Many parts of a startup are about building habits that support the outcomes that you are seeking. While there are no particular founder habits that guarantee success. There are some common ones that separate good founders from ones that struggle. We cover this in detail in our book, The Startup Playbook. Here’s an introduction to the topic of habits of a founder.For example, you’ll need to be persistent to open doors and win customers. Build the habit of continuously following up. If it’s not natural to you, write it down as a task and then do it, repeatedly. We discuss this topic at length in our book, The Startup Playbook, but we’ll give you a few habits of a founder here.
- Hard work / smart work – yes, of course you’ll need to work hard. There is really no substitute. Yes, some people can get lucky and build a great business working 9 to 5 and taking two hour lunches. I’m not sure that we have ever met those people. On the flip side, smart founders know that working 100 hours a week isn’t healthy either. Numerous studies show that the productivity of a worker declines after a certain number of hours. While entrepreneurs may have a little wider range, consistently working all of the time doesn’t work either. Your mind needs time to process what you have been working on and make connections that may not be obvious. Time away at times can help your brain illuminate interesting connections. You’ll want to build a habit of working hard and smart.
- Communication – whether you are a one man band or you have a team of people, communication is an excellent habit to be in. You’ll need to communicate with your customers, teammates, vendors, investors, and others. You can build excellent communication habits. You can be clear with your writing and in your conversations. You can do those on an on-going basis. You can face bad news head on. All of this is building the habit of communicating. You can build processes within your organization that aid in these. For example, institute a short weekly report from each of your teammates to communicate status. Schedule demos of new features that are built into your product. Have a company meeting that shares what different individuals are doing in the company. Communication is habit and works for introverts and extroverts.
- Persistence – building a business is extremely hard and you are told no more often than you think. Having the persistence and perseverance to continue moving forward is a critical habit to build. When you hit a road block you’ll want to figure out whether it doesn’t matter and you can drop it, whether you need to go around it, or whether you need to go right through it. Whatever your choice in the situation, persistence counts. There are many times you’ll need to keep banging your head against the same wall until you create a crack and once you create a crack you can keep pushing and break through. Persistence is also about learning from others. You may be passionate about solving a problem and will beat on it until you break through, but part of being an entrepreneur is learning from others and their mistakes. Your persistence should be to find the best path to the solution and that could be asking for help! Of course, you’ll want to figure out which types of situations deserve your time and attention, because you won’t be able to tackle everything.
- Prioritization – an important habit to build is always being able to prioritize tasks. You can never have two number one priorities. A great skill that founders build is the ability to take a set of tasks and rank order prioritize them. It is incredibly difficult when everything is important and needed right away but building a constant habit of deciding what is more important is powerful. This habit takes incredible discipline because it involves saying not now to employees, customers, vendors, and investors. The benefits, though, are incredible. If you are prioritizing the most important work always then your business will be moving forward quickly.
It is clear that being a founder is a learned skill and not an innate trait of a human. Truly anybody can learn to be an entrepreneur and people from all walks of life have demonstrated this. Your habits will determine the success you have far more than your innate traits. If you can learn to execute in a way that is positive for your organization, that will be the difference between success and failure.
As we all know, habits are hard to form and maintain, but once they are there, they become more natural. It isn’t possible to create a large number of habits all at the same time. It’s better to figure out which habits are the most important ones that you want to develop and build those first. Then continue to expand and build other habits that will help you succeed.