No matter how you look at it, starting a business is hard. One of the hardest things you may ever have to do. There’s the business plan to think over, a name, government policies to consider, how it will affect your family, finances and the list rolls on from there. Some hardened entrepreneurs suggest spending a long time thinking about if that’s really the path you want to take. If so, there is plenty of advice floating around to help you with the grueling journey. Entrepreneurs are always willing to lend their words to the younger generation of business seekers and give them assistance when the time comes. Below we have asked entrepreneurs for their best business advice.
1) Create Your Own Luck
Create your own luck. Don’t wait for things to happen to you. There are thousands of people just like you with the same idea. Investors hear them all. At the end of the day, you have to pave your own path. If you’re looking for investments, come up with the money yourself or be creative with your resources. If you don’t know how to program, don’t complain that you can’t find a programmer; learn how and build a prototype. You are in charge of your own destiny.
Thanks to Brian Wong, Kiip.
2) Hiring Employees
Time is a valuable commodity for any business owner or CEO. To be successful one needs to ensure their time is used wisely and drives business forward. This certainly applies to the day to day operations, but, it needs more consideration upon hiring employees. Any new hire is fundamentally about allowing you or existing employees to invest quality time into your business. The focus during the hiring process should be on how this person will impact the commodity of time on those around him or her.
Thanks to Jeff Lefler, FranchiseGrade.com!
3) Winning & Competing
The best advice I ever received came from a British gentleman, and I pass it on to anybody who'll listen and I know for a fact will implement that advice in their lives. Upstarts typically have a hustler mindset and take pride in the sleepless nights and the hundreds of emails sent daily. Most iconic individuals we admire have already attained the wealth and glory we want, and there's little sympathy for somebody just getting their act together. That's why tracking the relevant metrics is so immensely important: business success is judged by revenue and earnings, not a paper valuation or how damaged the founder's health is from going too hard. We need to be constantly reminded to focus more on winning than competing.
Thanks to Anthony!
4) Change is Inevitable
Expect change. In my industry of search engine optimization, there are always changes, updates and new tools. I have to be aware that something that may have worked last month will be completely different this month. An entrepreneur should recognize change is the only constant and be prepared for it by staying up to date in their industry, developing new tactics and following influencers in your industry.
Thanks to Shalyn Dever, Chatter Buzz Media!
5) Understanding Strengths & Weaknesses
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and having the humility to adjust your business activities accordingly, is crucial to success whether you're on your own or working with partners. Focus on your strengths and share, outsource or delegate the tasks at which you are weakest. In conjunction, however, you need to avoid putting yourself into areas of responsibility which are least impactful to business development, even though performing that particular thing may be a strength of yours. For instance, you may be great at answering phones. Perhaps it's because you're good at building rapport, making people feel important or comfortable, and you're a good listener. But the strengths inherent in that skill set are much better put to use for networking or meeting with clients. There are lots of people out there who can do a perfectly good job of answering your phones but, more importantly, there are only a select few who can effectively communicate the value of your product/service, or the passion with which you approach your business. Besides, the less time you spend on the phone the more time you can spend networking for leads or closing business.
Thanks to Paul Ohlson, Jumphouse Rental 4 Less!
6) Scrutinize Even Seemingly Spammy Emails
As a business owner, you will be inundated with emails from people who want to do business with you. A lot of these emails may appear spammy, but don’t be fooled! These people are usually reaching out to you because they see some potential alignment between you and them, so it’s worth reading and considering their proposals! Here’s a perfect example for you: During our initial launch on Kickstarter (end 2014), we were contacted by a huge watch and fashion influencer who follows Kickstarter, and wanted to promote our campaign for us on his Instagram account. At the time we had no idea about the power of Instagram, but we took the time to read his email and think about his idea. He ended up promoting us early on in our campaign and we immediately saw a spike as a result of his one promotion. Our campaign was fully funded within the first 11 hours and we received close to $200,000 in total pledges. Thanks to us taking the time to read through his email even under immense time pressures and even though it seemed “spammy,” we are the most funded Swiss Watch Project on Kickstarter to date. Of course it doesn’t hurt that our watch is an affordable and high quality beauty!
Thanks to Esti Chazanow LIV, Swiss Watches!
7) Be Ready to Pivot
The best business advice I can share with others is to never give up, but always be ready to pivot. Being an entrepreneur means dedicating every ounce of brain power and energy into making your dream come to fruition. But what happens when things stagnate? People are always giving unsolicited and judgmental advice to entrepreneurs and it’s our job to sift through it. Some unfortunately quit the game when things don’t go as planned. There are times when the greatest perseverance cannot make a bad business idea work, and there are times when it can. My experience has been that you can never give up on your idea even if others critique. The magic is being able to see your true value and ask yourself if you need to pivot to make it happen. Maybe your value is not in the product, maybe it’s in a value add service to the product- always think about where your true value lies and hone the business to that single aspect- no matter what- do not give up!
Thanks to Deborah Walliser, Got Produce? Franchising Inc.!
