Starting and running a successful business is a dream for many. The reason why few manage to turn a dream business into reality goes beyond having a great business idea or working hard: it is about developing the proper habits.
Most successful business owners have a drive, determination, and resilience that sets them apart. They don’t just have a passion for what they do; they also have the discipline to turn that passion into profits.
The aim of this article is twofold.
First, we will help you understand what the habits that successful business owners share in common are. We’ll explore the top 10 habits that can help you become a successful small business owner.
Second, we provide you with 10 practical tips and tools to implement these habits in your own business and personal life. We list tried and tested methods that many business owners have.
1- They define what “success” means for them
A close friend once told me something along these lines: “If I am going to city A, and you are going to city B, does it matter who arrives first?” That became some sort of persisting mantra that I always go back to when thinking of what it means to achieve success.
Success is a highly individualized concept where what works for one person may not work for another, and understanding this is essential for personal and business success.
For some, the idea of being their own boss equals a life achievement, while for others, that might be the equivalent of daunting instability. Having a profitable business might just be what you dream and aspire to, while for others, it is a stable and predictable career.
There is nothing inherited right or wrong with how you shape success; remember: comparing your progress to point A with someone else’s progress to point B is fruitless. What is universal, however, is the following:
“Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.”
This quote by actress Aisha Tyler draws a significant line between success and failure; failure isn’t the antithesis of success but rather a natural byproduct of persistence toward success.
At this point, you might be wondering, “beautiful, but how can I define what a successful life and business mean to me?” here is how we do this:
Tool: List what you value
The only way to define what success means to you is to understand what you value. Values are the essence of success, whether for you as a parent, friend, or business owner. A list with all that you value will go a long way to help you define success for your new business ventures.
I recommend creating your values list with pen and paper rather than software or tool. Keeping things simple is very important at this point.
Simply list everything that comes to mind. “Money,” “spending time with my kids,” “being able to express my creativity,” “engaging with as many people as possible,” and “leading and developing people.”
You are the boss, so there is no “wrong” value. However, one pro tip is to avoid negative tenses when writing. Instead of “not having to work from 9-5”, go with “setting my own working hours.” This helps you understand where to go rather than where to run from.
Keep this list close by and check in anytime you review your performance or set new goals. Speaking of which:
2- They set and track long-term goals
Many small business owners have a multitude of tasks they have to go about each day. Managing cash flow, tending to customers, controlling inventory, paying bills, managing a team, and even taking out the trash.
Granted: small businesses at their early stages demand a lot from their owners. However, as we go about our daily business life, we tend to enter the automatic mode and forget the long-term tasks; conducting market research, defining and refining business models, etc.
That’s why setting and tracking long-term goals is a critical habit for small business leaders. Instead of providing us with the immediate tasks your business requires to continue operating, long-term goals help you understand what direction you want to head in the future.
Bill Gates’s famous quote on managing long x short-term goals helps us understand this habit better:
“We often underestimate one year and often overestimate one day.”
We tend to be very good at creating to-do lists (which we will discuss later in the article) and forget how crucial it is to look at the broader picture of what we can achieve when looking to a wider horizon.
This is how successful businesses set long-term goals.
Tool: Long term goal setting
“Long term” is up for different interpretations. For solopreneurs and small business owners, that might be 2 to 3 years. For real estate investors, that can be anything from 5 years on. This is a highly individualized metric, and it’s up to you to define it.
After defining it, set 3 to 5 long-term goals. They have to be broader than a daily to-do list while still remaining measurable. For example:
To achieve financial freedom;
To spend most of my days with my family;
These are narrow enough that you can target them and later evaluate if you achieved them, but still broad enough that it still keeps you open for changes as your business career evolves. One example of a too-broad long-term goal is “I want to be rich” (what does that mean?), and a narrow one is “I want to be going to bed at 10pm every day.”
After you define them, create the successful habit of checking them every week or so.
3- Successful entrepreneurs measure their businesses
Another habit of successful business owners is to measure the most essential parts of their business. They know that what gets measured gets managed, so they track, analyze, and gain insights into their business’s performance and identify areas for improvement.
Think of financial data, sales figures, customer satisfaction rates, employee productivity, and more. By measuring these crucial things, business owners can make data-driven decisions that lead to better outcomes.
