Fastsigns CEO Catherine Monson: Five Traits to a Successful Career

I do believe that if men are forceful, assertive and direct, they're considered to be powerful, smart executives. If women are forceful, assertive and direct they're sometimes called a witch with a "b" in front of it. Do I let that bother me? No. That's just reality. I'm going to be forceful, assertive and direct and if somebody's feathers are ruffled, I have learned to believe that's their problem and not mine. Now is that an excuse to be bitchy in the workplace? Absolutely not, because anybody who is bitching or negative isn't going to be successful.

How has your managerial style and ethics influenced the culture at Fastsigns?

Monson: Throughout my career, throughout my adult life, I have studied successful people. I have had the opportunity to be mentored by some amazing executives. I've had the opportunity to meet some very successful CEOs and presidents. And what I have found is that there are five common characteristics of successful people. It doesn't matter if you're talking about being successful in politics or successful in business or successful in saving for your retirement.

The first is positive mental attitude. I believe that positive mental attitude is learned. It is a discipline. It is the easiest thing in the world to be negative. Maybe some people have a sunnier disposition than others, but every successful leader is positive.

The next is goal-directed behavior. In a business, that would be having a business plan. One of the best ways to be goal-directed in your business is to have key objectives and an action plan and a budget on what you want to attain.

Then the third one would be self-motivation. Successful people will make two more sales calls in a day. They'll make the time to coach one more employee. They'll check on one more customer. Whatever it is, rather than saying, "OK, I can be done and I'll put that off until tomorrow," successful people just tend to be more self-motivated. They make things happen.

The fourth one will be a sense of urgency. I love success quotes and positive quotes and I try to feed my mind with that every day, and one of them that I love is Thomas Jefferson's, which is, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

And then the fifth characteristic is never stop learning.

How does that change the culture here? I try to always be positive and when I see any of my management team not being positive, I pull them aside and say, "Guys, remember, nobody wants to follow a pessimist. Nobody ever built a statue to a critic. You need to be positive in how you deal with people, in your outlook about the business, how you deal with franchisees."