10 habits of successful entrepreneurs

It's not about having a great idea, but about executing it. And execution means developing the right habits.

My first startup was a coincidence: I still had to learn about entrepreneurship, team management or processes, and the only thing I wanted was freedom, an exciting job and money. Together with my co-founders, we managed to sell the company to an international corporation and, with the money we earned, we founded a digital agency. That was in 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst.

Over the last 25 years, I have founded different companies and managed teams of up to 80 people. But when I started there were few books on entrepreneurship and there were no blogs. So I have learned the hard way that the key to success in entrepreneurship is not in having a great idea, but above all in the execution. And execution means developing the right habits.

In this article I share the ten habits that lead to success:

Learning is a lifelong process, and successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of staying informed about the latest trends and developments in their industry. They spend time reading, learning, and staying up to date. They also listen to podcasts, attend webinars and networking events, and take online courses to expand their knowledge and skills.

According to studies, entrepreneurs who continually learn and develop new skills are more likely to be successful in the long term. I still remember there was a time when I started copying myself, but the whole Internet thing took a big step forward that I completely missed. I lost clients and motivation and realized that everyone else was suddenly ahead of me.

At that moment, I learned how to learn. Today I set aside 30 minutes each morning to read and learn, and I do it before I start work or after my morning routine. Another way is to listen to podcasts while exercising or other activities. I also set personal learning goals, such as reading at least four business books every quarter.

Successful entrepreneurs understand that multitasking is a myth and that it is impossible to do several things well at the same time. Instead, they focus on their most important daily tasks and give them their full attention.

«Focusing is not about saying yes to the things you like; “It consists of saying no to things you don't like.”

Steve Jobs

One way to develop this habit is to spend two hours each day working on your number one thing. I have used this method for a while and have seen amazing results. The goal may be sales or getting the product to fit the market. During this time, turn off all distractions, such as email and social media, and dedicate your full attention to the task. Additionally, set clear boundaries between work and personal time to stay focused and avoid burnout.

Successful entrepreneurs know when to be stubborn and when to be flexible. A personality assessment provided the proof: I am officially stubborn, which helped me develop a detector for situations in which I tend to be relentless for no reason. Once I realize it, I talk less and listen more. Additionally, I seek feedback and I aim to grow every day as a person, businessman and advisor.

On the other hand, it is crucial to be very conscientious and demanding when it comes to following processes and using best practice frameworks such as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Don't get me wrong: your team should have maximum freedom, but there are rules that everyone must follow.

Successful entrepreneurs always need more than their current level of success and are always looking for ways to improve. They define 2-3 ambitious but realistic goals and focus mainly on them. Whether it is a sales goal or a house in Tuscany, the most important thing is that you want to achieve them.

«Setting goals is the first step to turning the invisible into visible».

Tony Robbins

To help me with this habit, I use a one-page strategy where I outline my one-year goals and key initiatives, as well as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to track progress. Next, it is essential to track progress regularly. Every Friday, I set a calendar entry and react immediately when my work initiatives do not lead to the right results.

Milestones are agreements with the team, investors and stakeholders. Setting realistic milestones and focusing on achieving them can help you stay on track and achieve your goals. By setting clear, measurable milestones, you can navigate the uncertainty of building a new product and company and stay on track to achieve your goals.

I'm a shot in the arm and I need ambitious goals that are often not achievable, and I'm fine with reaching 70%. I learned to communicate only the 70% instead of my inner milestone.

Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of testing their ideas and conducting experiments at scale, allowing them to validate their assumptions and make data-driven decisions. By running experiments at scale, entrepreneurs can quickly identify what works and what doesn't, and adjust their strategy accordingly.

“If you're not constantly testing and experimenting, chances are you're falling behind.”

Reid Hoffman

One thing is clear to me: I don't know which experiment works best before I start it. That's why I do scale experiments. Only successful experiments become projects or features. Train your team to think like this; You will begin to invest your resources wisely and you will be much faster.

Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of culture in a company and are not afraid to fire employees who do not align with the company's values. By hiring (and firing) based on culture, employers can ensure their team is aligned and working toward the same goal.

Hiring an exceptional key team is the primary task of a startup founder or CEO, and lays the foundation for future growth and success. To ensure we hire the right people, I use job scorecards to compare candidates based on what matters and based on data.

Successful entrepreneurs use best practice frameworks like OKRs to guide their teams and measure progress. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) help align team members around a common goal, track progress, and measure success.

“OKRs have helped top companies achieve amazing results”

John Doerr

By using frameworks like OKRs, business owners can ensure that their team is working toward a common goal and that progress is being made.

Since we implemented OKRs in CodeCheck, a shopping app, I would only run a company with them. Running a business is suddenly a lot easier thanks to setting expectations and alignment.

Successful entrepreneurs have big dreams and are not afraid to pursue them. By dreaming big, entrepreneurs can inspire themselves and their teams to achieve great things.

I probably don't have a natural personality to dream big, and I always have to push myself to think big. What helps is getting proof that an idea can be huge by putting it to the test.

Successful entrepreneurs know how to prioritize and are not afraid to say no to opportunities that do not fit their objectives. By saying no often, entrepreneurs can ensure that they are focusing on the most important tasks and not getting bogged down by distractions.

“The ability to say 'no' is a great advantage for anyone. “It's the difference between living in a dumpster and living in an attic.”

Tim Ferriss

I often struggled with having too many options, which caused me to not excel in any particular area. Having a clear strategy can mitigate this problem by providing guidance and allowing for more focused decisions. Every time a new opportunity arises, it's important to ask, “Does this contribute to our overall strategic goals?” If the answer is no, it is essential to be able to reject it with confidence and reference the company's strategy as a reason for doing so.

Entrepreneurship is a difficult but rewarding path. To be successful, it is essential to incorporate these habits into your daily routine. Still, you must work hard to achieve product-market fit and scale your business.