They also make a habit of identifying potential issues before they become significant problems and take corrective action as needed. In addition, they constantly seek feedback from their customers, employees, and other stakeholders to ensure they are meeting their needs and expectations.
“Not all that can be counted counts. Not all that counts can be counted.”
Scientist Einstein would say this in a laboratory setting, but the same holds true for small business owners habits.
While it is vital to keep measuring what will help your business grow, it is important to determine what numbers might not bring much impact to your business, as beautifully depicted in this by Jeff Haden in this CBS article.
For most businesses, especially small ones, these 3 key metrics should suffice:
Cash flow: The inflow and outflow of cash in the business and is essential for monitoring the financial health of the business (we will explore it in more detail later.)
Customer acquisition cost: The cost of acquiring a new customer helps business owners understand the effectiveness of their marketing and sales efforts.
Net profit margin: The percentage of revenue that remains after all expenses, including taxes and interest, have been deducted.
Tool: Spreadsheets, your new ally
If we were to handpick one single habit for you to implement in your business today, it would be to start using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets can track a multitude of metrics, can easily be shared with other people to collaborate on, provide asynchronous communication, mathematical formulas, and much more.
Trying to explain the importance of spreadsheets for small businesses in this section would be a humongous task, so I will leave you with these excellent Excel (pun intended) planners and tracker templates.
4- They manage their time strategically
There is essentially only one resource no business owner – or person, for that matter – can get back, and that is time. We touched on the topic of time management directly and indirectly throughout this article, and we will continue to do so.
On this point, however, I would like to address managing time in our daily life and the tasks we line out on a to-do list.
Successful business owners know that time is a precious resource that should be used wisely. They prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency and allocate their time accordingly. They delegate tasks that can be done by others and focus on the ones that only they can do. They also use tools and technologies to streamline their workflows and increase their productivity.
Michael Altshule said wisely:
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is: you’re the pilot.”
In order for you to manage your time as you manage day-to-day operations and your business grows, three things are necessary.
Delegation: Successful business owners know they can’t do everything themselves. They delegate tasks to employees or outsource them to contractors or service providers. We will cover this in greater detail later in this article.
Technology: They use tools like scheduling apps (like Appointible) and automation tools (such as Zapier) to save time and increase productivity. By leveraging technology, they can stay organized, communicate more effectively, and reduce the time it takes to complete tasks. We will also go through this topic again later on.
Planning: They also Successful business owners plan their month, week, and especially their day in advance. Speaking of which, this is the tool for this section of the article:
Tool: Plan tomorrow today
“Plan tomorrow today” is a technique that involves taking a few minutes at the end of each day to plan out the tasks and priorities for the next day. This allows business owners to hit the ground running in the morning and be more productive throughout the day.
By creating the habit of planning tomorrow today, you can ensure that they are focusing on the most important tasks and can make adjustments to their schedule as needed. Additionally, it can help reduce stress and improve work-life balance, as business owners can leave work at the end of the day knowing that they have a plan in place for the next day.
We have a whole article on the plan tomorrow, today’s technique, and time management here at Appointible, so be sure to check that one out.
5- They track and understand finances
We have already covered some of the most important habits related to measuring your business and even touched on some financial-related metrics. If you want to take your business to the next level, you need to take the time to track and understand your finances.
Keep accurate and up-to-date records of their income, expenses, and profits, and regularly review your financial statements to gain insights into the financial health of their business.
Create the habit to track of finances diligently and spending time understanding cash flow, revenue, taxes, and profit margins. If you are not so familiar with tracking your finances, a good place to start is your budget.
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
Dave Ramsey was spot on with this quote, as budgeting is vital to understanding where – and how much – to invest in your business rather than just evaluating where the money went.
Tool: monthly budgeting
If you are a small business owner just starting out, creating a monthly budget will go a long way. A monthly budget is a simple financial plan that outlines the business’s expected income and expenses for the upcoming month.
To create a monthly budget, small business owners should follow these steps:
Identify sources of income: This includes any revenue streams that the business has, such as sales, services, or investments.
Estimate expenses: This includes all of the business’s costs, such as rent, utilities, salaries, inventory, and other operating expenses.
Categorize expenses: Once all costs have been identified, they should be categorized into different categories, such as “Rent,” “Utilities,” “Salaries,” “Marketing,” and so on.
