I woke up early this morning and received many messages in WhatsApp – ranging from my parents’ exciting trip to Indonesia to new business opportunities in Mauritius, Malaysia and Bahrain.

Before that, I found my two lovely daughters’ smiling faces at me when I opened my eyes – always wondering why their Daddy is always working day and night tirelessly. One of them even asked, why “I like working as a businessman”. It got me thinking.

Working.

Part of being tough is not to view it as a job or work.

Very few would understand that when you enjoy what you are doing very much, it is not “working” anymore. It is a way of life. It is a hobby that pays.

It is a journey that roughs you up to become tougher than what you were before.

Being thick skinned and resilient – “tough,” in other words – is part of the job description for any entrepreneur given the obstacles you have to clear to be successful.

Being a tough leader means making hard decisions, coping with adversity, demanding top performance from employees and being a competitive force in the marketplace. Not just making rhetoric statements and visioning. It is the execution and consistency of doing it.

Now, let’s look at 3 key characteristics I observed from resilient, successful entrepreneurs:

#1: They set high standards for their firms to compete well in the industry. 

Their belief is that when you set high standards for yourself and your business, your employees will know from the start what you expect of them.

They tend to develop detailed job descriptions, help employees set ambitious goals and objectives, conduct constructive performance evaluations and continually encourage their employees to strive for greater achievements.

Reward significant contributions and set strict parameters for performance improvement for underperforming employees.

#2: They are highly competitive, very focused and not just making feel-good statements.

They typically adopt a method where they target the demographics in an aggressive but ethical way. They adopt guerrilla marketing tactics, provide better pricing structures and customer service options than their competitors and cultivate a loyal customer base. They are constantly monitoring market conditions to stay ahead of their competition in a dynamic economic environment. They don’t just stay put. 

They become known as an expert in their industry by their thought leadership pieces and well-regarded in terms of developing a reputation for being a results-oriented, goal-focused business leader. They are known for their resilience. Not a long-winded person who makes rhetoric or feel-good statements.

#3: They get annoyed with weak excuses to cover up for sub-standard deliverables or recurring mistakes.

They are like second to none when it comes to setting firm deadlines, develop comprehensive business strategies and letting their employees know they have zero tolerance for tardiness, shoddy work product, poor customer service or internal workplace conflict.

A recurring habit for them is that they like to resolve disputes as they arise, encourage employees to work out minor differences among themselves and recognize and reward loyalty and teamwork.

Should they have an employee who brings down morale or impedes the productivity of other colleagues, they will counsel him/her first and if all else fail, replace him or her with someone who has a focused, positive and team mentality.

Having said all these, from time to time, I have realised that my two young daughters have taught me a lot about being tough and being compassionate at the same time. They taught me gratitude. They remind me how to feel for people even when being tough – in subtle ways.

How? With their innocently-put, stock-take type of questions. They are only 8 and 6. Strange how things are put across to you sometimes as “check-and-balance”.

Yet, their existence also serves to remind me how I cannot be vulnerable to challenges around me and succumb to them.

This, my friends, is part of the life of an entrepreneur.

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