7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Do

Success isn’t just about what you do — it’s also about what you don’t do.
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As a business owner, don't fall into the trap of trying to do everything. Instead, focus on areas where you can have the most impact. (Photo: Beer5020/Shutterstock)

Learning the “habits of highly effective people” is smart — but it’s just as important to know which habits and ways of thinking could sabotage your success as a business owner.

To find out what destructive behaviors and attitudes successful entrepreneurs avoid, NCR Silver talked to Christopher Hanks, founder of the entrepreneurship programs at the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. Here’s what he had to say.

They don’t try to do it all

“As entrepreneur, we fall in this mode of trying to take care of everything,” said Hanks. But rather than saving money, doing everything yourself can actually cost you in the long run.

Trying to juggle everything yourself is not only difficult, it’s unsustainable and counterproductive.

Business owners should “stay in the areas where we have the highest contribution — focusing on the things we have the greatest impact on,” Hanks said. Don’t neglect things that will provide a higher yield per hour by getting distracted with the smaller, more detailed tasks that can be delegated to someone else.

Related: Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Small Business?

They don’t let failure discourage them

At some point in life, everyone experiences failure — especially entrepreneurs. The key is to stay focused on the big picture and redefine your perception of failure.

“Neither success nor failure is final,” said Hanks.

“Wisdom is generated from an evaluated experience.” -Christopher Hanks

Step back and consider what you can learn from every experience, regardless if you feel the venture was a success or failure. “Seize every opportunity, learn from it and move on,” he said.

They don’t lose sight of their “why”

“Sometimes, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to stay motivated because it’s very isolating being the leader of the business and being the ‘chief problem solver.’ Good entrepreneurs know how to stay motivated.”

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“As an entrepreneur, I have to deliver my message in a way that resonates with others and get them vested and invited into my journey.” -Christopher Hanks (Photo: Christopher Hanks)

That’s why it’s critical to find your “why,” said Hanks. “If I identify my ‘why, then I can endure almost anything. Good entrepreneurs are able to stay connected to that” and can push through when times get tough.

It’s also important to pass your passion and purpose on to your team.

“We don’t always know how to enroll people in our journey. As an entrepreneur, I have to deliver my message in a way that resonates with others and get them vested and invited into my journey. I have to be the ‘why’ guy — the ‘purpose’ guy. We’d all rather work for a cause than a company.”

Related: Brand Storytelling: How to Use it to Boost Your Small Business

They don’t stop learning

Great business owners realize there is no such things as a “pinnacle of enlightenment” in business.

“For a lot of entrepreneurs, it’s really weird how it works. The bigger their bank account gets, they think there’s a corresponding increase to their IQ,” said Hanks. “I have worked with a lot of entrepreneurs that think, ‘Ok, I’ve done it. I was successful, therefore I know how to do it.’ A lot of entrepreneurs are successful. The really good ones are learners. They realize that to get better results, I have to be a better version of me.”

Related: Small Business Owners: 8 Podcasts Worth a Listen

They don’t play the blame game

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As a leader, it is important to be aware of your faults and to take responsibility for mistakes. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “In most organizations, the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle,” meaning the CEO or business owner is typically what holds a company back.

Hanks said it’s easy for entrepreneurs to blame other people or circumstances for their failures. “They may say, ‘No! It’s the economy’s fault. It’s technology’s fault. It’s somebody else’s fault.’ No. You know what? The best leader in the world can walk into the same set of circumstances that you had and will get better results. The common denominator is you. Good entrepreneurs are very much aware of that,” said Hanks.

They don’t burn bridges

“For me, burning bridges is a reflection upon my grace and my character as a leader,” he said. “The quality of my life will never be better than the quality of my relationships. That’s true personally and professionally.”

Even if a relationship with a partner, employee or vendor goes sour, it’s your responsibility as a leader to act gracefully and take the high road, he said. “There’s no vindictiveness. There’s no revenge. There’s no, ‘She did this, therefore I have the right to do that.’ Those are not leaders we respect.”

Related: 5 Key Traits Every Entrepreneur Needs

They don’t view investments as an expense

Hanks said good entrepreneurs also understand the difference between an investment and an expense.

“An expense is something I spend and don’t necessarily expect to get a return on,” he said. “Whereas I could invest in something that’s relatively expensive, like a piece of machinery or an employee, because I am hoping that they are going to far outweigh the money that I spent.”

“Sometimes we get too shortsighted in our efforts to save money and cut costs,” said Hanks. “Some entrepreneurs cust costs to the extent of hurting their business because they are so shortsighted.” Strategic investments should increase your revenue over time.

For example, people are by far the biggest expense faced by a business, Hanks said. “Sure, I may have to spend a total of $70,000 to bring this person on…but over time, I am going to get way more than $70,000 from the hire. That’s a good investment for me because it will increase the value of my organization.”

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