The 7 Habits of Driven Entrepreneurs

Image of Garden in FranceYours truly was in the landscape design and installation field for nearly a decade.

It was great to work outside (even in the bad weather – yep, I’m weird) and the customers were, for the most part, pleasant.

Most of that time I worked a standard 9-5 job for a company. The management allowed me to take contract work for clients on the side.

It was a win-win; I had the stability of a day job and the  supplemental income of a side business.

I worked with my partner and best friend, Joe, on the side jobs. Some of my work weeks were 100 hour marathons. That’s not a typo: 100 hours.

What Joe and I learned was how to hustle. We were only interested in working during the growing season and didn’t plow or shovel during the winter here in the northeast U.S.

Word about our little company grew due to working with clients from my day job and our promotional efforts in the surrounding towns.

Business strategies that worked for us

What worked for us may not work for you. But here’s what we learned from our time in the trenches and I hope you find value in these points..

1. We woke up early every day. Mainly to finish a job or two before the oppressive midday heat but also to pack numerous jobs into each day.

2. We asked for referrals from each and every client. We knocked the neighbor’s door. We didn’t believe in one-and-done service so we would, tactfully, suggest more work to perform for each customer. Then we’d ask for the names of our customer’s friends or family who may be interested in a free quote for work.

3. We plugged into a larger company. We approached my employer and asked if they’d be interested in having our small company offer services to their customer base. It was done in the spirit of tackling previously unsolved problems and meeting customer demand. My bosses agreed so we went to work.

4. Bold pricing. We were young and greedy that’s probably where the bold came in. But we priced ourselves higher than others because we knew our worth. Plus, creating higher perceived value is key.

Sell yourself cheap, you’re services are perceived as cheap.

Sell for more, people suddenly MUST hire you.

What else helped us was being good at closing the sale in person. If you put us face-to-face with a homeowner we’d wow them and lock them into a design and installation package.

5. Fast results. We’d get right to work on the next job without making the customer wait. When people quickly get what they want from your business, they fall in love with you. They happily buy from you again. They refer you to their friends and family.

When we booked a job; we got it done. Everyone was treated as #1 priority and we’d stay late and work under the lights if required (and/or allowed).

6. We reinvested in the business. We purchased better tools, a better vehicle (and repairs), and we put cash aside for future expenses. Even though this money was additional to my day job income, I treated it like it was my only income. I put money aside and budgeted carefully.

There was no reason to subsidize my side gig with my day job income after the initial investment. The high mark-up environment only required us to manage revenue responsibly.

This is a major lesson for us all. Be generous with your business by being prepared to invest money into it.

Online businesses have the horrible reputation of not being considered “real.” You expect to invest a lot of cold, hard cash in a brick and mortar business but guess what?

It’s not any different with an online business. You still need to invest some money (the amount depends on the endeavor).

If you intend to turn a profit, it’s a business that requires investment.

7. We said “no” and felt good about it. We didn’t stretch beyond the scope of work we knew we could handle. We would turn people away if they beat us up over dollars and cents. It was a lot easier on everyone if we just declined the jobs where customers were problematic from the start.

We’d also say no if we knew the job would be pushed out by weeks due to material supply. This was because we were obsessed with fast delivery. And, hey, our reputation was rooted in (pun intended) fast action.

But we didn’t team up often enough with other companies. We missed opportunities to push business to them and earn referrals or split the job revenue. That was an area of weakness for us.

Your thoughts

The tips listed above made our business quite the little profit center. We learned a lot about dealing with people and what it took to over-deliver and how that impacts a business.

It’s amazing how warming up to your clients, asking a few friendly questions and massaging the relationship opens doors.

It helped us earn customer trust enough for them to refer their closest friends and families into our care. How great is that?

I hope you find a few solid take-aways here for your business based on our experience. May you find the endless stream of business and success you seek for your endeavor(s).

Your input and questions are welcome and will be happily answered in the comments…

Photo: caspermoller

6 Responses to The 7 Habits of Driven Entrepreneurs
  1. Sarah Russell
    July 11, 2011 | 12:58 pm

    Jon – Very well said :) Every lesson you learned from the side job in landscaping translates well to internet business, and I’m sure these things are helping you be successful online as well.

    The only thing I’d add is to have a clear vision of why you’re hustling that hard. Working a day job plus any side project, whether it’s a business (online or offline), a creative pursuit or some other major initiative, can be super rewarding, but it’s also easy to burn out. Keeping your motivation in the front of your mind is a helpful way to get through the challenge of doing so much at once.

    Great stuff, as usual :)

    • Jon
      July 11, 2011 | 9:25 pm

      Awesome input, thanks Sarah. It’s true, you should know why you’re hustling in the first place. I don’t recommend 100-hour weeks; you WILL burn out :) But hard work is not a part of the equation you can just cut out.

      Thanks a lot!

  2. Aaron Andrews
    July 11, 2011 | 11:32 pm

    Wow Jon,
    It sounds like you are just naturally a hard worker who completely understands the value of working hard. I think being able to work 100 hour work weeks is a gift/talent.. I don’t know too many people who would be WILLING to do it. I think that should be the foundation of anyone wanting to be an entrepreneur. HARD WORK. And like Sarah said when you know why you are grinding like you are, that makes a huge difference.. You are working hard with a purpose now.

    • Jon
      July 12, 2011 | 10:00 pm

      Aaron, thanks for stopping by. Yep, hard working is in the blood. I value others who are wiling to pay their dues. Sarah knows that our “why” reason for doing what we do is substantial. If you don’t have the right motivators you’re going to fizzle out!

  3. Lisa
    July 17, 2011 | 6:55 am

    Very well written article. I think if I will follow those seven habits then I will be a successful entrepreneur.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jon
      August 21, 2011 | 10:00 am

      You’re welcome, Lisa. I’m glad you found this useful.

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