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railblazer. Self-starter. Disruptor. These words often come to mind when thinking about entrepreneurship. But did you know that 90% of startups fail and 70% of small businesses fail in their 10th year? It’s practically a rite of passage for freshly minted businesses to experience failure before achieving success. As the entrepreneurial adage goes, we must “fail often in order to succeed sooner.”  With such a huge failure rate, small business owners must be business-savvy, have a strong work ethic, and foster mindsets of perseverance in order to keep hustling. According to a Harvard Business School study, the personality traits of entrepreneurs are fairly universal across the business world. While this research acknowledged the heterogeneous nature of the entrepreneurial community, it characterized entrepreneurs as sharing a high desire for achievement, a strong internal locus of control and self-efficacy, and innovative tendencies.  Let’s dive into the DNA of successful entrepreneurs and their best practices so that you can implement them in your own business playbook.

1. Optimize Your Routine

Craft your schedule to best fit the needs of your business. A trademark of modern self-starters is their ability to break away from the 9-to-5 parameters of traditional jobs. Technology has facilitated this phenomenon, especially as businesspeople are increasingly able to do work on the go and out of office. More than ever, prominent business leaders are adopting unconventional sleeping schedules to capitalize on productive windows throughout their busy days. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, wakes up at 3:45 a.m. daily, yet still manages to get seven hours of sleep by going to bed around 8:45 p.m.  Your ability (or inability) to function on little sleep may run in your blood. Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher was able to survive on just four hours of sleep per night, which researchers have attributed to a rare genetic mutation dubbed the Thatcher gene.   Even Leonardo da Vinci pioneered an extreme sleep schedule. It is known today as the Uberman sleep schedule, a sleep cycle consisting of six 20-minute naps spread throughout the day. This intense schedule was also effective for innovator Nikola Tesla, who incorporated it into his lifestyle four centuries later.  

Source: Forbes. Distribution of the sleeping schedules of 21 successful people.

Establishing a routine is also essential for successful business owners. From the early-morning tennis sessions of Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour to the daily ice baths of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, tailoring your schedule to your rhythm will enable you to take charge of your responsibilities and create discipline in your life in the most optimal way possible.   Gain control over both your business and your lifestyle by making daily lists of objectives, blocking off time on your calendar to allocate time for tasks, and setting reasonable deadlines.  

2. Maximize Your Productivity

Entrepreneurs should embrace unorthodox schedules to best fit their unique workloads and lifestyles. A Cornerstone study revealed that 68% of employees are suffering from work overload and that 61% of workers believe that work overload is the factor that most strongly reduces their productivity. It also indicated that 65% of employees believe that a flexible schedule would boost their productivity.  

Novo Tip: It pays to be honest with yourself about how much you can manage each day. To avoid biting off more than you can chew, assess which tasks can be spread throughout the week and which have the highest priority. Try blocking off time in your calendar to complete work on a specific project. New York Times bestselling author Kevin Kruse shares some great insights into productivity in his book Great Leaders Have No Rules. He didn’t pay us to say that, we legit read it and found it valuable.

You can maximize your productivity and efficiency by following the 80/20 Rule, which is all about focusing your energy on the 20% of your efforts that yield 80% of your results. It is also important that you and your team get sufficient amounts of sleep for both your personal health and the interests of your company. Did you know that American companies lose $63.2 billion annually due to lost productivity from sleep-deprived workers? To avoid burnout, employers should think about building a workplace that values autonomy, recognition, and community.  

3. Play to Your StrengthsㄧAnd to Your Weaknesses

There is no shame in self-awareness. Socrates himself once said “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” and this is a healthy mentality because you can always learn something new. In fact, the majority of business executives read 4-5 books per month. Successful innovators know where their skillsets begin and end, and it’s important to recognize when something requires additional research and background knowledge. The benefits outweigh the costs of directing your energy toward strengths instead of weaknesses. In fact, employees who play to their strengths every day are 8% more productive and 6 times more likely to be engaged in their work than those who don’t. Invest your energy wisely!

In their book Blitzscaling, entrepreneurial industry leaders Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh recommend that successful startups let their fires burn. As a company scales, it will increasingly experience more problems across the business, so rather than tackling every minute issue that arises, you should think about focusing your efforts on the most pressing fires and simply let other ones burn.

