When you work for yourself, the success of your business depends solely on your own self-discipline. What is work ethic but the ability to stay true to your goals despite the long hours and hard work involved? Any successful small business requires the owner to cultivate a solid work ethic.

Business owners with a strong work ethic dedicate themselves to meeting the needs of customers and encouraging employees to grow in their careers. This sometimes means putting the needs of others ahead of your own. However, the rewards are both tangible and intangible; you’ll develop immense pride in developing strong relationships with customers and improving the lives of everyone who works for you.

When you hold yourself to higher standards, you’ll also show your employees what is work ethic and how they, too, can cultivate the same dedication to developing this crucial career skill. Follow the suggestions below and discuss them with your team. It’s also an opportune time to talk about performance expectations.

1. Show Up Every Day

You may have heard the old saying that 80 percent of success is just showing up. It’s a popular saying because it’s so very true. Even if you have a dedicated staff trained to handle any contingency, show up at your place of business every day. It sends the right signal to your employees.

It also lets your customers know that, no matter how successful you are, you’re still there to give personal service. When it comes to answering the question “what is work ethic,” the first answer is showing loyalty to your own goals by showing up.

2. Complete Tasks

When you agree to do something, you’re making an implied promise. If you’re someone with a strong work ethic already, you hesitate to let others down by not fulfilling those promises. If you’ve told a customer that you’ll deliver a product, then do whatever it takes to provide it, even at a loss.

If you’ve told an employee you’ll process their new raise, don’t renege. If your employees know they can rely on you to complete tasks and keep promises, they’ll return the favor.

It may seem simplistic, but even in business, the adage is true: Treat others the way you want them to treat you. This creates loyalty among both customers and employees. Part of developing a good work ethic is delivering as promised.

3. Keep Deadlines

Your customers and employees don’t just need to know what they can expect from you. They also need to know you’ll deliver on your promises on time. This means meeting deadlines for any product or service you provide.

It also requires you to be honest when estimating the delivery time on a project. You may be tempted to promise an impossible delivery date, but being honest will get you further when it comes to developing a reputation for dependability. And should you not meet the deadline, admit it. Provide a sincere apology, and then learn from this mistake.

Plan your projects more carefully in the future. After all, greatness is a process as much as it is a destination. Staying committed to improving your performance is one of the answers to “what is work ethic?”

4. Commit Your Time

You might have discovered that owning your own business is more than a 9-to-5 commitment. In fact, you’ve probably realized by now that you spend more time working for yourself than you ever did for others.

Owning your own business is a 24/7 commitment, so make sure you’re offering the time required for your business to thrive. This may mean staying late to train an employee that’s having trouble understanding necessary job skills. It could mean starting your workday early to accommodate a client’s schedule.

The question of what is work ethic comes down to your commitment to seeing the job through, whatever the time on the clock.

5. Keep Collected

business woman at work feeling sick holding her head in hands

Although mental health specialists advocate the importance of expressing feelings of frustration, there’s a time and place for everything. As a small business owner, you must remain professional in front of your employees and customers.

Your employees learn how to behave in the workplace through your example. And if you overreact, they’ll learn that’s acceptable behavior. Or worse yet, they’ll decide that you’re not the kind of person they want to work for.

Your customers don’t want to become part of your workplace drama. Part of what is work ethic is the self-discipline to channel anger or frustration into productive action.

6. Stay Professional

It’s no secret that many people like working for a company that “feels like family.” Some employers go out of their way to create that kind of atmosphere, and many working people gravitate to it. But even in a family, there are rules to follow to make sure every member is still accomplishing essential tasks.

As a business owner, you’ll need to recognize when a familial atmosphere has become a glitch instead of a feature. And part of what is work ethic is having the discipline to modify your behavior and help employees get back on track.

There are perfectly acceptable times when the personal lives of you or your employees must come before business needs. Family illnesses, new babies, and bereavement are particularly notable.

There are occasions when a tightly knit workforce can support each other, and good friendships in the workplace ensure mutual support. In this case, remaining professional and keeping your attention on the big picture can help your employees best by making sure the business is thriving and their job is secure once their personal issues are resolved.

7. Cultivate Teamwork

Splitting up tasks may not seem like the most likely answer to the question of what is work ethic, particularly when you’re trying to develop better self-discipline yourself. It may even have been quite a while since you worked with a team, so you may have forgotten the benefits it offers.

Most importantly, it makes you accountable to others. If you have partners or employees depending on you to accomplish a set of tasks to move the whole project forward, you’ll be more likely to stick to the target deadlines.

8. Learn and Use New Skills

A commitment to your business also means committing to your own self-improvement. Many busy people struggle with time management and even more struggle with communication skills. Part of developing a better work ethic is having the discipline to master new skills.

If you struggle with any part of your enterprise, whether it be accounting, cold-calling, or simply maintaining the premises, devote time to becoming more proficient. Having the self-discipline to skip a golf game in favor of learning a new lead generation program is a clear example of what is work ethic when it comes to owning a successful business.

9. Touch Base with Your Vision Often

When you first started your business, you were probably highly motivated to succeed. That kind of motivation can be hard to sustain through long working hours and the many months, even years, it can take to pay off.

Like any long-term endeavor, the charm can fade over time. It’s up to you to sustain your vision, and that takes self-discipline.

One of the qualities that define what is work ethic is the willingness to manage your own feelings. Being self-disciplined means staying excited about your business.

Putting These Steps together

If you’ve realized that you need to work on self-discipline to succeed, you may have asked yourself “what is work ethic?” More importantly, you may have wondered how to develop better work habits.

When your motivation flags, remember that your family and employees depend on your business to be a success.

As for customers, a better work ethic and dedication to serving them well will make them rely on you as well. And customer loyalty is one of the most crucial steps to business success.

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