Every entrepreneur has a different definition of success. Some just want to live comfortably, or double the salary they earned in retail. Some define success in terms of millionaire status, while others gauge it by their impact on their community and the world.
No matter how you define success, attaining mega-success isn’t so much about what you achieve as it involves creating a life in which you continue to set and meet your goals no matter what they are. This has less to do with tactics and strategies than ways of being.
Richard Branson has achieved more continuing success than any other entrepreneur on the planet. Everything he touches turns to gold. That’s because Branson, like other mega-successful entrepreneurs, did the following from day one:
1. Delegate and hire for weaknesses
In an article that explained the hiring process at Virgin, Richard Branson said, "like all young entrepreneurs, the first thing I learned was that you have got to delegate your duties if you want your venture to survive and (ideally) grow. And you should be hiring with an eye to the day that you’re going to delegate even your CEO position and step back from the business’s day-to-day operations so that you can focus on ensuring that your company is prepared for what’s next."
Branson recalled how Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx clothing, told him she learned to delegate out of necessity. Blakely had struggled with math and accounting in school, so she hired an accountant right away.
Leave your ego behind. Don’t be afraid to outsource the tasks you struggle with or vital functions an expert could do better. You don’t have to do it all yourself. It takes a team of diverse talents to make a company successful.
If you struggle with delegation, you’ll need to take a leap of faith. You can’t scale your business as long as you remain the only employee.
2. Don’t fight rejection
Rejection is a blessing for people who understand how crucial it is for everyone to be on board. When someone doesn’t get your vision, either you’re not explaining it effectively or that person just doesn’t get it.
Don’t waste your time trying to convince people they should support your vision. Focus your energy on connecting with people who support you. When you find the right ones, they won’t need convincing, and your conversations will turn to creating and growing your business.
3. Take full responsibility for everything
Responsibility doesn’t mean accepting the blame for everything that goes wrong despite it being “someone else’s fault.” True responsibility is blameless. It’s a powerful place to stand where you declare your willingness to respond and create an outcome.
As Werner Erhard says, “Responsibility begins with the willingness to be cause in the matter of one's life. Ultimately, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are."
For example, if a client deadline gets missed, you take responsibility and seek a resolution. You declare that you will create the outcome and plan your communications and actions accordingly.
Instead of blaming your development team for falling behind, ask them what happened and help them get back on track. Stay focused on results.
Of course, it wasn’t your “fault” that the client’s project bogged down; you’re the CEO, not the developer. But that’s a disempowering understanding of responsibility.
Blame and shame don’t lead to solutions. Responsibility, as the powerful place to stand, is the only path to solution when breakdowns occur. Adopting this way of thinking ultimately leads to success.
4. Maintain a work/life balance
Too many entrepreneurs assume they must work 70+ hours a week, and deprive themselves of food, water, and rest in order to succeed. But working this way is not productive and won’t create success.
In 2014, John Pencavel at Stanford University quantified the relationship between productivity and how many hours an employee works. In a paper titled The Productivity of Working Hours, Pencavel found that productivity falls off a cliff after a 55-hour work week.
The study also found the productivity of a 70-hour work week was no greater. Those extra 15 hours made zero difference.
Overworking yourself is not a long-term strategy for success
Guess who doesn’t adhere to a rigid work schedule? Richard Branson … and he’s not alone. Warren Buffet told MBA students in 2012, “you may need to do fifty things a day in New York, but I’d rather to do some reading in my office and do one to two things a day and do them well.”
Buffet credits his decision to stay in Nebraska instead of moving to the bustling metropolis of New York for his ability to maintain a work/life balance. Maintaining a work/life balance isn’t the result of success, it’s a cause.
If mega-successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Warren Buffet see a value in maintaining a work/life balance, you should follow suit.
5. Empower staff to succeed
The greatest source of employee struggle comes from unclear directions and roles, and confusing expectations. Don’t pay people to wander around your office confused. Set expectations early and follow through on your word every time.
Don’t be too quick to fire someone because he isn’t meeting your expectations. Too often, they’re implied and not explicitly stated. Make sure you do everything in your power to be clear about your expectations.
6. Coach employees differently
You may remember an early boss telling you what to do and making your life difficult by correcting you every five minutes or sending you home early over a mistake. If that was your model for coaching and rule enforcement, you’ll want to trade it in for an empowering approach.
When you take responsibility for training your employees fully as blank slates, they’ll find it easier to do their job. They may have come to your firm with technical skills, but they’ll still need to learn how your business operates.
Have empowering conversations
Instead of commenting on every little thing workers do wrong, foster an empowering conversation to find out where they’re struggling. By listening to them, you’ll be able to identify the roots of their confusion and correct them.
Don’t talk; listen
The most empowering conversation you can have with an employee is simply to listen. That may not sound like a conversation, but it’s the fastest way to understand and be understood.
In Mark Goulston’s thought-provoking book, Just Listen, he reminds us that people want to be understood but that rarely happens. There is an art to being understood, and it begins with understanding the other person.
Making the other person feel heard, that you got their communication, is the key to getting your message through. If you’re training or coaching an employee on how to do a better job, he or she is naturally going to be defensive and reject everything you say. Too many people grow accustomed to being scolded and placed in the wrong without getting a chance to be heard.
Before you can coach employees effectively, they need to feel heard. It doesn’t matter what they did wrong, they’ll never benefit from your coaching unless they have their say.
Reading Goulston’s book is the best way to learn how to have these powerful conversations, but if you’re not ready to buy it, read this book review from the Huffington Post. The author explains some of the main strategies described in the book that you can use to transform your conversations.
7. Take data security seriously
Mega-successful entrepreneurs run a tight ship with regard to data security. They take it seriously and enforce protocols to maintain it.
Honestly, you have no idea what your employees are doing with sensitive proprietary data that comes through their email inbox. They could be saving it, forwarding it, or texting it and you’d never know.
Virtru emphasizes the need for email security diligence, saying, “all messaging tools share an essential security problem: once you share information, it’s very hard to protect or control that information. If your recipient loses control of their email account, forwards your email to the wrong person, or intentionally shares an attachment against your wishes, it can be tremendously damaging to you and your family, customers, or business partners.”
If you haven’t thought about data security because you’re a startup, you need to focus on it soon. It might require effort to retrain existing staff to start encrypting email messages, and stop taking credit card orders over email.
Implement your security measures before you grow, because training from scratch is easier than breaking existing habits.
Celebrate every success, no matter how small
The human brain has a tendency to forget accomplishments and remember failures. When you celebrate every success, you’re maintaining awareness of is. Remember that every small success is a stepping stone toward your big dream.