7 Characteristics of Successful People

by | Mar 31, 2016 | Leadership

A key to our success at Service Express, Inc (SEI) is hiring and developing people.  I know something about exceptional people, I’m surrounded by them daily at SEI.

And through the years I’ve been fortunate enough to watch a great many people find success personally, professionally and financially.  As I too have grown, I’ve had the luxury of being able to reflect (hindsight is 20/20, right!) on what has made me successful.

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In my experience, here are 7 characteristics of successful people:

They Take Action

The first step to success is action.  I love the saying “God doesn’t steer a parked car.”  Too often, people wait for just the right moment before they get up and do something.  Too often, the fear of making a mistake inhibits them from taking action.  Successful people don’t choose to complain and hope something will happen, they create momentum and they cultivate change.   Action leads to more action and it creates momentum.

They Persevere

When I was a sales manager at SEI and we were going through some rough spots as a company, there was a poem posted in our lunch room that I read everyday that helped to put things in perspective for me.

Too often in life people work hard to reach their goals but they give up when the going gets just a little more difficult.  It is in those times when we’re often on the verge of a breakthrough.

During the difficult times in my life, I learned to take relentless action, make mistakes, learn from my mistakes and then try again.  I didn’t quit, though there were many times when that may have been the easier thing to do.

I’ve seen it in employees who jump from job to job or from employer to employer believing that an external change is just what they need, yet their issues always seem to follow them.  What they really may need is an internal change and an attitude of determination and perseverance.  More often than not, we need to walk through the tough stuff, not away from it, to find victory.

They Help Others

“You can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.”  – Zig Ziglar

I have a teaching degree from Central Michigan University (fire up Chips!) and I’m the President & CEO of a very successful technology company that has experienced double digit annual revenue growth for over a decade.

My success, and SEI’s success, is a result of us surrounding ourselves with the right people and then helping them to achieve their personal, professional and financial goals.

If you want to get ahead in life or in business, begin by finding opportunities to help other people get ahead.  You’ll be amazed at the effect and impact that this has on you!

They Fail Forward

In life, mistakes are inevitable.  Embrace and learn from them.  Too many people treat them like taboo and allow mistakes to defeat them.  The best made plans should allow for mistakes.

Mistakes are only fatal if you allow them to knock you down and you don’t pick yourself back up.  When you make mistakes, own them, and apply the lessons you’ve learned from them (that’s called experience!).

There’s no question, one of the biggest reasons that I am where I am in life is because I took relentless action, and that means I made more mistakes than most people I know.  I’ve learned to be successful you must take action fast, fail fast and recover fast.  What you cannot do is keep making the same mistakes over and over, that is fatal!

They Embrace Who They Are

The older I get the more I value diversity and differences.  Everyone is unique and successful people surround themselves with people who have complimentary strengths and talents.

If you want to be successful, embrace the person that God made you to be.  Recognize and be comfortable with both your strengths and your weaknesses.

The quickest way to failure is to try to be someone you weren’t even designed to be.  If you want to be successful in the long term, be yourself when you’re interviewing for jobs or when you’re dating.  The right people (and organizations) will be drawn to you, the wrong one’s will quickly self-select out.

This was once again affirmed to me last year when SEI went through the process of partnering with a private-equity firm.  The best advice I received during the process was from one of SEIs founding owners and someone who was invested in ensuring that I found the right buyer.  He told the executive team to just be ourselves in the process and he knew the right firm would find us.  Boy was he right.  As a result, the firms gained exposure into who we were as executives, what we were passionate about (our people!) and we partnered with the best firm for SEI and are off to a great start!

They Tell the Truth

Your reputation is everything.  At SEI, we value character and integrity above everything else.  You can have the best skills, you can bring in the most revenue, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have integrity.  And typically people who aren’t good fits in this area are weeded out pretty quickly in the interview process- no prima donnas!  We guard our culture and our people at SEI, as should all organizations, and that means bringing in people with great integrity.

It’s easy to recover from honest mistakes but it’s very difficult to fully recover from incidents of dishonesty or where trust is broken.

If you want to be successful, guard your reputation above all else.

They Manage their Time

We all have the same 24 hours in our day.  It’s how we use that time that truly sets successful people apart from those who are not as successful.  I begin my day by prioritizing my top three personal and professional goals that I want to accomplish each day (I’ve learned that if I don’t prioritize my day, someone else will).  Then, I focus on completing those tasks first while my mind is clear and before the day gets away from me.  I ask myself, what are the key things that I can do today to move myself toward the completion of my personal and professional goals.

It’s so easy in this age of electronics, notifications, and alerts to get caught up working really hard but not really accomplishing much of anything.  But too much of that leads to burnout and frustration.  You aren’t meant to live that way!

Don’t try to do everything, just focus on a few high-impact things every day that will move you toward completing your goals!


Finally, never forget that the best, most meaningful parts of life, are found in the journey.  We’re human and that means we’re not perfect, we’re going to make mistakes along the way and we’re going to fall short.  This list is a framework by which you can build upon.

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About Me

I am the President & CEO of Service Express, a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Service Express has averaged double digit growth every year since 2001.

We attribute our success to a unique corporate culture that we call The Service Express Way. I am a member of the Young President Organization and sit on the Board of the Spectrum Health Foundation.