Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

Routine Examination #001: Jeff Cornwall

Added on by Sam Davidson.

I met Jeff Cornwall nearly a decade ago as my first company, Cool People Care, was getting off the ground and growing. Time and again, our paths have crossed as I've spoken at Belmont University (where he teaches), read his book Bringing Your Business to Life, or just met for coffee to discuss big (fun) ideas.

Dr. Cornwall is a proven entrepreneur, having spent over 40 years starting and growing various companies, including Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems. He is also an accomplished academic and has now helped countless students begin companies as well. In fact, "In 2013 the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship named Dr. Cornwall the National Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year. Currently, Dr. Cornwall is the inaugural recipient of the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. He also was the founding Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont and led the center during the first ten years of its operation during which it was ranked among the best programs in the country."

Now, Jeff also spends his time helping entrepreneurs grow their ventures via his website, The Entrepreneurial Mind.

I'm very thankful Jeff agreed to be the first to jump into Routine Examination with me. Here we go!

What type of routine (frequency-wise) do you look to set (daily, weekly, etc.)?

I have daily, weekly, and seasonal routines.  

My busiest time is fall, winter and spring. I teach Entrepreneurship full time, so I have have a busy schedule balancing my teaching responsibilities and the startup of our new venture, Entrepreneurial Mind, LLC. I have defined times carved out for each part of my work, and patterns that change during each day of the week.

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday are exclusively for my teaching job. I put in long hours those days and focus only on my classes and my students. Wednesdays I tend to focus both on my business and on school responsibilities. Every Wednesday morning I do a one hour radio show at Acme Radio downtown with Kane Harrison and I write my weekly column for Forbes. Friday morning I play golf with two of my entrepreneur buddies. We all try hard to keep that time for our weekly ritual. Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings are flex time that is often for school, but I also do some business work as well. Most of my business activity ends up being very early in the morning or at night and Saturdays.

There are times of the semester, usually the final five weeks of the semester, that are almost 100% school focused. I tend to put in 50-60 hours a week just on school for the final five weeks of the term. My business is pushed to evenings, if I am able to work on it at all.

During the summer my life changes. I focus much more heavily on our business and my family. I take extended time to be with my wife. We use summers to travel and to just hang out more on our back porch.

My early morning routines are always the same. I get caught up on email, the news and social media. I eat breakfast, and then have some time for prayers and meditation.

Saturday evenings we go to Church (we are Catholic) and then often have family time with kids and grandkids.  

Sundays I try to set aside for time with my wife in the mornings and we often have family time in the afternoons.

What time do you wake up each morning?

Normally between 4:00-5:00 am. Sometimes on the weekends I sleep in until 6:00.

What is the first thing you think about each morning (before you even get out of bed perhaps)?

I try not to think too hard about work when I get up. There is plenty of time for that. I like getting up early as it gives me time to ease into the day. My first big decision each day is eggs or Cheerios.

What thing do you have to do in your personal life every day?

Pray, spend time with my wife, and walk (our exercise).

What is the last thing you do before “quitting” or “leaving” work for the day?

I think about the next day so that I can get a plan in my head and then set work aside until I get started the following day.

Who do you speak to on a regular basis?

My wife, my kids and grandkids, students, alumni, my golf buddies, co-workers at the university, and a small group of local entrepreneurs.

What do you wish were a part of your routine?

Daily Mass. I have been able to build that in at times, but it is hard to do consistently with my schedule.

What part of your routine do you hope to stop one day?

I made some major, intentional, very positive life changes a couple of years ago. As a result, I don't see my daily routine changing for a long time. Although I am technically within a few years of retirement, I love what I am doing now and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

My takeaway: If you are deliberate about your schedule, you can be deliberate about your success.

View all past Routine Examination interviews here.

If you'd like to get more ideas like these sent to you each day, it's easy: sign up here.