The Most Important Habits of a Successful Business Owner

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Your job isn’t for the faint of heart. Many businesses fail because what started out as a great idea lacked the strength of a true entrepreneur behind it, pushing it forward to success.

Did you know 80 percent of entrepreneurs fail at their attempt within 18 months? (source) What differentiates the businesses that succeed? Here are the most important habits that all successful business owners share and recommend you adopt, today.



#1 They Set SMART Goals

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Successful business owners regularly set specific goals. But they don’t just set goals, they set SMART goals. They do this daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly etc. Here’s how you can do it too:

  • Specific – Make sure your goal is well defined and clear to anyone who has a basic knowledge of the topic. Answer the 6 “W” questions: who, what, where, which, when, and why.
  • Measurable – Form criteria for measuring progress toward the goal. Ask yourself: How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Attainable – Set up the steps it will take to achieve this goal and gain agreement by all people, departments, or stakeholders involved.
  • Realistic – Figure out the necessary materials, knowledge, and time it will take to accomplish this goal and make sure these required tools are available to you.
  • Time-based – Create a timeline for the goal and ensure you have enough time to do it. Plan out what periods of the day you will dedicate to working on this goal.

Here are a few examples showing the major differences between broad goals and SMART business owner goals provided by About Money.

Broad Goal: “I want to grow my business.”

SMART Goal: “I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business within two months by asking for referrals, launching a social media marketing campaign and networking with local businesses. This will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.”

Broad Goal: “I want to write a business book.”

SMART Goal: “In order to establish myself as an expert, I will write a 150-page book on social media by writing one chapter per month (3-5 pages per week). The book will be completed in 10 months, and then I will search for a publisher or explore self-publishing.”

Broad Goal: “I want to become a well-known expert.”

SMART Goal: “I will acquire the services of a PR/publicity firm and launch a publicity campaign that will help establish me as a well-known expert in small business accounting who is asked to speak publicly on the topic at least once a month, receives interview requests every week and writes one article per month for a top industry publication. This will reinforce my 20+ years of experience in the field and allow me to reach more small business owners who need accounting advice.”

#2 The Are the Masters of Their Time

Old looking clock with 12:34 showing as the time.

Successful business owners work from dawn to dusk. They never give up, but even the most successful people will burn out eventually. Our minds, energy, and creativity all experience high and low points throughout the day. How do you manage the endless lists of tasks and meetings on your plate? You must organize, prioritize, and schedule your time.

Here’s a few tips to help, from Convert with Content.

  • Start with time logging. Grab a notebook or spreadsheet to carry around with you for an entire day from waking to just before bed. Log every minute of your day, listing tasks and how much time it took to complete. You need a map of your “typical” work day.
  • Identify your big time wasters. Once you have an entire day logged, it will be easy to recognize time wasters. The goal is to find areas where you’re spending too much time. Categories to consider are: Email, Phone Calls, Meetings, Breaks, Errands, and other nonproductive tasks.
  • Use the pomodoro technique. This is a time management method that involves setting a timer for 25-minutes while you focus on one specific task, then taking a short 5-minute break before starting the next task. You can make up your own variations of this technique and even set goals around it.
  • Apply the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts so your job in effective time management is to increase the amount of time you spend in that 20% category where you’re going to get the greatest results in your business (and less time everywhere else).
  • Delegate but don’t abdicate. Successful business owners know that they need other people’s help in order to get the job done. The key about delegation is to avoid “abdicating” — that is, you need to avoid giving employees responsibilities without effectively preparing and training them for the task.
  • Avoid your employees. Once you’ve got them trained and working effectively, it’s time to avoid them altogether as much as possible. The “bad” employees will eat up your time with constant problems (so, it’s best to hire the right ones and train them well), but even the “good” employees will waste your time with their well-intentioned attempts to garner your attention (aka teacher’s pet syndrome). If you can at all muster it, I suggest setting up your personal office away from the main areas where your employees work.
  • Beware of shiny object syndrome. Finally, do everything you can to avoid being pulled under by “shiny object syndrome” in your business. Shiny objects will pop up from time-to-time and they will do everything to distract you from what you’re trying to achieve now. New opportunities are good, but be sure they don’t become bad.

#3 They Know When to Delegate

Del·e·gate – entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself.

Part of being a successful business owner is knowing what aspects could be done better and more efficiently by someone else. Remember the tip we mentioned in #2? Delegate but don’t abdicate. Don’t take on tasks you don’t have time for and don’t give those task to employees that aren’t properly trained for it. Take the time to hire quality employees and train them so they possess the ability to take on those tasks for you. On top of that, many employers will delegate tasks like payroll and human resource duties to other companies like a PEO.


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  1. […] goal-setting process starts at the top. While most agree that setting goals at the executive level, then setting goals at the next level […]

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