When it comes to success in any area of your life, continuous improvement is part of the job. And intentions are great, but it's the actions you take that decide your outcomes. Need some ideas on ways you can improve? Here are the habits 19 successful founders and executives say they practice to push themselves to the next level.
1. Run a mile, rain or shine.
"I have been streak running since March 21, 2015, and recently crossed 1,200 days straight. I run at least a mile a day, rain or shine. The benefits of running are well known, from relieving stress to improving your immune system. Running helps me to remove myself from the daily challenges of leading a company and focus on the bigger picture. Running is great, but streak running is a whole different animal. Streak running creates a psychological bond to the act of running and 'maintaining the streak.' Once you cross 50, 100 or 1,000 days straight of any activity, you are much less likely to decide that today is the day you are going to quit. For me that has meant an unbreakable commitment to my maintaining a balance between my personal health and the demands of work. I feel better, I have more energy, and I know that I can accomplish anything I commit myself to."
--Ted Murphy, founder, chairman and CEO of IZEA, an international technology company focused on influencer marketing, which grew from $6.6 million in revenue in 2013 to $24.4 million in 2017
2. Get one hour of work-life integration.
"I don't believe in work-life balance. In my experience, balance isn't a realistic goal--it's more work-life integration. In today's work style and focus of always-on (in every avenue of your life), I find myself in a constant state of flow between work, family, personal goals, health, fitness, rest, and renewal. I make sure to get one hour per day to focus on work-life integration by attending SoulCycle, or by doing yoga, where I can completely zone out and focus on getting out of my head and into my body. Amazingly, when I do this, solutions to work challenges (and life challenges) naturally surface. I get some of my best ideas when I purposefully give myself that one hour to relax and recharge, [and as an ] end result I find myself being a better leader, mother, and wife."
--Niki Hall, VP of corporate marketing at Five9, a provider of cloud contact center software for the digital enterprise that facilitates more than three billion customer interactions annually
3. Ditch an office.
"As a co-founder, a lot of people are shocked to hear that I don't have an office. In fact, I don't even have a desk. The reason is two-fold. First, [our company] is growing at a rapid pace, and to ensure my team gets the most out of their workspace, I've forfeited my office and desk. The second reason is that this setup actually allows me to float around, get to know each person in the company, and inspires creativity. That doesn't mean I don't have time to myself. I've made it a habit to arrive at least two hours early before the normal work hours to have some quiet time before the office starts buzzing with activity."
--Thomas Pasquet, co-founder and COO of Ogury, a technology company specializing in mobile journey marketing, which employs more than 250 employees across 11 offices globally
4. Focus on communication.
"I wish I could tell you there was a secret to success, but what it comes down to is communication and hard work. Every single day I make sure to communicate with my team and strategize for the growth of our company. I make sure that we are listening to our employees, from new product ideas to ways we can make [our company] the best place to work... And I make sure that we are communicating our mission to all of our customers in everything we do. If you want to grow, your company and as an individual, you've got to exchange ideas, articulate your desired direction, and put the work in to get there."
--Louis Têtu, chairman and CEO of Coveo, a provider of intelligent and predictive search technologies that employs more than 300 employees across four offices globally
5. Listen to a podcast.
"Every day I try to block out time on my calendar for personal growth and development. This could mean spending time reading marketing journals, attending professional association meetings, or listening to podcasts (a favorite is How I Built This on NPR). I do this to expand my marketing muscle but also to get out of day-to-day tactical work and take a step back to think about bigger, strategic ideas."
--Paul Koulogeorge, CMO of Goddard Systems, Inc., franchiser of The Goddard School, which is on track to open its 500th school in 2018
6. Skip the music and listen to an audio book on your way to work.
"I have always loved reading. It is a wonderful way to escape our daily stressors, just
sitting down and opening up a book. However, schedules and life are so fast-paced, it's hard to make time each morning to sit down and do that. This is why I've become a huge fan of audio books. Whether I'm listening to a business book (Pursuit of Happiness by Tony Hsieh is a favorite) or just a mystery novel (Daniel Silva) for fun, you can always find me listening to something on my way into the office or to the first meeting of the day. I've found this is an excellent way to motivate and educate myself or simply take my mind off the usually tight schedule ahead of me. It feels great to go into work each day with a clear mind, and I always feel ready to tackle what the day brings."
