26 Rules Every Successful Entrepreneur Should Follow

by Joseph DiTomasso

When I was in college, I stumbled upon a book by Jeffrey J. Fox called How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of any Organization. I still keep the original copy at my desk. The pages are tattered, coffee-stained and faded yellow, but the message still resonates with me to this day.

Fox focuses on guidelines for wannabe CEOs, but I believe that the lessons in his book apply to anyone who wants to run a successful organization, from small businesses to large empires.

Over the years, my experience as a successful entrepreneur has provided new insights that re-shaped Fox’s guidelines into 26 crucial lessons that I believe every business owner should know and follow.

1. Keep physically fit

Research has proven the benefits of physical exercise on productivity, energy levels and longevity. Physical exercise provides you with the stamina to endure those long hours or work.

2. Do something hard and lonely

While this sounds dismal, it’s actually training for the long-haul: the nights when you’ll be burning the midnight oil, the days when your supporters fade away, and the moments when you feel like no one understands your vision.

3. Never write a nasty memo

Anything that you put out into the world will come back to haunt or help you, especially if you leave a paper trail. A good leader knows how to control his/her emotions despite the situation. Plus, you never know if a bridge that you burned will be one you need down the line.

successful entrepreneur

4. Think for one hour every day

As an entrepreneur, you spend countless hours performing tasks and checking off to-do lists. It’s easy to get lost in doing, that forget to spend time thinking, processing or being creative, which are crucial for any business venture. Take time everyday to perform unconscious processing. Allow your brain to do what it does best: make connections and generate new ideas.

5. Keep a special idea notebook

Ideas are just as fleeting as they are insightful. It’s easy to lose track of all the great ideas that come to you unless you keep them in one designated place.  Use a special idea notebook that you can refer back to when inspiration is running dry.

6. Sacrifice social time for your vision

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, and rightfully so. Not everyone is going to understand your obsessive commitment to your vision. As a result, you have to set yourself apart from many people in your life, and sometimes that means missing out on social events. Remember that every choice you make involves trade-offs, but you chose this path because you know every sacrifice will be worth the outcome.

7. Don’t smoke

Smoking is a crutch. It provides a temporary outlet for stress and gives the false notion of relief. As an entrepreneur, you need to be stronger–mentally, physically and emotionally. Crutches and temporary fixes have no place in your life. Do the hard work and solve your problems with integrity.

8. Skip all office parties

Let’s be clear: this doesn’t mean zero casual or fun interaction with your team, but it does mean setting yourself apart. Drinking and partying together should be kept to a minimum. You should always maintain a certain level of professionalism when it comes to your employees, and, let’s be honest, alcohol tends to blur that boundary.

every successful entrepreneur

10. Know everyone by their first name

Leadership starts with common decency. Knowing someone by their first name not only shows that you care, but also that you see everyone around you as worthy of respect. That respect will be reciprocated when your employees feel that they are valued and important.

11. Make one more call

Make one more call, email one more lead, make one more connection, stay one hour longer. It has been said that what sets a successful entrepreneur apart is so minute that most people miss it just because they couldn’t hold out for one more push. Be adamant about going the extra mile. The difference between a good company and a great company is just one more call.

12. Arrive 45 minutes early and leave 15 minutes late

No one is going to force you to do this or even expect it of you; you have to do it for yourself, for your vision. Being the first to arrive and last to leave does more than give you extra time to accomplish your work, it sets a tone of commitment and reinforces your drive.

13. Spend your free time learning

Every moment you have away from your ever-growing to-do list is a moment that you could spend making yourself better, learning more about your field or expanding your mind. Use this time wisely.

14. Keep a “People File”

Great leaders read people. They can size someone up within moments and recognize whether or not they will be an asset to their team. The only way to learn how to do this is through analysis and practice. Keep a record of the people you hire and work with, notice your initial reaction upon meeting them and compare that to the end result of your partnership together. This way you’ll be able to draw a connection between your gut feeling and future outcomes.

Here’s To The Entrepreneurs – Motivational Speech by Fearless Motivation:

15. Send handwritten notes

Always go above and beyond to let others know that you appreciate them. Don’t be generic. Be different. Be authentic. Your genuine efforts will never go unnoticed.

16. Learn when to say “no”

Learning when to say no is as important as knowing which projects to take on. If something does not contribute to your bottom line, refuse it. You have limited time and energy; don’t spend it on projects that won’t advance you in some way.

17. Go to the library at least one day a month

A great entrepreneur is always learning. Take every opportunity to open a good book and digest some new information. Choose books outside of your field also. Inspiration can be found everywhere.

18. Over-Invest in people

The people behind your business are your most valuable asset. Always take time teaching and developing your team members. A happy, productive and efficient staff will make all the difference in your business.

19. Never panic or lose your temper 

Things will go wrong. People will upset you. Plans will go awry. Expect the worst but don’t let it ruin your focus or derail your plan. Tantrums are for the inexperienced and you’ve been here before.

20. Add one big, new thing to your life each year

This could be a new goal or venture. Whatever it is, it should excite you. Keep your spark for life burning by interrupting your routine with something new (and BIG).

21. The glory and glamour come after the grunt work

But you knew this already.

22. Be aware of your surroundings

Know your market, your competitors and your field better than anyone else. Study relentlessly to improve your knowledge and awareness of everything going on around you: trends, changes and opportunities.

23. The concept doesn’t have to be perfect, but the execution of it does

You may not have a foolproof plan, but you do need an unrelenting work ethic. Your results will show whether or not your plan was effective. But an outcome worth analyzing only comes after flawless execution of your plan.

24. Record and collect your mistakes with care and pride

Failures are a badge of honor in the world of an entrepreneur. They also help you to redirect your path to a more fruitful route.

25. Do not get discouraged by the idea killers

Naysayers will come to you from every angle, including your close family and friends. Recognize that those who doubt you are simply reflecting their own limiting beliefs, which have no impact on your ability to create your future.

26. Have fun and laugh

You chose this path for good reason. Enjoy it. Every part of it.

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