Linda Rozell-Shannon, founder and president of Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF), which provides support and resources for children and adults born with hemangiomas, port wine stains, and other vascular issues.
9. Get back on the horse.
"Being blessed with seven kids, I am constantly trying to find words of wisdom to share with them in respect to their life journeys, and I often default to the metaphor of 'getting right back on the horse when you fall off.' The horse, of course, for my kids can be related to a poor showing at school, challenges with friends, or a lack of achievement in sports. The power of what I have unconsciously achieved is that, when I personally fall off the horse, I don't have to stretch too far to find the answer with respect to the right next step for me. I practice what I preach and get right back on the horse."
--G. Scott Paterson, media and tech venture capitalist, chairman and CEO of digital document storage company FutureVault.
10. Read poetry, history, and biographies.
"I read as much as I can. I read The Economist for a global perspective, and The Information, Pando, Stratechery, Recode, and Redef are industry must-reads for me. That said, reading history, biography, and poetry probably helps more than anything. There is nothing new under the sun. Adversity and opportunity go hand in hand, and context is essential to understanding."
--Sean Moriarty, CEO of Leaf Group, a diversified internet company comprised of several marketplace and media properties.
11. Drink hot lemon water.
"Every morning when I wake up, I drink a glass of hot water with lemon and I stretch. I may exercise afterwards, do yoga, or take the dogs for a hike, time and weather permitting. It gives me clarity and makes me feel enthusiastic about starting the day."
--Erika Schwartz, founder of Evolved Science, a New York City-based provider of wellness and disease prevention products and services.
12. Rev the body and brain before 6:30 a.m.
"Every morning at 5:15 a.m., I go for an hour workout, not with music but with a podcast with topics that will educate, motivate, and celebrate great achievements. By 6:30 a.m., my blood is pumping, the impurities cleared, and my mind is prepped with inspiration and knowledge."
--Joe McClung, co-founder of Pains and Strains, which offers physician-level therapies for common injuries at a retail level.
13. Always work hard.
"My father taught me when I was 14 serving up french-fries at McDonald's: No matter what, even if you don't like your job, always work hard. If you work hard, only good will come from it, and if you don't, you're only cheating yourself. Until this day, I've never had a job I was not happy doing. If your job is cleaning toilets, be the best toilet cleaner you can be. It's not your job that defines who you are. It's who you are that defines you."
--Luke Schneider, founder of Fire Department Coffee, which was founded by firefighters and donates a portion of proceeds to military- and fire service-related charities.
14. Touch base with my assistant.
"In the morning, I text my assistant about key things I need done so I can focus on the bigger picture as soon as I arrive at the office."
--Stephanie Leffler, founder and CEO of OneSpace, an all-in-one workflow automation platform with a built-in network of freelance talent.
"If I have learned anything, it is that you simply can't communicate or be transparent enough. Even more so, the person who is most heads down and avoids making eye contact is the one who wants to talk to you most. Make time to talk with different members of your team, every day. No matter how big your group is, it is important to be approachable. If you don't initiate contact and open a line of communication then why would anyone ever think they could come to you, unsolicited, with an issue? No matter how big the battlefield is, how will you know if you are winning the war if you don't get real reports from the front line?"
--Stu Coleman, partner and senior managing director of WinterWyman Contract Staffing, a talent acquisition firm specializing in temporary accounting, finance, administrative, HR, and tech professionals.
16. Stay positive.
"When having a tough day, rather than beat yourself up, do something that will lift your spirits. Call a colleague or friend who is normally upbeat, read an inspirational article, go for a quick walk, pull up your 'Atta Girl' file and read through the kudos you have gotten in the past."
--Kim Littlefield, senior vice president of Keystone Partners, a talent management and career transition services consulting firm based in Boston.
17. Talk to your employees.
"As my company has grown, I have had to increasingly be out of the office talking to potential partners and investors. So when I am in, I make a special point of going back to my old habit of walking around to talk to my employees. Sometimes, it's only a short wave and a greeting, but sometimes it's a longer conversation about a milestone in their work for the company or in their personal life. Of course, it takes me much longer to do this now because Bizfi covers four floors instead of the few square feet we had when we started. But I want my employees to know how much their individual efforts matter to our success as a company."
--Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of Bizfi, an alternative finance company.
18. Use data to measure incremental goals.
"I'm a data-driven person, so each day I set the interim goals I need to achieve on the way to reaching longer-term personal and professional objectives. At Talend, where I'm CEO, we have more than 300 KPIs that are incremental in reaching a range of business goals, and we regularly measure progress against those indicators. In my personal life, I measure my daily progress exercising, with a goal toward increasing repetitions, weight, and speed in my workouts."
--Mike Tuchen, CEO of Talend, a cloud and big data integration software company.
19. Read history books and biographies.
"I loved Patton: Ordeal and Triumph, which drives home the lessons of being aggressive, taking chances, pushing harder, and being quicker than the rest. It's very inspiring for a startup CEO."
--Craig Walker, founder and CEO of business phone system company Dialpad.