Tech Entrepreneur, Phyllis Newhouse, spoke with Real Simple about the (not always steady) march to building your own business. 

By Jane Porter
Updated June 29, 2015
Phyllis Newhouse
Credit: Derek Blanks

Phyllis Newhouse was a single mom who had logged 22 years in the military when she decided to start her own business. In 2002 she launched Xtreme Solutions, a tech company that helps prevent cyber attacks. Within two years, the business had broken $1 million in revenue. This year, it’s on track to gross about $60 million. Here, Newhouse shares smart strategies for achieving your goals.

Put your dreams on paper:

“I’ve always been a three-years-out person. I think: ‘What do I want to be in three years?’ and write that plan out. I knew that I was going to be an entrepreneur. I started to do all the things to prep me. I took courses. I researched businesses. I remember getting a blank bulletin board. On that board, I put a picture of a building; I put a check I wrote to myself for $1 million; I put the names of organizations I wanted to work with. Then I started putting people’s names on there—the ideal team. I looked up to that vision board everyday, and there was my company—I could see it. Within a year, three of the people on that board were working for me. Within two years, I was in that actual building in downtown Atlanta that I had cut out of a magazine. When I wrote the $1 million check, I told myself that within three years, this was what I wanted to see in our bank account. In two years, that amount was in the account. Every year, I go back to that vision board and put new things on there.”

Know when to change gears:

“Being a mother gave me a different perspective as a leader. At one point, I had to attend a seven-month leadership academy, and you could not take your children. My son was only six months old. For the first time in my career, I made a decision to decline. I had committed so much to the military and I had to draw a line as far as the balance I needed in my own life. Having personal responsibility outside of myself made me realized you don’t have to always compete at the highest level.”

Be part of your own team:

“We have an accountability meeting every month. You have to get up and tell me three things: how you plan to be impactful as a leader over the next 90 days, what you’ve done in the last 90 days that was impactful, and what value you hope to bring to the organization over 90 days. I also have to stand up and say these three things. I would never ask someone to tell me something I’m not willing to tell them.”

Make time for physical activity:

“I exercise every day, even when I’m on the road. The healthier I am, the more motivated I am. I noticed that most of the entrepreneurs who really live successful lives have some kind of routine that keeps them in great physical shape. I run two to three miles daily.”

Get clear on your motivation:

“Know the reason you want to [lead]. It cannot be for the money. It cannot be because you just want to be a CEO. When I first started the business, my reason was my son. Your reasons have to be so compelling that failure is simply not an option.”