Ian So ’08
co-founder and CEO, The Chicken & Rice Guys food trucks, restaurants, and catering business
I wasn’t very disciplined, but The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg completely changed how I look at organizing my life. I changed my habits and even ended up losing 20 pounds. My morning routine now contributes a lot to my success. When I wake up, I meditate for 10 to 20 minutes. For the first few minutes, I address any thoughts and come up with a solution or conclusion for them. Then I spend the rest of the time focusing on my practice, which is to still the mind. When I get to work, I am moving at a million miles a second, so it is nice to set up the day by focusing on being still. I also have mild ADHD, so meditation certainly helps me in that regard. After I meditate, I spend 20 to 30 minutes reading.
I usually head to work between 7 and 8 a.m. No one is there yet, and it’s my most productive part of the day. We manage about 100 people now, so everyone has questions and needs answers. I use the time before people get in to do my hardest and most important tasks. I organize this with a to-do board called Trello, and that has helped me be extremely organized. Every entrepreneur is different, but these techniques work for me.
Ruthie Davis, MBA’93
founder, president, and creative director, Ruthie Davis avant-garde women’s footwear
My daily run is one of the most important keys to my success as an entrepreneur and shoe designer. I need to be outside in nature to really let my mind think clearly. While running, I organize my day, think about issues, and do some great problem solving. I also come up with some of my best shoe design ideas. I tend to go right to pad and paper the moment I return home. I suppose I could bring some sort of recording device with me, but that would be too robotic. I prefer to run to music and to let my mind expand with the blood flow and oxygen. Running also gives me a healthy, confident feeling and that “I want to conquer the day” mindset.
Another important ritual for me is putting together my look for the day. I don’t see this as a superficial or tedious exercise. This is how I get inspired. I see it as a challenge to pick the outfit I will wear depending on the day’s events. Your wardrobe choices say something about yourself as a person, and they also show respect for the people you will be working with that day. As a designer, I need to be totally ensconced in fashion, and therefore I try different things. I can’t design shoes that work well with a romper if I’ve never worn a romper. But I think it’s also important for both male and female entrepreneurs to present themselves in the most buttoned-up, on-trend, sharp, put-together packages as possible. After all, the entrepreneur has a lot to accomplish in a given day, and how you look affects how you feel and your ability to work with, inspire, and lead others.
Abby Speicher, MBA’15
co-founder and CEO, DARTdrones, a national flight school for commercial drone pilots
I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by huge projects and get stuck. So instead of getting overwhelmed by the endless big projects on our to-do list, I have found it is more effective to break the project into small tasks. I break huge projects into 10- to 20-minute tasks that I can check off my list quickly. Our team then takes on the different tasks. When we look back at a month’s worth of small tasks that we completed, we always are amazed by how many big projects we completed in a short amount of time.
Matt Nagler, MBA’07
co-founder and managing partner, BANK W Holdings, which manages full-service professional staffing and recruiting agencies, including Sales Search Partners, KBW Financial Staffing & Recruiting, Alexander Technology Group, and The Nagler Group
One key to my success as an entrepreneur is carving out time each day to spend with my team. Most entrepreneurs are pulled in many directions; they often feel the need to be everything to everybody all the time. But I find that spending dedicated time focused on personal interactions is much more effective in developing meaningful relationships and contributes to a company culture that values individuals. The same philosophy applies at home. I believe that being present for my family and fostering those relationships results in less stress and more energy when I return to work. The other key to success is making an effort to know everyone in the community. When you get involved, have conversations, and give back—not with a motive to sell, but rather simply to enjoy making personal connections—it makes you smarter, more fulfilled, and ultimately benefits your business goals as well.
Jessica Murphy, MBA’06
co-founder, True Fit, provider of a platform that helps consumers find, fit, and buy footwear and apparel when shopping online
One thing that I do daily is shop online. While I probably shop more than I should, I’ve made it a required “part of the job” since it allows me to experience and test our product firsthand. This helps me keep my pulse on the user experience, understand our partners’ merchandise and marketing strategies, and understand gaps in our own offerings (for example, latex unitards are all the rage, but our platform doesn’t support those yet), among a multitude of other things.
I also take good old-fashioned notes. At True Fit, we have these beautiful red leather notebooks, and I carry mine around religiously. Even though I also have a digital device with me at all times that I could theoretically take notes on, by writing things down, it helps me better remember important details. Personally, this has made me a better employer, a better vendor, and a better entrepreneur, because to take copious notes I have to ask a lot of questions and listen intently. And that, in turn, helps me focus on and prioritize what people want and need.
Dinesh Wadhwani ’12
co-founder and CEO, ThinkLite, which custom designs, manufactures, distributes, and installs energy-efficient lighting solutions
I consider a day useful if I am able to sit with a sales rep to understand more about their challenges and gain better insight on what they are facing in the marketplace. I consider a day successful if I am able to provide this team member with an update on our technology to help them resolve that challenge, or if I’m able to brainstorm with them to come up with a more effective approach to tackle their challenge. Starting with our first salesperson in 2008, I continue to do this exercise with every single salesperson today.
I truly believe that no matter how large a company grows, with as many people and processes and controls that may get implemented over time, the entrepreneurial spirit of constant innovation must never die. As the leader of a growing corporation in a disruptive industry, every day I try to think of more effective ways to reach our customers as well as invent and bring new technologies to market. These are the only two things on my daily to-do list that never get checked off.
Diana Yuan ’15
co-founder and COO, Indico, provider of simple-to-use software that helps companies automatically extract insights from unstructured data
One habit that contributes to my success as an entrepreneur is journaling by hand a minimum of 10 minutes a day. Most of my day’s work is done on my laptop, so sitting down with a pen and paper gives me a unique and introspective connection to my thoughts. It also allows me to disconnect from the seemingly constant notifications and distractions faced when running a company.
Writing a little each day gives me an outlet for record keeping, venting, and general thoughts. Although some days the entries may be nonsense or just a list of things that need to get done, simply writing them down can help clear my mind. I’ve also found this personal record can be extremely helpful when making decisions or during times of uncertainty, because I can refer to past entries for insights.
The process of moving my thoughts onto paper often sparks new ways of thinking about a particular situation and realizations that I would not have noticed had I not taken the time to try to articulate them. This practice improves my ability to communicate, identify, and connect ideas. I’ve also been able to see my progress as an entrepreneur in the pages of my journal. There are still many wins to be had and mistakes to be made, but having this personal record helps remind me of how far I have come and how much further there is to go.