"I am not quitting my corporate job until I have hit $1 million in revenues and I am generating a profit." That's the lofty goal Sari Davison set to prove to herself that BooginHead, the business that she ran on weekends, was ready for the big time.

Recognized as one of Fortune's Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs in 2013, Sari is the CEO of BooginHead, which is now a multimillion-dollar business with products in Walmart and Babies R Us. Sari is one of the most focused, determined, and driven entrepreneurs that I have ever met. Intentional with her time, Sari knows how to maintain her remarkable energy level and she is focused and strategic with her resources. Sari epitomizes what I call being  thoughtfully ruthless, where you intentionally focus on your time, energy, and resources to catapult your business growth.

I caught up with Sari and distilled her lessons--ones that any leader can follow and benefit from:

1. Be Sensibly Selfish

"I only spend time with people I truly want to spend time with. I don't try and make time with lots of new friends. I have core friends, and I book my calendar far out. I don't have the luxury of flitting around aimlessly."

2. Seek Powerful Advice 

During her corporate career, Sari would regularly quiz colleague Todd Holmdahl, when he ran Microsoft's hardware division, peppering him with questions like these:  "With the Xbox controller, what is your lead time? How many do you produce? How do you safety test?" Sari understood the value of powerful mentors to be there to guide critical decisions.

3. Stop the Worry 

Release yourself from the guilt of trying to do everything. When Sari finally hired a nanny to help her out, her whole life benefited--not just her business. She also knows to prioritize time for herself, "I always take time for myself. I do yoga. I have learned that I am not effective with my job without taking that time out."

4. Being Vulnerable Helps Others Relate

When Sari quit her corporate career, she was a single mom of two sons, one with autism. "It is important for me that I am transparent about my whole life, not just my work life, because it helps others relate and see the real me."

5. Move from Thought to Action Rapidly

Sari has learned that nothing is gained from delaying action. She is known for making fast, thoughtful decisions and instinctively knows when the right time is to pull the trigger.

6. Find Your People

Sari was interviewed by Dan Price to join Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). "At that point I knew I had found my people. It is like therapy for CEOs. My closest friends are 90 percent EO members. Without EO, my business would never have grown so fast."

7. Listen to Your Customers

"Do you know how many germs there are on planes, Val? Would you buy a placemat for your daughter to use when you fly?"  That's how many of our conversations would start when Sari and I worked together in Microsoft's entertainment division. Right at the start Sari was listening to her customers and gaining valuable feedback on new product ideas.

8. Hire People who Complement Your Expertise

Sari hired a director of sales because she realized sales wasn't her strength. "I was doing a horrible job of sales and knew I had to get someone in who was an expert at dealing with retailers."

9. Hang Out with Aspirational Peers

When Sari went to the awards evening for Fortune's Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs, she felt intimidated but quickly discovered that everyone was interested in getting to know everyone else. Sari found those conversations life changing. "By the time I left there, I felt like I deserved to be there. I'd had a lot of self-doubt regarding my ability to be a CEO, even though I had been doing it. Hearing the struggles and mistakes others make every day really helped."

10. Love the Fear of Failure

While it is good to fail and you learn from it, Sari is driven by her fear of failure. "I have a true paranoia that is constantly fearful of failing. It drives me and fuels my passion."

Sari has a plaque on her office wall that reads: "Passion is a powerful force that cannot be stopped." Sari knows that if you believe you can do it, you are not going to be able to not do it. After conquering Walmart, BooginHead has five new products in development this year, and Sari has her eyes on getting her products broadly distributed across many retailers including Target, Kohl's, and Fred Meyer.

Sari is a featured leader in my book  Thoughtfully Ruthless: The Key to Exponential Growth (Wiley, April 2016). Sign up here to get early access to a free chapter.

Published on: Jan 29, 2016
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