A great idea alone doesn't guarantee successful startups. Equally important is the founder's ability to develop certain key habits and incorporate them into his or her daily life. These habits breed discipline, rather than disorganization, and action, rather than endless strategizing with nothing to show for it.
What are some of the habits found among virtually all successful startup leaders?
1. An unshakable determination to win. It's not enough to work hard and hope your efforts will pay off. A startup leader's will to succeed includes a mindset intent on outperforming competitors and pursuing a goal, regardless of all the challenges in the way. This attitude, says entrepreneurial development expert Brian Tracey, "is a chief motivating power that drives entrepreneurs and eventually assures successful careers."
2. A focus on transparency. In the early stages, communication within a startup is generally free-flowing—largely because there are only a handful of employees at most. As the business grows, the leader should remain committed to a policy of transparency, both as a way to avoid the stifling effects of bureaucracy and because it's vitally important for the CEO and his or her employees to be on the same page. Some companies grant full access to shared email addresses and displayed dashboards as a way of keeping everyone informed.
3. Always asking "why?" Entrepreneurs with breakthrough ideas are always asking, "Why do we do things this way?" and "Why don't we try something different?" By rejecting the standard answer, "That's the way we've always done things," says content strategist Shane Snow, entrepreneurs "find and fix the 20 percent wrong that causes 80 percent of their problems."
Cultivating the habit of questioning the status quo fosters unconventional thinking and creates new opportunities to move your business forward.
4. Telling great stories. Nothing fires up investors and inspires employees like a great story. Successful startups are led by entrepreneurs who come by storytelling naturally or who work hard to perfect this critical skill. The ability to captivate an audience with a compelling story will beat out the most elaborately prepared and statistically detailed PowerPoint presentation every time.
5. Being able to delegate. Effective leadership includes possessing the willingness and trust to delegate responsibilities within the organization. Without this habit, startup leaders invariably become overwhelmed trying to do everything themselves. If you make the effort to hire wisely, take the next logical step and delegate key roles to employees so you're relieved of administrative chores or other tasks that get in the way of creative thinking.
6. Taking care of themselves. There may be no greater challenge than starting a business and making a round-the-clock commitment to do things right. But entrepreneurs who try to achieve these goals without also taking care of their health and mental well-being often burn out and fall by the side of the road.
By contrast, successful startup leaders find ways to create a work/life balance that includes proper diet, regular exercise, a good night's sleep and fostering healthy relationships. These leaders "see the clear value in taking time to rest and recharge, no different than a professional athlete's bursts of activity intermixed with periodic rest," notes business writer Josh Linkner.
To see how cultivating these and similar habits helps pave the way to entrepreneurial success, simply read about the life stories of innovative business leaders. You'll recognize many of these habits along their roads to success.