Highly Effective Habits
Ever wonder why your business just can’t seem to reach the next level of success? If the following millionaire entrepreneurs are any example, the answer could be as simple as adding a new healthy habit or two to your daily routine.
These successful business leaders all have something in common besides sales in the millions or multimillions: Each is absolutely dedicated to practicing regular business-boosting habits.
The following habits are easy to emulate, and incorporating a few into your routine just might make the difference between stagnated growth and finally crossing that glimmering seven-figure mark. The trick, as with any habit, is in making it stick.
– Charlotte Jensen
1. Start Every Day Before Sunrise
Millionaire Name: Peter Shankman
Company: The Geek Factory, a boutique social media, marketing, and PR strategy firm with such clients as American Express, Disney, NASA, and Sprint
Location: New York City
Sales: Sold his PR service Help a Reporter Out to Vocus, Inc., for several million dollars in 2010
“I’m up by 4:15 a.m. every day,” says Peter Shankman, who now works as Vocus‘ vice president and small business evangelist. “It’s truly amazing what you can get done if you get up early.” Those early-morning hours are crucial for Shankman, who uses the time to reach out to his contacts. “We all have people in our network, and the majority of us don’t bother connecting with them just to say ‘hi,’ but rather, only when we want things. That’s not a good way to grow your network.”
2. Read Every Day
Millionaire Name: Russell Sarder
Company: IT training business NetCom Learning
Location: New York City
Sales: $10 million-plus
No matter how busy Russell Sarder gets while growing his business, he always makes time to read. “I am from Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, yet [a place] where all parents expect their children to excel in school,” says Sarder, 38, who launched NetCom Learning at age 23. “The value of learning was instilled in me by my parents, and reading is a big component of lifelong learning.” Every day during the business week, he spends one to two hours reading. Weekends, up to 10 hours. He recommends:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, with advice on how to keep your team working toward the same goals.
The Four Kinds of Sales People, which helped him remove bad salespeople from the system.
Good to Great, which helped him clarify his thinking about how he was managing the company.
3. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Millionaire Name: Jennifer Dunphy
Company: Vayu Media, an international SEO company
Sales: $5 million-plus
“You cannot let fear run you,” says Jennifer Dunphy, 29-year-old co-founder with Konrad Rzasa, 34, of Vayu Media. “To be successful, you need to do many things outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.”
Dunphy says she noticed the value of this habit early on. “It seemed that every time I did something I was not comfortable doing, I had tremendous success,” she says.
Now, as her business rolls out marketing services to the Hispanic market, she finds herself having to step outside her comfort zone yet again. “I need to get comfortable portraying our company as the right resource in that market segment and also show our Spanish-speaking employees that I can represent our company well in this segment,” says Dunphy, who is working toward becoming fluent in Spanish.
4. Get 2 Hours of Peace Every Weekend
Millionaire Name: Mark Stevens
Company: Marketing and consulting firm MSCO
Location: Rye Brook, New York
Net worth: $10 million-plus
Imagine spending two full hours in peace and quiet every weekend, just thinking.
It’s a weekly ritual for Mark Stevens. This habit began in childhood but became refined later in life when Stevens discovered hiking. “I recognized that I could think of new life [and] business directions while I was hiking. Just let my mind flow,” he says. “It is how I dreamed up the idea of writing the bestseller Your Marketing Sucks.”
For those who believe they’re too busy, Steven has an answer: “I believe, like Einstein, that time bends. You can do everything you want to do if you want to do it. And if you don’t make the time to dream of what can be, you are doomed to the status quo.”
5. Stay Frugal
Entrepreneurs have to work lean in the early days out of necessity — but what about after they’ve made their first million? “I’ve watched all these companies over the years spend money like demons, expand, and then go bankrupt,” says Craig Wolfe. That’s a fate he works every day to avoid.
“I never carry any debt,” Wolfe says. “Credit cards, car loans, et cetera — everything is paid off so I never carry interest on anything. I only buy what I absolutely have to have.”
Wolfe has made millions selling his line of celebrity rubber ducks designed after the likenesses of famous athletes and rock stars, and he attributes much of that success to making smart financial decisions. Doing his own PR was one money-saving strategy that scored a mention in a major newspaper, which ultimately led to a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers and national TV exposure.
6. Work While Working Out
Millionaire Name: Jeremy Shepherd
Company: PearlParadise.com, an online marketplace for pearl jewelry
Location: Los Angeles
Sales: $20 million
Most people at the gym watch TV or listen to their iPod while working out. Not Jeremy Shepherd. “When I run, I choose a challenge or an opportunity in my business and dissect every aspect of it,” he says. “This is the only time of the day I feel micro-focused, and I usually come to a conclusion or a decision.”
The benefits of daily physical exercise are well known, including stress reduction, improved mental acuity, and cardiovascular health. And it can be an invaluable business resource. “When at the office, I don’t have the time to really focus on specific problems,” Shepherd says. “But when I have 30 minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time to think, I can usually come up with a solution.”
7. Never Stop Learning
Millionaire Name: Stacy Pursell
Company: The Vet Recruiter, an executive search and recruitment firm for the animal health industry
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Sales: $5 million-plus
A self-described “training junkie,” Stacy Pursell is always looking for ways to improve herself and her business. “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, so I enjoy learning from others,” she says.
Pursell dedicates valuable time each week to conference calls with trainers in her profession, online webinars, and CDs and DVDs on topics such as sales, business, social media, and communications. Recently, while working through a challenging deal with an overseas client, she hired a consultant and trainer to help her handle the cultural differences.
“I would have been arrogant to try to put that deal together by myself, so I needed to bring in some outside help,” says Pursell, who ended up not only closing the deal, but also making her highest fee yet.
8. Stay Motivated
“No one can be motivated 100 percent of the time,” admits Kevin Ou, a million-dollar advertising and celebrity photographer who has snapped the likes of Elijah Wood, Criss Angel, Jamie Kennedy, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg. “Every entrepreneur has days they sink to the bottom or days that things don’t go right.”
“This habit originated when I realized that success also comes with a lot of failure,” says Ou. “It’s inevitable. I realized that if a business venture doesn’t work out, I get very disappointed and morale hits the floor. So I built a system around me to keep me going.”
9. Do a Good Deed Every Day
Millionaire Name: Ben Federman
Company: Daily discount website 1SaleADay.com
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Sales: $100 million
At just 28, Ben Federman has attained the kind of financial success most entrepreneurs only dream of. But with so much success also comes responsibility, and it soon became clear to Federman that giving back — whether helping his local community center or supporting a veterans group — should be just as important as running a multi-million-dollar business.
“I could have retired a long time ago and have been very happy,” explains Federman, who contributes 50 percent of his earnings to charitable organizations and hopes to motivate other business owners to give all they can. “But the more I’ve reached out to others, the more I realize how great the need is in our communities, our nation, and the world — and this keeps me motivated and innovative.”