7 silent rituals of small business success

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1. Motivate

I get up early each morning to a ritual. I get out of bed with no alarm, I drink water, I buy a good coffee and I drive to work drinking that and listening to motivational eBooks or podcast. Before I start work I read my goals, watch a motivational video and set my most important task (MIT) and five small tasks.

There are two things I'm not happy about in the above. I don't always have a decent breakfast and I don't stretch. I want to do stretching each morning like my 104 year old grandfather attested to but I'm often too keen to get going so I skip it.

Getting going and feeling the crisp morning air is the best way to wake up, feel alive and remind yourself you only get to live once so why not have high standards while doing that such as early starts.

2. Gurus

I've surrounded myself with Gurus, online. It works for me. I've had in person mentors over time but I found it can be much harder to say no to their advice, say no to the catchups and sometimes trust their advice if it isn't derived or based on the industry I'm in. What works in another industry can fail badly in my software industry. The mentors I'd like in my own industry are hard to get to in reality so the virtual approach is better.

You can actually have the best virtual mentors. The most successful people in your industry have almost certainly written a book, done interviews, podcasts or given speeches. Hunt out their work, their words and wisdom. Consume it over and over until you start thinking the way they do.

I don't want to have in person mentor meetups. I enjoy them, the company of people I respect greatly but I'm also suffering an opportunity cost each time I do that in terms of activities around my staff, product, customers and business that don't get done. I want to curate which ones I follow online and regularly. It also allows me to spend lots of time on people that have passed but are really important (e.g. Aaron Swartz) My 10 key virtual mentors in no particular order are Anthony Robbins, Elon Musk, Brian Tracy, Stefan Pylarinos, Steve Jobs, Aaron Swartz, Kevin Kruse, Jimmy Wales and Mark Suster.

3. 100 People

Managing my 100 special people and influencers list is critical. You can't manage lots of relationships well. I have a list of 100 people I need to dedicate most of my time to. About 30 are family – yes not all family gets in the list because honestly they don't deserve it ahead of other people who I know that are doing amazing and often selfless things with their lives.

4. Killing friction

Businesses can have cancers eating away at them. Roadblocks can be stifling your sales. Really you could spend half your days just killing off things hurting your business, things blocking your way. Saying no to things for your staff and business. Removing friction, removing time thieves. Keep your spaceship on course and focused on the destination.

5. Filtering noise

Feature requests, information overload, sales reps, complaints, feedback, HR matters can all create lots of noise not directly contributing to growth. You need filters for these things. System filters, procedural filters and personal standards filters. The best 20% should get through and get you 80% of the result. For example at Saasu we used to take feedback via social media, service email, phone, personal email, in-app support tickets and get satisfaction. So we stopped a few of these that only impacted about 20% of the inbound and thus freeing ourselves up to actually work on solving some of the suggestions.

6. Creating and sustaining powerful rituals

Assess “what works” and “what isn't working” in your life and your business. Write the two lists, seriously, write them now. Ok what's on your not working list. I bet there are things there that are backed up by some serious habitual and ritualistic behaviour. You need to break the top one on your list now, today, this week. Break it by replacing it, reminding yourself about it any way you can. Share that you are going to break it with your colleagues. Write it on your desktop on your computer. Put it on a post it and stick it in your car. Stick one on your fridge. When you nail that one do the next one. To share, my one was having chocolate every night, just a few pieces. I don't need it or want it underneath but my habit is there to satiate myself in the short term by having some. So I got my family to agree we won't buy it. We agreed to replace it with high quality fruit item like a mango or a peach. Swap the habit. I've done this for 3 weeks now and it's working fine. It's amazing how my next biggest guilty habit shows up now that that one is gone – coffee!

7. Serving people.

Sometimes you have to throw all the rules out for a portion of your days and just help people. I take the time to answer people just because it's the right thing to do by customers, contacts and the like. So give yourself a percentage of your time that isn't about all of the above just to be of service. People are often surprised when I write to them personally, they don't think they deserve it, but they do. I know they probably have kids at home, have stress and want to create happiness for themselves. Helping people along that reward is the right thing to do for all of humanity. The reality of limited time stops me doing more of it but it is one of the most satisfying things you can do in business.

Invent your own, try other people's. I've just listed some that work for me. It will be different for you.