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5 Common Habits of Effective Startup CEOs

5 Common Habits of Effective Startup CEOs

Being the CEO of a startup is a lot of hard work. You need to manage the inevitable chaos, wearing multiple hats as a leader,[1] a thinker,[4] and a doer.[2] It can easily be overwhelming when you need to balance everyday tasks alongside the “big picture” tasks that drive the vision and the future of your company.

Once a startup gets some traction, CEOs have to transition from “doer-in-chief” to leading the company and managing the big picture projects, products, cash flow, team culture, and generally becoming both the metaphorical anchor and captain of the ship. But when your company gets to this point, how do you remain an effective CEO?

Any CEO of a startup will tell you that there is no “typical” workday, but after doing some research I’ve found that many CEOs share quite a few habits that make them successful. Let’s take a look at these common habits and how you can use them too.

Organize A Schedule

One habit (some might call it a skill) of effective startup CEOs is to get organized. Really organized. They’ll make a daily schedule and follow it religiously.

Jason Zook, of Jason Does Stuff, is a vocal advocate of time-boxing.[3] He claims that “blocking off time on my calendar keeps me laser focused and highly motivated.”

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Kate Finley, CEO of Belle Communications, prefers to color-code her schedule,[5] assigning different colors to big-picture topics and scheduling blocks of time for social media, emails, project development, meetings, and even exercise and personal time.

An hourly schedule can prevent you from getting distracted from random tasks while giving you peace of mind that you’re spending dedicated time on your company’s needs. Find the best time to schedule out your day and make this skill a habit.

Compartmentalize Company Needs

One of the things that we’ve noticed effective startup CEOs do is that they successfully compartmentalize the different needs of their company. They focus on the specific areas of their business, setting aside time for product development, team building, and financials.

Fetchnotes CEO, Alex Schiff, has a daily meeting with his team. Schiff says this time is critical for his organization, in that it provides a “cross-functional view of what’s happening in the company.”

Finley takes time daily to work on media relations, team and project development, and general communications, while Ryan Carson of Treehouse compartmentalizes business needs by day. He meets with one manager to review product needs on Mondays, while saving sales and marketing for Thursdays.

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By blocking out time for managing your team and different departments you can be sure that you’ll cover all of your big picture needs while saving time for those other random tasks that inevitably arise.

Do Deep Work Early In The Day

More than one CEO, we found, prefers to concentrate on big-picture business strategy in the morning while leaving meetings for the afternoon.

Says Finley, “I find that [mornings are] best to get the majority of my work done before noon and save time for meetings later in the day.” Michael Karnjanaprakorn, head of Skillshare, goes so far as to schedule meetings only a few days a week, to maximize time for deep work and planning.[6] Once a month, he assesses his calendar and reviews what meetings are upcoming and cancels the inefficient ones. Karnjanaprakorn claims that this process “allows me to be proactive and control my time, instead of being reactive to my calendar.”

Make sure to carve out some space in your schedule in the mornings to do the most important strategic work, while your focus and willpower[7] are at their peak. Review your calendar regularly and cut out or reassess what’s ineffective.

Make Time For Family And Celebration

Startup CEOs know how important it is to take time for personal needs, family time, and celebration.

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Ryan Carson includes family time[8] as part of his daily schedule. Schiff makes time for fun with his team,[9] taking them out for laser tag after the successful completion of a major milestone.

Karnjanaprakorn uses a concept from Tim Ferris called “screen-free Saturdays,” where he refuses to work on his laptop or computer and only uses his smartphone for maps and communication with friends and family.

Separating yourself from your work can give you a much-needed mental break and allow you to approach the next work day – or the next week – with a fresh mind. Again, the easy task is to make more work for yourself; the hard task is taking some time to enjoy your success and spend time on yourself.

Give Your Schedule Space For Reflection

Startup CEOs know that it’s important to take care of themselves because it’s easy to feel like there’s always more work to be done.

“I like to have some time to myself free of office distractions to map out an agenda for what I want to accomplish each day. If I don’t, I find that I’m victim to the whims of whatever random task pops up,” says Chris Myers,[10] CEO of fintech BodeTree.

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There’s always something on your to-do list, and it can be difficult to turn off that part of your brain, even for a short amount of time.

Taking time out of your day to meditate,[11] reflect,[12] journal,[13] or just decompress,[14] is an important factor for success. You’re nurturing both physical and mental well-being, which will do nothing but benefit you and your startup in the long run.


In brief, successful startup CEOs make the transition to a flexible, organized position and focus on the big picture, leading their teams to success. Depending on your personal habits and schedule, create a system that works best for your needs, while saving time to enjoy your hard work.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

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Keith Shields

CEO, Designli

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Published on December 18, 2018

How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

How to Brand Yourself and Make Your Business Stand Out

You’ve been in business for years and have finally hit your plateau.

The tactics you’d implemented for your customers aren’t working as they’ve used to. You feel like your business has fallen out of the spotlight and now you’d have to settle for any business you get. It’s how businesses work, right?

The truth is that some brands will fade off the business world–while others will adapt well and continue to grow. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself for where your business currently stands. After all, you’d kept applying tactics that provided predictable results.

Instead, decide to not settle for average results and spend more time building your brand. To make your business stand out from your competition, you need to be unforgettable. But how can you?