--Elyse Linowes, president and CEO of Linowes Design Associates, Inc. a multifamily focused interior design and architecture firm that designs interior and exterior amenity spaces for developers nationally and has managed over 40 projects in the past 12 months
7. Plan to prepare.
"Too often we miss opportunities to be our best and make the most of our time with others because we didn't find time to prepare. Granted, most leaders are pretty good at winging it--directing meetings on the fly or extemporaneously presenting ideas. But we can be much more effective--and use everyone's time more efficiently--when we deliberately set aside time to prepare our next meeting, presentation, or project. It's not easy to find extra time in the day, so rather than hoping you'll find the time you need when you need it, block the time you want for prep on your calendar. Schedule 15 minutes before meetings to review objectives. Block an hour immediately before a presentation to clear your mind and rehearse. Carve out as many hours as you need to create and practice the pitch."
--Jared Stein, VP of higher education for Canvas by Instructure, an open online learning management system (LMS) that has connected millions of instructors and learners at more than 3,000 educational institutions and corporations globally
8. Get up and get around.
"It's easy to get stuck all day sitting at your desk and in conference rooms. I've learned to avoid this fate by turning one-to-ones into walk-and-talks and doing laps around the office while on calls. Staying in motion is energizing. The dialogues are also more productive because we're conversing about what matters most instead of reading a screen together. And I feel like I also keep a better pulse on the company when I'm out and about often. Just be sure to wear sensible shoes."
--Rich Aberman, co-founder and chief product officer for WePay, a Chase company that works with more than 1,000 platforms, including Constant Contact, GoFundMe and Meetup, to incorporate payments
9. Eliminate having to make as many decisions as possible.
"Time is one thing of which we never have enough. Therefore, I try to be 100 percent efficient in everything I do. Eliminating some unnecessary decisions out of every day frees up my mind to tackle the job at hand. To maximize this, I wear nearly the same thing every day, pack premade salads for lunch, and opt for things such as Lasik, as well as permanent makeup and eyelash extensions. The amount of life I have claimed back is enormous and significantly outweighs the cost of treatment. Being able to start the day one step ahead puts me in a winning mindset. I think of that extra time going to my children as well as my employees that need me. And then, when it is time to dress up to go somewhere, it makes the experience more of a treat."
--J.M. McDaniel, CEO of First Saturday Lime, an organic pest control product that started production in 2018 and is now part of the GroGroup network of distributors, which serves 25,000 independent lawn and garden retailers in the U.S.
10. Practice excellence and empathy.
"Excellence is not perfection. Excellence is performing to your best ability in every task, even the tiny ones that seem unimportant. It's working to improve your abilities bit by bit, over time, developing a frame of mind focused on putting your best efforts into the tiniest of tasks becomes a habit. It worms its way into your daily life and into your most important endeavors. Oddly, this alone doesn't ensure happiness or success. People only really appreciate you as an individual and make your work satisfying if you really connect with them. You don't have to live through the same experience as one another but if you can feel or understand the emotion behind their experience--in my work that experience is pain and its consequences--you can identify and then empathize. If you can really empathize, you connect. In any enterprise, this connection, coupled with striving for excellence and integrity, is a powerful formula for thriving."
--Dr. Mitchell Cohn, DO, author of Osteopathy and the Zombie Apocalypse: Why You Want to be an Osteopathic Physician at the End of the World, and the upcoming book, #CureMe Stories of Real People Finding Relief from Chronic Pain With America's Pain Detective, Dr. Mitchell Cohn
11. Mentor your kids.
"Our business is a family business. My parents helped me start it 24 years ago out of their garage. My wife is our photographer and our children, Sonja (11) and Erik (8), are models, product testers, and inventors. I invest time each day telling Sonja and Erik about the world of business, challenges that we face at our business, and successes for the day. I remind them frequently that we live in a world that is full of limitless opportunity; opportunity that is waiting to be seized with creative ideas and persistence. I teach them that failure is part of success, not something to be afraid of, but learned from. I encourage them and instill confidence that they can and will succeed. I listen to them. They are reminded that their ideas and opinions matter. I ask them regularly for their opinion of our new product ideas, and I ask them to contribute new product ideas."
--Brian Semling, founder and CEO of toy company Strictly Briks, which won 30 awards in 2017
12. Take advantage of informal interactions with your teams.
"There is tremendous value in getting to know your team members on a deeper personal and professional level. I try to find as many opportunities as possible to interact with employees outside of the structured meeting schedule, which can be overlooked in a high-growth environment. Whether it's grabbing my first cup of coffee in the morning with people at our communal coffee stations, or taking the time to sit with different groups over lunch, I find that these conversations can be just as fruitful as a formal meeting. It's also a way for me to be more in touch with the day-to-day operations of the business. I like to take some time at the end of each day to drop by one of our departments, discussing anything from sports, food, and wine to business challenges and opportunities. Investing time to learn and socialize in an informal setting and making it a point to be approachable are invaluable in strengthening our culture."