8) Embrace Failure
As a company founder, my number one tip for new business owners and entrepreneurs is to embrace failure. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It's a never-ending stream of ups and downs that requires tremendous patience and perseverance. It's natural to be upset or frustrated when you fall short of your goals; however, it's important to understand that every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. When I lose a prospective client, for example, I always reach out to learn what the deciding factors were. Often, clients are more than willing to open up and reveal telling information that can help you close future projects. You must fail in order to succeed, and a few setbacks shouldn't define your outlook on running a business. Stay the course, never give up and take the time to learn from each setback.
Thanks to Allen Greer, FUZE!
9) Learn the Business of Business
I’m one of those kinds of people who jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down. So it’s not surprising that I started a business without any previous business experience or business education (I had been a history professor!) The only thing I knew when I started out was my product, tumbled stones. Since I knew the stones inside and out, I didn’t worry about them. Instead, virtually all of my attention went to learning what I didn’t know! I bought business books and read articles, from general overviews to very specific topics like pricing strategies and tactics. I found entrepreneur friends to talk shop with and focused on re-inventing myself as a business owner. I’ve seen a lot of people go into business and think they just need to focus on what their business does. Wrong! If you want to be a photographer or a barber, concentrate on taking photos and cutting hair. If you want to own a photography business or a barber shop, concentrate on mastering the ins and outs of successful and profitable business!”
Thanks to Julie Abouzelof, Moonrise Crystals!
10) Ideal Client
The best business advice I can give is take the time to discover your ideal client. By knowing who you serve best your marketing efforts become nearly effortless. You can connect with them on a physical, emotional and overall deeper level. Having an ideal client in mind when writing blogs, social media content or adverts helps you tap into what their true habits and desires are, ultimately making it easier for you to create a solution that will want or need to buy from you. So many new entrepreneurs are afraid niching down their client will cut their sales but it truly will increase your visibility and set you up as the authority.
Thanks to Desiree Wolfe!
11) Take Time When Hiring
When Punchh was first starting out, we made a few mistakes in hiring. We hired a few people who in retrospect were not good fit for our culture and our market. Luckily, we were able to recognize the issues and address them in a timely manner before any real harm could be done. These people were not incompetent or inadequate, they just simply were not a fit for what Punchh was trying to achieve. From this we learned that your team and your hiring determines your destiny. Spend a lot of time with hiring, it's essentially building the foundation of your company and without a solid foundation, greatness can never be achieved. We also learned that it takes a great deal of preparation and thought to hire well, it's not enough to have a candidate speak to one person, you need to bring in multiple perspectives and see how they interact with various personalities and working styles.
Thanks to Vic Mahadevan, Punchh!
12) Ignore Budgets
As counter-intuitive as it seems, ignore budgets. They are deadly and will drive the wrong behavior in your company. Instead of seizing opportunities that will skyrocket your company to success, you'll waste time and resources focusing on a budget that will be out of date minutes after it's been defined. If that wasn't bad enough, it will drive the wrong behaviors; you will pass on opportunities that you don't have the resources for, and then throw cash away on terrible opportunities because you have “room” in the budget. Now that we know budgets are a waste of time, focus on allocating your money and people toward the best opportunities that have a minimum of threshold of value.”
Thanks to Ken Sim, Nurse Next Door!
13) Following the Rules
Why follow the rules when you should be following your dreams instead…Listen to your inner voice, what you've always wanted to hear, what you've always wanted to do, then don't let other people's limits and guidelines hinder you from excelling in your business, as fast as you could possible dare to imagine and beyond. Whatever the will invokes will inevitably manifest, as you realize that the best reality, in fact, comes from living your dream.
Thanks to Stephanie Adams-Nicolai!
14) Heart for Customers
You have to have a heart for your customer and want to give them something of value but be careful about always saying “yes”. One of the things that I've seen slow down a lot of entrepreneurs is saying yes to everything and everyone. One of the best skills a new leader can practice is saying no to certain things and certain opportunities. As you become more successful, you'll have more and more opportunities come your way and customers will ask for small changes to your offering. Learn when to nicely say “no”. This will let you focus on the things that will move the needle for both your business and your customers.
Thanks to Don Uhlir, Extremely-Sharp Survival Gear!
15) Start Asking
Entrepreneurs and small business owners spend a lot of time pondering what their customers' preferences are. Leaders need to stop guessing and start asking. Even the smartest of business minds can't know exactly what their customers are thinking all of the time. Take a second to talk with people – you'll learn a lot and form more meaningful relationships with your clients. You can avoid overdeveloping products or ideas based on hunches and biases. Instead go straight to the source to get the information you need to make confident, competent decisions.
Thanks to Jeff Low, Stash Hotel Rewards!