In this article, I’ll cover timeless tactics that have worked for other businesses. If you apply these tactics correctly your competition won’t be able to copy them. Here’s how to brand yourself and make your business stand out:

1. Win Your Audience’s Hearts with Authenticity

The truth has always shined.

Even without the technology we have today, people always had a way of finding out if someone was lying. And, with everyone engaging in social media today, it’s hard to hide from the truth. Yet, this seems to be what many businesses fail to do.

For example, companies like Listerine have been fined for lying.[1] A quick buck today won’t be worth it in the long run. Instead, practice being authentic to your customers and they’ll eventually rely on you.

Allow your customers to buy your products with a money-back guarantee – then deliver on your promise. Be consistent with the content you provide and stay true to your brand.

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For example, if you provide coaching services for entrepreneurs, don’t sponsor irrelevant brands. If you stop caring about your brand’s mission, your audience will notice. They’ll question your integrity with your business and stop trusting your brand.

But if you gain your customer’s trust, you’ll start standing out from your competition. Your customers will feel safe purchasing from you since they’ll know you’re honest.

2. Share a Story No One Will Be Able to Copy

A few decades ago, a brand would’ve gotten away without being unique. That’s because back then starting a business was not accessible to most people. You’d either need enough money to launch your business or have the credentials. And even if you had all these qualifications, you needed to get past the gatekeepers.

Today, technology has disrupted many of the barriers that were present a few decades ago. For example, today a college student can launch a Podcast within a week. He can create a website in a few hours and record a few Podcast episodes. If he’s persistent, he can build a large following overtime and get paid by sponsors.

This is great news for aspiring entrepreneurs but there’s more competition than ever. You can only do so much before other businesses begin to copy you. But what no business can copy is your story.

That’s why you need to share your story with your audience.

For example, if you have a money blog, share how you’ve overcome your financial struggles. If you run a freelance writing business, share how you’ve overcome writer’s block. The more your audience can relate to you the better.

Without a story, your business won’t stand out. And if you copy what’s working for other businesses, you’ll experience short-term success.

Take some time to share your story with the world, your audience will love you more for it.

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3. Stop Reinventing Every Single Thing

“Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” – Anthony J.D’angelo

You may have heard that being original is the way to stand out. While this is true to an extent, you also shouldn’t be original when something is already working.

For example, if your competition has a successful Podcast in your field, then so can you. Don’t search for better alternatives to a Podcast if it’s already working.

Why?

Because this is a waste of time. Instead, copy what’s already working and make it your own.[2] If your competition has a Podcast, figure out which areas you can improve and tailor it around your brand.

Knowing this you can now spy on your competition and determine which areas you can improve. But, know that it also works the other way around. Others will view your business and copy what’s working for you.

That’s why it’s important to stay true to your brand and be authentic with your audience. When you do, your competition won’t be able to copy your unique traits. Have an abundant mindset and feel confident for what your business has to offer.

4. Shine Because of Your Uniqueness

Stop trying to help the entire world and focus on helping a specific group of people instead.

I get it, you’re willing to help almost everyone because you want to bring in more business. But the truth is that if you resonate with everyone, you resonate with no one.

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Take, for example, a marketing agency that helps businesses promote their product. This business doesn’t speak to anyone but gets occasional sales throughout the year.

But what if there was a similar marketing agency dedicated to helping real estate agents? If there was a real estate agent looking for help in marketing–who do you think they’ll choose? That’s why niching down is necessary if you hope to stand out from your competition.

Determine which customers you enjoy working with the most and determine which customers bring in the most revenue. Once you’ve gathered enough data, focus on servicing your ideal customer.

Don’t expect immediate results since this won’t be an easy transition. If you’re currently helping a narrow audience, slowly transition into a niche audience. Niching down is crucial to building raving fans.

5. Be the Brand Everyone Can Depend On

Being the brand your customers can depend on is important. How many times have you bought a product that’s failed on its promise? Or have settled for an average service?

Exceeding your customer’s expectations is a sure way to make your brand stand out. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, studies on human psychology prove that when you give to others, they’ll reciprocate. Offer your customers free consulting, a free ebook, or free quality content. Eventually, they’ll be happy to reciprocate after receiving value from you.

View what your competition is doing and surpass their offers. For example, if your competition offers a free 15-minute consulting call, offer 30 minutes. When you focus on helping others more, your customers will notice.

Make it your mission to serve your customers first and then worry about making a profit. Other ways for your business to be reliable is by inspiring your customers. That’s right, a business isn’t only about selling, it’s also helping customers achieve their goals.

For example, you can write content that will inspire your audience to take action. You can interview guests that will push your audience to break bad habits. Get creative and look for more ways in which your audience can depend on you with.

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The Bottom Line

Imagine serving fewer customers and getting paid more than ever.

Despite the fierce competition, you’ve got fans wanting to buy your products and services. Although this may seem impossible right now, it’s not. If other brands have been able to stand out in a crowded industries, why can’t yours?

The truth is that standing out from your competition isn’t easy. There’s no secret formula that’s available to the rest of the world. The trick is to do what most brands are unwilling to do.

Many businesses don’t want to niche down because this will mean a loss in sales. But that’s sacrificing short-term gains for long-term success. Niching down is necessary to build a brand your customers will love.

Many businesses will spend a lot of money looking for ways to innovate, but won’t apply what’s working. But, not you.

You’ve got what it takes to stand out from your competition. Start slowly and master each principle covered here. Now go and make your business stand out like never before.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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