The Secret Behind Real Startup Success



While it might be counterintuitive, sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is take a little time off.

When your mind is constantly in motion due to the daily tasks and excitement of startup life, the best thing you can do to refresh is get away from it all. I would argue that intentional downtime is an absolute for success — maybe as important as the idea for a business itself.

Downtime not only helps keep the mind revitalized but also helps prevent burnout, something I faced frequently during my first years of starting Wakanow.com, a full-service online travel company that was built to ease online booking travel to and from Africa. When I started the company, my team was small, and I could never walk away due to fear that all my hard work would fall of apart. My head was always full of details: Will the new hire do well? Where will the next round of funding come from? How can I assure all current employees are happy?

Downtime has allowed me to focus on each issue and resolution with a clear and open mind and has directly contributed to my success, including winning Entrepreneur of the Year in the All Africa Business Leaders Award West Africa 2015. If you’re struggling to walk away from your business, here are some tips to help.

Set Mandatory Downtime

As a new business owner, optimal time management is an absolute must for success. Talk to any CEO, and time management is likely at the top of the list as a must for success. This time management should include slots for mandatory downtime. I can’t express this enough.

On a daily basis, my most significant downtime is a few hours before bedtime and weekends. There are many healthy reasons to take downtime before bed. It preps for a solid night of sleep, and for me allows for a 5 a.m. wake-up, when I take time to plan my day and build my focus.

Engage in a Mix of Downtime Activities

Downtime equals different things for different people, but a mix of active and passive works for me. During active downtime, I rely on working out — not as strenuously as when I played for the LA Clippers and Vancouver Grizzlies. Sometimes it’s a simple jog; other times it’s an intense game of tennis. The benefits of exercise reach far beyond the entrepreneur scope. It helps improve all-around focus and energy within the non-business life.

Passive downtime for me includes reading, movie time and relaxing with my family. The latter is of vital importance. A happy family equals a happy entrepreneur, and that combination ultimately equates to a more successful business.

Create More Downtime, Even When You’re Busy

Let’s be realistic: sometimes work is hectic and we are forced to break away from our “mandatory” meetings and client calls. But there are some tricks to get yourself downtime on a daily basis.

Start with your shower. Ever notice how calm you are in the shower? There’s scientific reasoning behind this. Your body relaxes and produces additional dopamine, which naturally relaxes the brain. So use that morning shower to your advantage.

Try waking up an hour before everyone else in your home. Use this time to your advantage and relax for a bit: catch up on news, enjoy a cup of coffee and plan your day.

And don’t forget to relax and breathe during your daily commute. The average commuter travels 50 minutes round trip per day. Use this time to listen to your favorite music, sports news, audio books or whatever else allows you to purposefully relax. Some just enjoy driving. If this is the case, take an extended route home to further unwind and reflect on the day’s work.

Remember, the path to success means much education on all matters regarding business — from time management to managing employees to interviewing techniques. But without the necessary (actually mandatory) downtime, absorbing the information will be much more difficult.



The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image credit: CC by catherinedncr

About the author: Obinna Ekezie

Obinna Ekezie is the cofounder and CEO of Wakanow.com, the leading full-service, online travel company in Africa. Obinna played in the NBA for eight seasons and was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies after playing with the Maryland Terrapins from 1995–1999. Following his basketball career, Obinna founded Wakanow out of his personal frustration that there were no options to easily book travel online between the U.S. and his native Nigeria and Nigeria and other parts of the world.

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