Are you an entrepreneur or an aspiring leader in the professional services industry? Those who have found success in these endeavors will likely tell you that their success did not happen overnight. Along with plenty of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, success typically comes after building a strong foundation. Here are five tools that can help.

Stay Positive
When starting my career as an accountant, I recall being told that to be successful a staff accountant should consistently meet two expectations: be organized and stay positive. At the time, I thought, “how hard could that be”? I soon realized that life as a professional came with a series of challenges that can make it difficult to consistently maintain a positive attitude. As a professional, in addition to mastering your trade, you are faced with a myriad of social, emotional, and political pressures. After all, you must adapt to an office culture, deal with clients, staff, and supervisors, meet never-ending deadlines, and juggle personal commitments. These situations cause stress which can quickly lead to negative behavior. When stress sets in, apply these tactics to stay positive. Be grateful; be respectful; find solutions when presented with obstacles; face stressful situations with intention rather than reaction; celebrate success; and smile.

Be Prepared
Preparation is necessary in virtually all aspects of professional life. Whether being a participant or the leader of a meeting, when asking a question of your supervisor or colleague, or offering a proposal to a potential client, it is critical to have an overall understanding of the most important topics to be discussed. Preparation can come in the form of reading and researching, interviewing, rehearsing, or studying. When preparing for assignments, meetings, or other encounters, consider possible outcomes and anticipate questions in advance. Demonstrating that you have adequately prepared allows you to secure the confidence and support of clients and team members needed to move forward.

Create a List
There is bound to come a time when there are too many tasks to keep track of without having a system in place. Making a list helps to clear your head. Once the work is written out on paper or in electronic form, it can be prioritized and appropriately delegated. Having a list allows you to develop a strategy and create goals for completing assignments which are critical for the next two essentials for building a strong foundation for success.

Focus on efficiency
The time it takes to pick up and put down assignments is often underestimated. Being efficient is paramount because inefficiencies can result in monetary consequences. With this in mind, strive to manage plans so that as much information as possible is gathered in advance. Prioritize tasks that can be 100% completed. Break larger projects down into a series of smaller assignments to help make them more manageable.

Over Communicate
When you are in the trenches with the so-called “blinders on”, it is easy to slip into isolation while working to complete assignments in the order perceived to be priority. It is important to take a step back often in order to get a broader view of what is going on around you. Develop a plan and communicate it to key stakeholders, including managers, clients, and other team members. Managing the expectations of these stakeholders will limit the number of fire drills that can pop up absent proper communication.

These tools can help you find success. How many are part of your foundation?