Allocate funds: After all, expenses have been categorized, the business owner can allocate funds to each category based on their importance and priority.
Monitor and adjust: Once the budget has been created, it’s important to monitor actual expenses and adjust the budget as necessary to ensure that the business is staying on track.
Creating a monthly budget is an excellent way for small business owners to gain a better understanding of their finances, control spending, and plan for the future. Over time, business owners can expand their budget to cover more extended time periods, such as quarterly or annually.
6- They learn continuously
Learning is often an overlooked habit by most business owners, but a pivotal trait to understand that the world is constantly changing and to keep up with it. History shows that many successful businesses simply faded due to stagnation and a lack of new knowledge coming into the company.
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”
Philosopher Lao Tzu highlights the importance of learning and the lifelong value it can bring. As a small business owner, investing in your own education and development can have significant benefits for your business.
By continuously learning and expanding your knowledge, you can gain a deeper understanding of your industry, identify new opportunities, and make informed decisions that can positively impact your business. Additionally, learning can help you stay innovative and adapt to changes in the market, which can be crucial for staying competitive.
Tool: Soft skills and hard skills division
A way to better strategize your learning habits is to divide them into soft skills and hard skills.
Hard skills are technical skills and abilities, usually specific to a particular job or industry, and they can be measured and quantified. Examples of hard skills include nail polishing technics, programming, gardening, and graphic design.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are non-technical skills that are often more related to personal attributes and interpersonal interactions and transferable to a multitude of business models. Examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, time management, problem-solving, and leadership.
One idea is for every two hard skills you learn, you should commit yourself to learn one soft skill. By developing both your hard and soft skills, you can become a more well-rounded and valuable small business owner, and set yourself up for long-term success.
7- They focus on the customer experience
While you are still developing your small business idea, project, or service, not having clients is perfectly normal. But that is about it because a business with no customers is just a project.
Successful business owners understand the importance of providing a positive and memorable customer experience.
They are able to build loyal customer bases and differentiate themselves from their competition, take the time to understand their customers’ needs and preferences, tailor their products or services to meet those needs, and hone their customer support activities to perfection.
As a business owner, you should get into the habit of always looking for ways to improve your client experience, even if you are already getting all 5-star reviews. The reason behind being so customer obsessed is the following:
“Create customers who create customers.”
Peter Drucker’s quote explains the importance of customer satisfaction brilliantly. At the end of the day, creating customers that are so happy about being your client that they themselves promote it to others is critical for any business model.
One way to start the habit of leveraging customer success as a small business owner is to always be on the lookout for customer feedback.
Tool: Actively look for and promote feedback
Make it easy for customers to provide feedback by providing a variety of channels for them to use, such as email, phone, social media, or online surveys. Also, be sure to let customers know that their feedback is valued and will be taken into account when making decisions.
If you are implementing the feedback you gather from your clients into your small business, then you should track feedback on an ongoing basis. This might involve following up on customer satisfaction scores, monitoring social media mentions, or using analytics tools to gain insights into customer behavior.
Never be scared of poor public reviews, though. You are in it for the long run, and your client’s opinion of your business is priceless.
8- A successful business owner takes health very seriously
“Wait a minute, I thought this was an article about habits for business success. What health has to do with that?”
Successful business owner recognizes that taking care of their health is crucial for long-term success. By prioritizing health, they are able to maintain the energy and focus needed to manage a growing business.
And while sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, working out, and meeting loved ones provide you with the majority of health benefits you need, we somehow still manage to miss on daily habits that would drastically improve our health – and ultimately, our businesses.
“The greatest wealth is health.”
The Roman poet Virgil stated this some two thousand years ago, but it still holds true. Our health is indeed the most incredible wealth we have. It allows us to move through the world, work to improve our lives, go to places we want to see, and just about anything else.
New businesses can have the tendency to worry primarily about making money. Although that is simply mandatory in business, you should never forget that you are in it for the long run, and your hard work should not be unhealthy.
