Women Empowerment

7 Behaviors of Successful Entrepreneurs

Throughout my interviews with entrepreneurs who’ve transformed challenge into triumph, I’ve noticed seven common behaviors integral to their success. Ask yourself if you do the following–if not, it might be time to start!

1. They Say No 

I’m a people-pleaser. I hate letting people down. And for many years, I said ‘yes’ to everything. The result? Resentment, overwhelm, diluted quality of work, a handful of breakdowns, and ultimately burnout. Don’t wait to learn the hard way that no one else is going to set boundaries for you. We live in a culture where we’re told to ‘take every opportunity,’  and women in particular are socialized to be ‘selfless.’ I now remind myself that by saying ‘No,’ I’m actually saying ‘Yes’ to something better for me.

Action Step: Buy yourself some time by responding with ’Let me think about it’ or ‘I’ll get back to you.’ You can then evaluate whether or not this additional project, favor, or person crashing on your couch is serving for you.

2. They Treat Themselves Like Their Favorite Coach Did

Successful entrepreneurs have (flexibly) high expectations for themselves, but they’re internally encouraging and supportive rather than threatening and punishing. The result? They bounce back from mistakes faster, persevere through challenge, acknowledge their screw-ups, and take risks.

Action Step: Pay attention to that ‘observing’ (or critical) voice inside your head. When you notice you’re beating yourself up, play with saying to yourself what you would say to a friend in that situation. And have realistic expectations, both in learning to be more self-supportive, and in your performance. Waiting for perfection doesn’t produce , and you’re not a robot…yet.

3. They Ask for Help

‘I did it all by myself’ said no honest entrepreneur ever. Humans are social, interdependent beings, and we all need help. That said, our society throws around messages praising independence that deter many (especially men) from asking for help. Yet in reality, it takes more courage and humility to say ‘I could use some help, here’ than to let pride and ego take over. And you know what? Doing everything on your own is generally polarizing and less efficient than seeking complementary support.

Action Step: Question the thought that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of courage and resourcefulness. If asking for help makes you feel vulnerable or ashamed, lean into those uncomfortable feelings and remind yourself change never feels cozy.

4. They Get Their Hands Dirty

Packing boxes? Excel spreadsheets? Cleaning yoga mats? Grinding it out in a windowless office over Memorial Day? Successful entrepreneurs know hard work is an integral part of the success equation, and they’re not ‘above’ the grunt-work.

Action Step: Try to ‘welcome in’ the non-glamorous parts of your venture. Notice the areas you feel resistant, and treat them as meditation. This is much easier if you have then next characteristic we’re going to discuss:

5. They Believe Their Work is Meaningful

You know what keeps you going in said windowless office when everyone else is celebrating on a beach somewhere? Trusting that what you’re doing matters. When you’re motivated by purpose, success is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.’

Action step: Ideally, your venture is born out of your perceived life’s purpose; however, if that wasn’t the case, try to find where your mission and your values intersect. Compassion? Connection? Advocacy? Access? Education? Empowerment? Health? Happiness? Ask yourself how your initiative contributes to the bigger picture, and might be serving something greater than yourself. If can’t see meaning beyond dollars, you might want to make some tweaks.
6. They Value Balance

Want to know how to be highly unfocused and inefficient? Chain yourself to your computer, stop spending time with friends, stop having fun, deprive yourself of sleep and exercise, and sustain off coffee and fried everything. This is a recipe for depression, symptoms of which include decreased energy, lack of focus, inefficiency, and so on. You’re also less likely to burn out and throw in the towel when your lifestyle feels sustainable. Finally, because many opportunities are products of relationships, it actually might be a smarter business decision to go for those drinks rather than to stay in and work.

Action Step: Prioritize sleep, relationships, exercise, and play. Schedule ‘white space’ into your calendar where you permit yourself to recharge (for some, that might mean a night out with friends–for others, that might mean a night in with Netflix). Instead of valuing ‘productive time,’ value ‘meaningful time.’

7. They Pay Attention to Their Feelings–Even The Uncomfortable Ones

In our pleasure-seeking, pain-averse world, we tend to suppress, numb, avoid, and distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. We let anxiety prevent us from approaching a mentor at an event, trying something new, or reaching out to someone we admire in the industry; we refuse to entertain negative feedback because it evokes shame; we don’t have difficult conversations for fear of rejection or conflict. Successful entrepreneurs recognize no feelings are ‘bad’ feelings , and that we have a choice in how we respond to them. They’re able to grow, develop, and create opportunities because they practice mindfulness–nonjudgmental acceptance of whatever they’re experiencing in that moment.

Action Step: Acknowledge that difficult feelings are precursors to growth and development. Instead of ignoring or avoiding, make space for allllll the feels, and respond in the supportive, coach-like way we discussed in point #2.

Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC