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12 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast By Jenna Goudreau

If it has to happen, then it has to happen first, writes Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author of “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.”

Those among us who have managed to find professional success and eke out a life actively embrace this philosophy. They must set aside their first hours of the day to invest in their top-priority activities before other people’s priorities come rushing in.

Science supports this strategy. Vanderkam cites Florida State University psychology professor Roy Baumeister’s famous finding that willpower is like a muscle that becomes fatigued from overuse. Diets, he says, come undone in the evening, just as poor self-control and lapses in decision-making often come later in the day. On the other hand, early mornings offer a fresh supply of willpower, and people tend to be more optimistic and ready to tackle challenging tasks.

So what do successful executives and entrepreneurs do when they are rested and fresh? From Vanderkam’s study of morning rituals, we outline the following 12 things that the most successful people do before breakfast.

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Small Businesses: How to Think Outside the Financing Box

Most small business owners know that it is extremely difficult to secure financing these days.  In fact, a 2011 Pepperdine University study showed that almost two-thirds of privately held businesses did not qualify for the loans they sought. To build your business, you will need money. But to qualify for money in this economic climate, you will have to get creative.

It appears many banks are simply not willing to take the risk—even on applicants with good credit and significant collateral. Before your spark is snuffed out by the apparent financing difficulties facing today’s small businesses, refocus.  Here are some ideas; perhaps one will work for you:

Family and Friends: While it can be tricky to mix business with friends and family, don’t neglect the potential for mutually advantageous partnerships to arise out of relationships you’ve already established.  As in any investment relationship, clarity is absolutely imperative. If you choose to go this route, be professional about it.  Create a contract and get your terms in clear writing.

Crowd Funding: President Obama’s recent JOBS Act loosened restrictions on crowd funding this year—legalizing it for privately held companies—however, nothing is set in stone. The Federal Trade Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission are working on hammering out the securities rules as we speak.

If things go smoothly, non-accredited investors will be allowed to invest small amounts of money (less than $2,000) in small businesses through crowd funding web portals. Keep your eyes peeled and educate yourself. This may be exactly the type of financing your business needs.

Partner Up: Consider finding a partner with important attributes you may lack—in this case, financial resources. There are different types of partnerships out there, so do your due diligence and, as always, be strategic and cautious in your decision-making.

Microloans: A microloan is a small, short-term loan, with more relaxed requirements than traditional bank loans.  The SBA’s microloan program utilizes intermediaries, usually non-profits, to manage and grant loans to businesses. These loans typically come with requirements for technical training. Find out more at SBA.gov.

Use Your Assets: Taking out a second mortgage or refinancing your home isn’t the only asset-based route to consider for financing your business.  Other options include accounts receivable financing, or the selling of unpaid invoices to a third party at a discounted price; equipment financing, which is any financing involved in acquiring equipment; and purchase order financing, where money is loaned to fulfill a sale to a committed buyer when your company does not have the upfront money to complete said buyer’s order.

These types of loans are typically short term, and will only work for certain types of businesses, but they are definitely an option to consider when other routes are out of the question.

Securing financing for your small business is not easy—little about running a business is. The important thing is that it’s not impossible. Open your mind and create a strategy to secure the money that your company needs to achieve success. Check out more of my tips and thoughts on BlackEnterprise.com.

Leadership Incentives: How to Boost Your Team Morale and Loyalty Today

A leader is best when people barely know he exists …When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu, Philosopher

Leadership requires a healthy dose of letting go, a skill highly regarded in adages from a wide range of traditions. A true leader knows that he cannot do it all himself. In fact, it is his or her calling to use trust, guidance and inspiration to empower others to do it on their own.

In this talent-ripe economic atmosphere, it is easier than ever to attract employees with ingenuity and expertise. But the keyword here is attractwithout the big money, there must be other incentives motivating your team to go above and beyondFortunately, there are more ways than ever to do that, even on a shoestring budget.

You can read more at Blackenterprise.com here

Strategic Partnering: Stay Ahead of the Curve

No single company can do it all. We each have our ‘niche’ and areas where we can use some help, or need to source out. If you’re looking to increase your exposure, broaden your scope and open yourself to new markets: consider strategic partnering. If done right, partnering up can be the tool you were looking for to get fresh and stay ahead of the curve.


The How and What

Strategic partnering means exactly what it says—carefully and intelligently forming alliances with other businesses in order to assist one another in achieving common goals. It almost always involves sharing resources, and necessitates a mutually beneficial relationship—to be successful, the partnership must be balanced.

Typically a strategic partnership is a formal partnership; that is, it is formalized by a business contract, and both parties expressly agree upon the details and nature of the partnership.

Partnerships, like any other endeavor, have the potential to fail. But while thinking ‘small’ may seem to be the safe route, taking risks is necessary to succeed in business. Just make sure those risks are calculated; make those partnerships targeted, balanced, and mutually beneficial.

For Small Businesses

For smaller businesses, strategically partnering with larger companies isn’t only a capacity builder—it can also be a great selling point; a ‘name-dropping’ tool, if you will, and a dynamic strategy to pull in new clients.

The exchange is win-win; larger companies often look to qualified small businesses to fulfill certain state requirements, and to increase their breadth, while smaller companies can benefit if their partner has certain core competencies that they lack.

First, identify the areas where your company is challenged, and where you believe another business may be able to fill in the gaps.  Then, consider the arenas in which you excel, and what services, skills or assets you can conveniently offer; determine what companies have the most partnership potential—and get to networking!

 

What’s Stopping You?

Whether or not your business has experienced recent growth, partnering is an option you should never rule out. If you’re excelling, you can always go further. If you’re stagnant, you can get out of your rut. Brainstorm, strategize, and make your move!

If you’re looking for that ‘thing’ to bring your company to the next level, get to networking. Locate strategic partners, sell them on a mutual relationship, and then make that relationship work for you!

Hard Work Means Effort, Not Hours

Work Hard, Not Long
Our society was built on the puritan values of hard work and discipline. To this day, we are a nation of long workdays and very few vacations. According to an article in CNN from last month, even the vacations we do take have us tied to our smart phones and laptops instead of beach hammocks.[1]

 America is in the minority in this regard. Right now, two-dozen industrialized countries mandate at least four weeks minimum of paid vacation.  And that includes the Germans, who are known for their discipline, hard work and efficiency. Then there are others, like Finland and Brazil, who require six weeks, while U.S. employers are not mandated to provide any. As in, zero.

Ironically for us, longer hours don’t necessarily equate with higher productivity. Surprisingly, Sweden offers employees five weeks vacation and has a more competitive economy than the United States. And while Luxemburg requires thirty-two days of paid vacation, they are also twenty-seven percent more efficient than Americans.[2]

“There is simply no evidence that working people to death gives you a competitive advantage,” said John de Graaf, the national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, a group that researches the effects of overwork.

Have We Gone Too Far?
According to an Australian palliative nurse and author, the second-most common regret of the dying people she counseled was that they worked too much.[3] And that’s in Australia, where employees typically receive twenty-eight days of vacation, though none is mandated.

Overworking has been proven to lead to various quality of life reductions, including higher levels of stress, illness, depression, sleep deprivation, and more.

So when I say hard work, I don’t mean long hours. I mean purposefully and productively. And that applies to your leisure as well, whether that means family, travel, or your creative pursuits. Give your life your all.

What Are You Working For?
I consider myself a motivational writer and speaker, primarily in the realm of small businesses and entrepreneurship. How than could I be promoting less working hours and more leisure time?

It seems to me that despite the long hours American’s spend slaving away, not all appreciate the value of hard work. Many of us plug along mindlessly, wasting away behind computer screens, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Success is dependent first and foremost on how it is defined. Financial wealth is typically an important part of that equation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But wealth encompasses more than just finances. Demanding excellence and working hard are not synonymous with sleeplessness, social isolation, and stress.

Work Hard, Work Smart
Imagine yourself on your deathbed, reviewing your life from start to finish. What would be on your list of regrets?

Decide now that will not live with regrets. As an entrepreneur, set yourself apart by working hard and smart. Be efficient, creative, innovative, and dedicated. But by the same token, eat well, exercise, sleep soundly, and relish and cultivate relationships with family, friends and acquaintances.

Create a balanced life in which the time you spend working is quality, focused time, and where you challenge yourself to do more than you ever thought possible. Determine that what you are working on and for are in line with your mission and values as a human being. As you shift your priorities, you will raise the bar on the levels of success you have the potential to attain in your life.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail Pt. 2

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
One thing I’ve learned, after years of trying and trying again, is that things don’t always go as planned.  In fact, things rarely go exactly as planned.

Often times, all that’s necessary along your journey is a tweak or two to your original plan. And usually your perspective is the first and most important shift. But sometimes a more drastic rearrangement is necessary to avoid a failure that you can’t readily heal from.

Either way, your “plan a” should never be considered etched in stone. Whether the variation is large or small, it is absolutely vital to have the flexibility to consider a “plan b,” and yes, a “plan c.”

 

Why Now?
With a national unemployment rate of 9.1%[1], and talk of another recession in the media,[2] it’s no stretch to say that times are uncertain.  And in times like these, the word failure takes on a new, potentially devastating meaning.

By definition, an entrepreneur takes risks—look it up in the dictionary and see for yourself.  And while the most successful people ended up that way by walking the unbeaten path, most of them failed multiple times before getting it right (try Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Walt Disney, to name a few.)

The truth is, failure and success are like two sides of a coin.  It’s through failure that we learn the most valuable lessons, ultimately preparing us to achieve real success.

But I say, don’t just fail, fail smart. If and when you fail, don’t let it rule you. Be prepared, have your “plan b” and “plan c” in mind, and get back on your feet fast—unscathed and reenergized.

 

Plan B: What It Is, and What It Isn’t
“Plan b” will mean different things to different people, but what I am ultimately referring to involves vision, flexibility and thinking outside the box.

What I am talking about is not the last resort plan you dust off when starvation seems imminent .  This is the plan that comes out of the simple realization that there are many pathways to success, and you might not be on the right one—yet.

 

The What
Creating a “plan b” sounds self explanatory, and for the most part, it is. One way to start is by simply answering the following question:

What could I do if my original plan fails?

This exercise is not meant to illicit a finalized “plan b.” In fact, this is where you really get creative, allowing your ideas the opportunity to get a little wild.  Some people call this brainstorming.

The point? Break out of your ingrained patterns of thinking. Think outside the box.

 

The How
When writing your ideas down, try using shorthand and big, clear letters—cover an entire sheet of paper. No lists! That way, when you look back on what you’ve done, you have the space to make new connections.

It may be useful to enlist the help of a friend, family member or associate to brainstorm with you, as long as the presence of another person doesn’t inhibit you or your responses.  A fresh set of eyes can help you reach beyond your self-imposed limits.

Oh, and when you’re done, do it again. And this time, dream bigger.
And After That?
Now, choose two of your most promising ideas, and answer the question:

If I were to get started on my new plan tomorrow, how would it look?

Use your imagination to create each scenario in your mind, and move forward step by step, as if it were a reality.

Write down your thoughts informally. You won’t need to get formal until it’s time to get started. For now, you’re done. That’s it. You’re prepared—you’re one step ahead of most of us.

Final Thoughts
Planning ahead and knowing that you have options can make you feel more secure, uncovering the confidence it takes to aim higher and take bigger risks.

Most people don’t think this way.  Most people don’t have a “plan b” let alone a “plan c”—some don’t even have a “plan a!” But you do. You know what your options are if the unexpected happens. And since you’ve got your safety net, you’re free to swing a little higher. Just don’t look down…

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

One thing I’ve learned, after years of trying and trying again, is that things don’t always go as planned.  In fact, things rarely go exactly as planned.

Often times, all that’s necessary along your journey is a tweak or two your original plan. And usually your perspective is the first and most important shift. But sometimes a more drastic rearrangement is necessary to avoid a failure that you can’t readily heal from.

Either way, your “plan a” should never be considered etched in stone. Whether the variation is large or small, it is absolutely vital to have the flexibility to consider a “plan b,” and yes, a “plan c.”

Why Now?

With a national unemployment rate of 9.1%[1], and talk of another recession in the media,[2] it’s no stretch to say that times are uncertain.  And in times like these, the word failure takes on a new, potentially devastating meaning.

By definition, an entrepreneur takes risks—look it up in the dictionary and see for yourself.  And while the most successful people ended up that way by walking the unbeaten path, most of them failed multiple times before getting it right (try Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Walt Disney, to name a few.)

The truth is, failure and success are like two sides of a coin.  It’s through failure that we learn the most valuable lessons, ultimately preparing us to achieve real success.

But I say, don’t just fail, fail smart. If and when you fail, don’t let it rule you. Be prepared, have your “plan b” and “plan c” in mind, and get back on your feet fast—unscathed and reenergized.

Plan B: What It Is, and What It Isn’t

“Plan b” will mean different things to different people, but what I am ultimately referring to involves vision, flexibility and thinking outside the box.

What I am talking about is not the last resort plan you dust off when starvation seems imminent .  This is the plan that comes out of the simple realization that there are many pathways to success, and you might not be on the right one—yet.