A dozen Habits of Successful Professionals

How do you achieve excellence in your professional practice? We are creatures of habit, and thus our habits define who we are. "Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with," said the highly-quotable Nido Qubein, who mesmerized the audience of the Institute of Management Consultants conference here in Nashville.

Nido is a consultant who is in such demand that he works only on a five-year non-cancelable contract; 70% of his business for 2004 is guaranteed through 2009. He is also chairman of a bank, owner of Great Harvest Bread Company and has written 20 books. See www.nidoqubein.com. He listed 12 habits that will make you excellent as a professional, as well as bring you tons of business.

1. Every single day, call or write four clients or prospects. That's 20 people a week, 1,000 people a year. "It doesn't matter what the reason is, just call to see how they're doing. I cannot tell you the power of this idea," he said. "Remember, if you are out of sight, you're out of mind."

2. Keep your desk clean. Treat every day as the day before a vacation. "Don't delay until tomorrow what you can do today."

3. Read one hour a day. "If you go to the bathroom five times a day, you've got time to read. If your constipated you can read a book every three months," he joked. Nido looks for things to read that inspire his heart. He saves the morning paper for the evening. "I can wash down pretty much anything with a good glass or Merlot."

4. Ask yourself, "what did I do today to create new business?"

5. Pay yourself first. He's done this every day since he was 23 and was working 17 hours a day. Today he's 55 and this simple habit has created a fund that allows him to invest in other businesses.

6. Always work from the "is" and the "does" takes care of itself. What is your identity? How do you see yourself. Even when he was poor, he knew that poverty is a temporary status. "Wealth is a state of mind."

7. Don't work "slowly but surely," work slowly and cumulatively. It's the little things we do that amount to something worthwhile and add up to great relationships with clients.

8. Your success depends on the choices you make, not the circumstances you find yourself in. He joked that he had a friend who was married eight times, and thought he was perfect but the women he'd met were screwed up. Nido asked him, "did it ever occur to you that you've been making bad choices?" Nido said the greatest choice he's ever made was to become a transformational consultant, not a transactional consultant. The former not only solves the client's problem, but influences them in measurable and lasting ways. "It's the difference from having insight and having impact."

9. Seek brand insistence, not mere brand preference. Simple preference is not enough. "Pepsi is branded in my mind, but I don't drink it," he said. All you need is a dozen clients who insist on using you. You want your clients to say, "I need you in my life." You can't be just nice to have around or someone who has some information clients need at the moment.

10. Don't make the grave error of seeking fame and not fortune. If you want fame, you can buy it. "I'd rather have eight clients who insist on having me than 1,000 clients who have heard of me," he said.

11. Every day when you go to sleep, ask yourself, "what did I learn today?" You should try to learn something new every single day. The more you know, the more you will be able to apply it to your practice.

12. Build your reputation. "If someone were to ask your clients behind your back, what would they say about you? Would they say you're a good guy but when you're gone they'll hire someone else?" When we know what our clients think about us, we truly know something valuable.

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