Tool: The triple health grid
I am not a health professional, and any health-related advice should be given by your health care professional only. However, there is a fantastic way to simply check in daily how your health is and to take steps to improve – the triple health grid:
Mechanical: note everything that has to do with sensing and moving through the word. Think of your muscles, your sight, dental health, your skin, audition, joints, and more;
Internal: whatever comes in and out of your body relates to your internal health. What and when you eat, supplementation, the quality of the air you breathe, etc.;
Mental: all the things that go in your head (and heart). The human mind, emotions, and feelings are complex and demand special attention.
Spend some minutes daily checking your triple health grid, and that should give you an idea of where your health is and what steps you should take in order to improve it.
9- They network with other successful business owners
An imperative business owner success habit is to network; not the generic LinkedIn connection invite that we send from time to time, however.
Networking is an integral part of building a successful business, as it allows you to connect with others, learn from their experiences and insights, and build mutually beneficial relationships. By clicking with other business owners, you can gain access to valuable resources, such as advice, guidance, and industry knowledge, that can help you grow your business.
There is a vast number of networking habits you can implement in your business. You may attend industry events, such as conferences, seminars, and trade shows, where you can meet other business owners in your field.
You can also seek out mentors who have achieved success in their field. Mentors can provide guidance on marketing, sales, financial management, and operations and also help you keep motivated and accountable for your progress.
“Your network is your net worth.”
This is not just a powerful quote but a full book title. “Your Network Is Your Net Worth” is a book by Porter Gale that emphasizes the importance of networking for personal and professional success.
The book highlights the value of building strong, diverse networks, and provides practical advice on how to expand and maintain these networks. It also stresses the importance of giving back to your network and nurturing relationships to create a mutually beneficial environment.
The key takeaway of the book is that your network is one of your greatest assets, and investing time and effort in building it can lead to significant returns in both your personal and professional life – whether by allowing you to meet strategic partners or just great friends.
Tool: Monthly networking assessment
A way for you to keep track of the networking progress you are making is to keep a networking assessment and conduct it monthly. You can write yourself questions such as “how many business owners have I met this week?” or “how many events have I attended?”
Keeping yourself accountable for the people you meet long-term is a habit that will definitely provide you with great returns down the road.
10- Successful small business owners use the right digital tools
Nowadays, there is just so much of our work that can be automated and optimized by using the right digital tools. This doesn’t just apply to modern startups, but to any small business that wants to provide a great service.
These are all but a few examples of how small business administration can be automated and improved with the right digital tools:
Manage social media accounts, schedule posts, and evaluate your social media marketing effort with a social media tool like Hootsuite;
Track income and expenses, manage cash flow, and prepare financial statements with a bookkeeping tool, such as QuickBooks;
Manage customer interactions, track sales leads, and gain insights into customer behavior and preferences with a CRM like Hubspot;
Creating the habit of digitalizing your work is critical, but also is the following:
“The right tool helps you work smarter, not harder.”
This is a famous saying that highlights the importance of using the right tools to improve your efficiency and productivity. By using the right tool for the job, you can save time and effort, reduce errors and mistakes, and achieve better results in less time.
In the context of small business owners, using the right tools can help them automate routine tasks, streamline their operations, and free up time and resources to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of their business.
By investing in the right tools, small business owners can work smarter, not more complex, and achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively. Here is an example of such a tool:
Tool: Online booking system
An online booking system is a digital tool that allows small business owners to automate their appointment scheduling and reservation process. This tool is handy for businesses that offer services like hair and beauty salons, medical practices, fitness centers, and restaurants.
With an online booking system, customers can easily book and manage their appointments, 24/7, without the need for phone calls or emails. This can save businesses time and money and improve the customer experience by providing a convenient and flexible way to schedule appointments.
Online booking systems can also send automated reminders and confirmations, reduce no-shows and cancellations, and provide valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences. We might be slightly biased, but we highly encourage you to create a free account with Appointible and experiment with modernizing your appointment scheduling operation.
The two-minute rule
Finally, in case you struggle with keeping a new habit on track, a final tip is to test the “two-minute rule.” This is definitely the best tool to implement a new habit and beat procrastination as a small business owner. This YouTube video (which is also two minutes long) provides a great explanation of how to start the two-minute rule for your own endeavors.
I hope this article provided you with a good idea of how setting the proper habits and implementing them can go a long way when it comes to your business success.
Be sure to check out other articles here at Appointible. We have a lot of new ideas and tips you can implement in your business and set it for continued success.