Steve Jobs. Sam Walton. Bill Gates. Marc Benioff. What do all of these people have in common? They’re highly successful entrepreneurs.
Mediocre entrepreneurs abound, but it takes something distinct to be highly successful. In my own career, I’ve noticed that certain habits and practices allow me to perform at my best compared with the times when I performed at my worst. Surprisingly, this has more to do with what I don’t do than what I do.
Here are six things highly successful entrepreneurs don’t do that set them apart from their less successful counterparts.
1. They don’t watch their email.
When checking your email is the first thing you do each day, your schedule is doomed. That’s because emptying your inbox is a reactive rather a proactive exercise. “You just wind up bouncing from task to task, letting your inbox set your agenda,” says Julie Morgenstern, author, and corporate organizing consultant. Instead of starting your day with email, start by completing an important task that requires focus.
Of course, it is important to be accessible to customers, employees, and clients. But when your focus is constantly interrupted by email notifications, it’s hard to concentrate on other matters. “Email is not intended to be an urgent form of communication,” says Kevin Kruse, author and time-management expert. Successful entrepreneurs schedule set times throughout the day to handle small batches of their inbox. And with each email, Kruse suggests doing one of four things: Delete it (or archive it), delegate it, defer it for another day, or do it.
2. They don’t attend too many meetings.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t schedule an abundance of meetings. When asked how to maximize productivity, Mark Cuban said, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” And many business leaders share that philosophy. Every minute counts and successful people know that meetings are famous for wasting that valuable time. “You should get out of meetings whenever you can and hold fewer of them yourself,” says Travis Bradberry. He added that if you must hold a meeting, keep it short and to the point.
3. They don’t get too busy to think.
When you’re an entrepreneur, you can allow your day to become so loaded with tasks that it’s even hard to think. But this could be the missing link to achieving success. “While it is undoubtedly true that superior execution is better than any great idea you can think of, you need new ideas if you are going to stay ahead of the competition. And it is awfully hard to come up with those ideas if you don’t have any time to think,” says Paul B. Brown. For example, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules two hours of thinking time every day. And Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO, requires each of his executives to spend at least four hours per week . . . thinking. I personally like to schedule time to think, and vacation is an especially good time. Force yourself to take breaks, and that is oftentimes when the epiphany comes.
4. They don’t try to provide too many products or services.
It’s normal in the early stage of a business to throw some spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. But as your organization grows, you have to focus and narrow your services to what you do very best. “The only way to be successful is by figuring out what you’re best at and focusing on just that,” says Steve Tobak. “It’s true for each and every one of us and every company no matter how big it is.” He referred to an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who follows the focused philosophy facilitated by the late Steve Jobs. “It’s easy to add. It’s hard to edit. It’s hard to stay focused,” says Cook. “And yet we know we’ll only do our best work if we stay focused.” Cook says the hardest decisions they make are all the things NOT to work on. Remembering that the ultimate goal is to succeed means limiting interests to things where you know you will achieve great results.
I experienced the benefit of this principle firsthand. When Simplus was a new organization, we worked with several software partners to help with implementation. Over time, we decided to serve only Salesforce. It was difficult decision to narrow, as I had to drop over a million dollars of passive revenue, but it was the right one. Within a matter of a few months, we had made up the difference from the revenue we lost and grew at a much faster trajectory. This year, we made the decision to narrow again and become the world’s best implementation partner for only one Salesforce application – Salesforce Quote-to-Cash. This focus has allowed our business to grow and scale at an unprecedented rate.
5. They don’t micromanage.
Delegation is likely the most underrated tool for success. But successful entrepreneurs know that sharing projects and tasks with others means they can focus on other tasks. In the end, they have achieved double the rate of productivity. But for those who care deeply about their work, preaching the gospel of delegation is sometimes easier than practicing it. “Micromanagers may have good intentions – trying to get work done well – but they drive us crazy,” says Kristi Hedges. “Micromanagement saps the life out of us, causing apathy at work.” If you want to build the ultimate dream team for your startup, hire people with strengths that counterbalance your weaknesses, and then trust them to take ownership of needed projects and tasks.
For example, while letting my executives do their jobs during a time of strategic thinking, I learned that our largest partner was acquired by Salesforce. I quickly realized that, because of this acquisition, the likelihood of Salesforce investing in our business was much higher. I went to Salesforce and quickly secured the investment. Had I been too focused on everyone else’s affairs, we would have missed this opportunity like our competition did.
6. They don’t outgrow the need for a mentor.
Mentors can be a wealth of wisdom and information – and entrepreneurs who are highly successful never outgrow the need for them. Yet, many entrepreneurs don’t pursue this relationship. Writer Sujan Patel says that pride may be to blame, and they don’t see the value in it. Or they don’t know where to start in building that relationship. “A lot of people fail to recognize the true value of having someone to talk to or confide in, and it’s a real shame because mentoring matters,” says Patel. “ It makes a difference, and it can impact your business in very tangible ways.” Although your business ventures experience varying levels of growth, one thing successful entrepreneurs know is that the need for thoughtful mentoring is something you will never outgrow.
As you study the habits of your favorite entrepreneurs, note the things they don’t do. By adopting methods that maximize your time, fine-tune focus, attract talented employees, and keep things in perspective, you too can follow the simple journey to entrepreneurial success.
This article was written by Ryan Westwood from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.