There are many reasons why entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs. For me and a number of others, it’s the reward from coming up with farfetched ideas, going down a plethora of rabbit holes trying, and starting businesses based on those very concepts. I’ve journeyed down this path many times–starting several companies and organizations in the process–which I continue to manage today.
My journey to entrepreneurship started 14 years ago. It was 2004. I was 31 and had climbed my way up to one of the higher rungs on the corporate ladder. I went to bed like every other day before this, but May 3rd was different. That morning I woke up, went to the doctor’s office and was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was in the operating room within a week and went on to have close to a dozen rounds of radiation. Quickly, I turned into a 120-pound skeleton of my former self, and my employer wasn’t willing to accommodate.
It dawned on me that to recover, maybe all I needed was a fresh start, and a chance to turn my life around. As days eventually turned into years, major life events took place, and as debilitating health issues took away any normalcy, I was forced to think about my legacy. I realized that if I wanted to make a change in the world, I needed to be able to do it on my terms. That meant starting my own ventures to solve problems that desperately needed solutions.
My schedule is–as you would expect–very full. No two days are ever the same. One week I may be in Florence, choosing performance fabrics for our Italian menswear collection, Charles Vane. Some days later, I’m having meetings in Minneapolis. And yet another week, I’m flying home from hormone replacement therapy in Los Angeles to pick up my three pretty awesome girls from school.
That’s a lot for me to manage. But I’ve learned that the secret to staying productive in a healthy schedule is to have a set of principles that I follow religiously. Over the years, I’ve discovered that these six mantras keep me sane and productive as an entrepreneur.
Find a support network who share your values and vision
The key to any successful business is leveraging the expertise of the right people. Find people you can trust not only to embrace and follow your mission, but also to give valuable insight and keep your power in check. This network of trusted people–your inner circle–will be invaluable to you, whether you own one or more companies.
Network as much as you can
Never stop meeting people. Find people that might be useful to you and make yourself available to be useful to them. Just imagine the unstoppable power when like-minded individuals work toward a common goal. I personally use LinkedIn. Anytime I read an article or come across someone I would want to work with, I go right to LinkedIn and start a conversation. I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve sealed on that social network just by talking to other business leaders in an informal forum.
You need to be organized, but expect the unexpected
This might seem like straightforward advice, but it’s incredibly crucial to keep a calendar. There is no excuse not to organize your thoughts and activities, particularly when you have to juggle client meetings and kids’ activities. Also, find a to-do list method that works for you.
On the flip side of the coin, don’t be afraid to think on the fly. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll find that ideas will pop up unexpectedly, and you’ll also have to put out fires and be expected to come up with a plan immediately. You can’t plan for everything that will happen in a business, so you do need to be on your toes. However, having the basics in order provides the clarity necessary for this kind of in-the-moment problem-solving.
Having a purpose helps you move forward
Purpose is the fuel to your fire, and a necessary component to achieve a meaningful career. It gives you direction and the energy to carry on when you encounter challenges in your business (which are inevitable).
Find something you’re passionate about and at least try to incorporate it into the business model. For me, I find that donating some portion of profits from all my businesses to charity gives my daily activities broader context. It answers that pressing and the ever-present “why” question–something I think everyone will be able to get behind!
Know your priorities
I make every moment count, and I make every moment about celebrating and enjoying life. My number-one priority is my wife and children, and that reveals itself in all aspects of my work. When I start a kids’ golf apparel line, it’s because I see a gap in the marketplace with my kids (we couldn’t find golf clothes for them), and I recognize that golf can help bring millions of families together for hours of quality time.
Corporate America still doesn’t recognize fully how necessary flexibility is for corporate executives–and all employees in the workforce. Too often, we feel obligated to work long hours and/or forgo family activities because of the negative perception it will have on our career. This needs to stop–and the only way it can is if we collectively make a stand. I urge you to be part of the movement. I structure my own companies so that employees can have some form of work-life balance. In return, I find that happier workers practice gratitude rather than servitude. Trust me, there is a difference in an employee who acts out of fear, and those who are driven to do well because they know that the company has their backs.
Always act with integrity
When you do something that challenges the status quo you are going to get haters. Bypass the haters and proceed with integrity–not caution. When you want to commit to a cause, you need to be sure of yourself. With Pariah Underwear, I created a luxury line that everyone could afford and that gives back to charity. You can imagine that didn’t go well with designer underwear brands, because it disrupts their industry. I moved forward with it anyway–because I wanted to give back to the health community and believed in providing consumers value. Of course, integrity is much more than confidence. It requires you to own up to your mistakes and take responsibility for your actions.
When it comes to my approach to business relationships–I believe in following the golden rule–do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In the world of entrepreneurship, it can be all too easy sometimes to get caught up in our issues. Remember, you never know where every interaction may lead. Treat people like how you’d like them to treat you, and you’ll find that it makes all the difference.
Scott Petinga is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of the Scott Petinga Group