At a certain point, business owners must relinquish certain responsibilities and try to move away from being jacks of all trades (and masters of none). They need to become comfortable handing the reins over to the people they hired for the job, especially as their companies grow. This will likely be difficult to do; let’s be honest, your business is like your firstborn child. However, success comes from focusing your energy on the projects that will yield higher Returns on Investment (ROI) for your business.   Delegating might mean turning to mentors in your business community who can help fill your knowledge gaps. It might also mean hiring consultants to set up systems and establish a foundation that you can then run yourself. As a business owner, instead of draining your time by obtaining specialized knowledge, delegate these tasks to other members of your team. For example, it’s better to hire a team member who knows how to optimize your company’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy than to spin your wheels trying to figure it out on your own. Turning to other people for the knowledge you lack puts you in a better position because it’s less time-consuming, will empower your team members, and provide learning opportunities.  

4. Channel Your Creativity and Take Risks

You have to be in it to win it, and with that mentality comes creativity and risk-taking.   Creativity is the lifeblood of small businesses that should be constantly innovating by finding their competitive advantages and not solely mimicking others. What are you trying to revolutionize? How will you get there? As an entrepreneur, falling into imitative habits is unfaithful to the business you’re nurturing and detracts from the authenticity of your end-product.  Nothing screams success more boldly than a unique output. As business mogul Bill Campbell has said, if companies “don’t continue to innovate, they’re going to dieーand I didn’t say iterate, I said innovate.” Successful founders become trendsetters not only by inventing novel products but also by pioneering methods that optimize the way pre-existing products work.  Entrepreneurs are also calculated risk-takers: Without risk, there is no reward. “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for,” innovative computer scientist Grace Hopper was known to say. No revolution has ever been risk-free, and in this age of technology, approaches to business have undergone massive transformation. Through strategic approaches to taking risks, entrepreneurs set themselves apart from the crowd by acting on their intuition when they recognize the opportunity for innovation. Take a leaf from this playbook.  

5. Leverage Your Personality

In the business world, does it matter whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert? The success stories of business moguls indicate that both types of people can succeed. Let’s examine the parable of the two Steves, Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Each represents a different archetype, with Jobs a vocal extrovert and Wozniak a self-proclaimed introvert. Through their partnership, they were able to marry their skillsets to produce an incredibly successful company.  Introverts and extroverts process things differently, bringing their own strengths to the entrepreneurial table. For example, where an extrovert may excel at forging connections for his or her business, an introvert can complement this skillset by strengthening existing relationships. Collaboration between different personality types in the workplace can help produce optimal end products. Above all else, founders exude a certain élan. They can take advantage of their resourcefulness, charisma, and innovation to thrive in the business world.  

6. Build Strong Relationships

It is always a great goal to learn, make connections, and promote your business. Successful entrepreneurs are cognizant of how they and their business are perceived, and should therefore strengthen their presence through networking events, conferences, and social media. By cultivating business connections, your company can benefit from third-party input from peers and mentors alike.  

Ask yourself who your target audience is, where you can find them, and which people in your circles will provide you with connections that are both meaningful and strategic in the long-term. You should also strive to enhance your professional networks and client base through targeted social media and content campaigns.

Moreover, fostering strong relationships with your colleagues is beneficial to the well-being of both you and your workplace environment. You’d think that workplace friendship would ultimately become a distraction, but a Harvard Business Review article suggests that people with workplace friendships are 7 times as likely to be engaged in their jobs than those without any.   Pull in the people who support your goals and push away those who bring you down. Don’t waste your time and energy explaining to others why you’re pursuing a self-starter life if they can’t grasp that working for yourself is your dream. The results you get from investing your efforts in hustling for your startup will be all the explanation you need.

7. Embrace Both Success and Failure

When recovering from a setback, the only real business failure is to stop trying. Successful entrepreneurs understand better than most that risks do not always yield results. The key is to adapt and overcome temporary obstacles. Entrepreneurs deal with the pressure of proving themselves to investors, co-workers, and nonbelievers. The only way to build a profitable company is by striving to constantly iterate and improve, whether through pre-existing skillsets or learning new methods to strengthen your business.  The willingness to adapt is crucial to the longevity of your business. Founders who aim for success must use their time efficiently and remain fervently committed to their goals. You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  

The Takeaways

The entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It takes guts, perseverance, and a never-ending drive to maintain a lifestyle of chasing dreams, working hard, and pushing boundaries to make them a reality. Stay in tune with what your business needs on a daily basis. Whether it’s an outline of objectives or a creative session with your team, there is always a way to push the boundaries.   Entrepreneurs can harness all the “what-ifs” and fuel their projects with those uncertainties, knowing that the process of learning is never-ending. Despite the somewhat sobering success rate statistics, today’s wave of American entrepreneurship is riding 58.9 million people strong.   Taking a leap of faith into the entrepreneurial world is a challenge, but it can ultimately reap the dividends of a dream coming true.  That’s why we support small business owners like you, so apply for Novo today!  Header Photo Credit: Diggity Marketing

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