7 Habits Of Remarkably Successful Startup Entrepreneurs

02/27/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated Feb 27, 2015
Sergey Nivens via Getty Images

On the surface, successful entrepreneurs seem to be the same as everyone else.

But look closely and you'll see that in a few ways they are very, very different -- and so is how they start and run their businesses.

1. They always prefer action to thinking.

A detailed plan is great, but stuff happens, and most entrepreneurs don't make it past the first three action items before adapting to reality. (I started a company assuming I'd provide book-design services to publishers; I ended up ghostwriting those books instead.)

Spend some time planning and a lot more time doing. If you're unsure, do something, and then react appropriately. It's easy to ponder and evaluate and analyze yourself out of business.

2. They see money as the root of all failure.

I know, a capital-intensive venture can require significant sums. But most businesses require little funding to get started. And often limited capital is a blessing in disguise; a venture capital friend strongly believes there's an inverse relationship between the level of funding and the long-term success of startups: Bootstrapping teaches lessons flush bank accounts cannot.

Short-term success is easy when you have money to burn. Without tons of cash, you'll work through and benefit from a problem instead of just throwing money at it.

3. They spend only on what touches the customer.

Leaving a corporate position for a startup with the assumption your amenities should be equal? Sorry.

Before you spend, always ask, "Does this touch the customer?" If it doesn't, don't buy it. If you're a lawyer, your office reinforces your professionalism; if you run a retail business, no customer should know your office even exists.

Spend what money you have where it makes a real difference to your customers. The more you give your customers what they want, the more you'll get what you want. (And ultimately everyone wins.)

Remember, success is never defined by a fancy office and amenities; success is defined solely by profits.

4. They never compromise on location.

Classic example: restaurants. Short on cash, the budding restaurateur (love that word) chooses an inexpensive (meaning terrible) location in the hope that great food and impeccable service will create destination dining. Typically, only creditors view the restaurant as a destination.

If you truly have no competition -- which in reality is almost never the case--and there truly is a market, maybe customers will come to you. Otherwise, they won't.

5. They spend most of their time chasing what they can actually catch.

Almost every startup dreams of finding an enabling customer, but those are tough to land. Focus on prospecting where you have a reasonable chance of success.

Later, you can leverage your customer base--and what you've learned along the way -- to successfully hunt bigger game.

6. They never see making a living as a right.

No matter how hard you work, no one has to buy what you sell. "Fair" applies to how you deal with customers, suppliers, vendors, etc. Fairness in no way applies to whether you deserve success or failure.

If you catch yourself thinking, "It's just not fair. I should be able to make a decent living at this," stop. You earn the right to make a profit.

No one is responsible for making sure you can earn a living -- except you.

7. They don't do anything that doesn't generate revenue.

Everything you do should generate revenue. Stop creating esoteric spreadsheets. Quit printing fancy reports only you will review. Stop spending time on the golf course in hopes that networking will result in customers. Minimize administrative tasks, and focus your efforts on generating revenue.

Sure, you can do what you love and the money will follow, but only if what you love doing is generating revenue. If it doesn't pay, for now at least, put it away.

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