--Rick Tallman, CEO of Vungle, a performance marketing platform for in-app video ads, used by over 50,000 mobile apps worldwide and serving five billion video views per month on over one billion unique devices
13. Work during your commute.
"I use my bus commute to tackle all simple work tasks. Good Wi-Fi and no distractions make my 45-minute commute the most productive part of the day. In the morning I double-check my calendar, reply to quick-to-answer emails, and read industry news. By the time I get to the office I am caught up and ready to tackle the morning. Evening rides are reserved for tying up loose ends and dealing with the dozens of mom things that accrued throughout the day. Sometimes I am jealous of the person next to me on the bus who has the pleasure of reading or playing sudoku, but using this time productively makes me a calmer person when I enter the office and when I return home to my family."
--Shari Buck, co-founder and chief product officer at Doximity, a professional network for U.S. healthcare professionals with more than one million members
14. Be interruption-driven.
"While in my first senior management role, I found myself being approached by my team asking for help at start of day. I'd typically say '...bear with me, I'll just do this and then I'll help you...' and then at 4 p.m. I'd follow up with them to offer my help. Unfortunately, by that time I would typically be too late to help. After three months of this I was battling with my workload and not helping teams, so I came to work one day and decided to be interruption-driven. That meant, at the expense of my personal to-do list, I would immediately drop what I was doing to spend as much time with them as a priority. Three months later I had the best performing team in the company. While it might go against conventional wisdom, being interruption-driven has helped increase productivity and allows me to add greater value to the work my team is doing."
--Mark Robinson, co-founder and CMO at Kimble, a provider of professional services automation, which recently opened its newest office in Atlanta, with other locations already established in Boston; Park City, Utah; and Chicago
15. Define and note one goal every day.
"Female entrepreneurs and business owners face immense responsibilities. When I created [my company], I knew I needed to establish good daily habits to accomplish my business goals. Every morning, I identify the most important thing that I need to achieve that day. I write it down at the start of my day, and at the end of the day I evaluate if it was achieved or not. This helps me stay focused and refine my workflow to accomplish my goals."
--Karson Humiston, CEO of Vangst, a staffing resource for the cannabis industry, which has connected 300 national companies with more than 5,000 employees to date
16. Give back.
"It is so important to consistently give back to others. It doesn't necessarily have to be financial, you can give your time, expertise, and access to your network to those who can benefit from it. For example, each month I mentor and advise several women- and minority-led companies. It's important to me to share my experience and knowledge to help these entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses... I believe one has a responsibility to give to others with no expectation of anything in return. Somehow the universe often conspires to give back to you in all shapes and forms personally and professionally when you do good for others."
--Lorine Pendleton, New York City chair of TIGER 21, a peer membership organization for high-net-worth wealth creators and preservers; a member of Pipeline Angels, a network of female angel investors; and an investment partner in Portfolia Funds, through which she has funded 14 companies
17. Always be thinking ahead.
"True visionaries are those who carve out their own path, and are therefore much more likely to succeed. On the other hand, reactionaries will fumble to catch up, and are ultimately defeated by the competition. In order to stay ahead of the curve, you must keep the pedal-to-the-metal and focus on the goal ahead, since time is often your enemy."
--Dr. Jack Regan, CEO of biotech company LexaGene, which recently completed a $5.7 million round of equity financing and is developing a rapid, sensitive, automated pathogen-detection technology for preventing and diagnosing diseases
18. Remember your support system.
"One maxim our team hangs onto is, 'Who packs your parachute?' This saying comes from an old story originated by a U.S. Navy pilot. Everyone relies on someone else to provide what they need to get through the day. Throughout life's daily challenges, it's important to remember who packed your parachute. In short, remember and appreciate the people who, at times, hold your fate in their hands. I'm lucky to have an excellent team that supports and lifts up our entire community, making sure we provide a safe and soft landing across all levels of our business, for our patients, physicians and salespeople."
--Joe Sardano, CEO of Sensus Healthcare, a medical device company focused on non-invasive treatments for skin cancer and keloids that operates in 16 countries worldwide and has treated hundreds of thousands of patients
19. Listen, read, and watch interesting things.
"Staying on top of your game means knowing what's going on in your industry and being able to think ahead. Every day, I start my mornings with time set aside to educate myself on new trends in my industry. Instead of watching the news, I'll pop in my headphones and listen to Ted Talks on my commute to the office. Listening, reading, and watching anything that challenges your thinking will only help you continue to grow and be better at your craft."
--Hans Hansson, president, principal, and founding partner of San Francisco-based Starboard Commercial Real Estate, which closed two of the largest deals in Q2 2018, according to TCN Worldwide Top 10 Member Deals List