16) Non-Traditional Options
Most new and emerging small business owners think that it is very easy to obtain a loan from the bank where they have an established relationship. Unfortunately, this is not true for most businesses, especially, professional services firms that require operating capital to pay for employee salaries, training, software and other business-related services. Many small business owners spend quite a bit of time and resources preparing application packets and meeting with bankers, only to be disappointed when they are rejected. As the owner of a small professional services firm who was rejected by several banks, I soon learned that it was easier for me to focus on generating sales for my business and earning more profits. While my approach may not have been the most cost effective or easiest for my staff, it was the only way that we could grow the business. Over the years, we learned about several grants and programs that provided access to the training, software and business-related services that we were planning to purchase with the loaned funds. Specifically, we applied for and received workforce development grants from local government agencies and non-profit organizations to hire and train new employees, and to offer tax credits for hiring employees. These grants typically reimburse small business owners for wages and training costs for new employees. We also worked with the small business development programs at local universities to train our employees, develop websites and electronic media, and provide legal advice. Additionally, we worked with local chambers of commerce to access needed software and databases, to allow our employees to attend business training courses. My tip to small business owners is to look for needed resources and funding using non-traditional options. If you do not receive the funding to “purchase” what you need to grow your business, look for resources to “acquire” what you need to grow your business.
Thanks to Crystal L Kendrick, The Voice of Your Customer!
Stay focused. Entrepreneurs tend to want to do everything. Don't try to be everything to everybody, or you'll end up being nothing to anybody. Take one step at a time, and don't stretch yourself thin over multiple different ventures. Stick to one thing, focus on it, and be the best you can be at it. Things will follow with persistence, focus, and determination.
Thanks to Kate Hiscox, Venzee!
18) Understand How Customers Get Paid
Let’s be honest: healthcare reimbursement is kind of a mess and it’s undergoing a sea change from a volume-based fee-for-service system to an outcomes-based model. However, the status of that transition varies considerably across the industry. What saves money or adds new revenue for one customer may actually be detrimental—for another. For example, reducing hospital readmission has become a big issue, and CMS has begun leveling penalties against some hospital and provider networks with high readmission rates. Perhaps your product can help them meet CMS goals in spectacular fashion. However, some hospitals are not subject to those penalties, and reducing readmission for them could mean eliminating a large chunk of their topline revenue. If your technology improves patient outcomes and reduces overall cost of care – Great! But make sure the customer you are selling to will benefit financially or they won’t be able to keep paying you.
Thanks to Neil Smiley, Loopback Analytics!
19) Pick 1 Thing & Master It
The best business advice I have is to pick one thing and master it. At Company Folders, we limited ourselves to using only one marketing strategy because we wanted to be more efficient. Now, we focus on creating online content marketing directed at graphic designers. Using only one marketing tactic made our business path very clear. We know exactly what we need to do and how to do it. Since then, we¹ve made a constant effort to become even better at online content marketing. We¹re always striving to improve and be the best. Maintaining that narrow focus has paid off: our website averages over 150,000 unique visitors each month and is growing rapidly.
Thanks to Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders!
20) Turn Negatives into Positives
Every marketer encounters challenges in their job. Seeing those challenges as opportunities is key to growing as a professional, sustaining progress, and keeping up team moral. Recently, we attended Xerocon and decided (last minute) to add on to our booth space. This left us with the only unbranded booth table at the show. We put our heads together and came up with the idea of turning the front of the table into a giant, “Thank You”, card to be presented to Xero at the conference after party. We picked up Sharpies and invited everyone at the show to visit our booth and sign the card. It was a great ice breaker that led to many valuable conversations, contacts, and eventual customers.
Thanks to Ryan O'Donnell, Avalara TrustFile!
21) A Few Things
First, pick your team carefully because the original members are responsible for making thousands of correct decisions. Secondly, pick a huge disruption because if your space isn’t big enough then you’re not giving yourself the right opportunity. And thirdly, pick the problems that need solving. If you have perspective and a clear path, that’s really the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Don’t be afraid to evolve and embrace the pivot wherever your business needs to go and use momentum when something works by duplicating that method and the results. When things don’t work, don’t be afraid to throw something away and keep evolving because white space isn’t going to be white space for too long these days. Finally, feel comfortable being an entrepreneur because you’re going to be managing your business for much longer than you expected.
Thanks to Zorik Gordon, SERVIZ!
22) Business Buddies
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Finding someone other than family members to discuss business issues, concerns, or plans is essential for success. I've found some “business buddies” that I can talk to and get straight feedback. Join a local networking group to find someone that can help. There are also paid options for this but most entrepreneurs I know prefer the free or bartering method.
Thanks to Lisa Hennessy, Your Pet Chef, LLC.!
23) Plan Ahead
The best thing you can do to build a business is to plan ahead. Build a plan, and use productivity tools to track your tasks & requirements. Take the time to really understand your customers, their needs, and how you can best fulfill those needs. Today's customers are smart, and educate themselves before making a purchase – you'll need to do your homework to make sure you've differentiated yourself from the competition.
Thanks to Randall Roberts, Grapple Gear!
24) Focus on the Customer
In the early days at Synechron, it was all about revenue and the bottom line. As we achieved success, we learned that the focus had to be more on the customer and less on the shareholder. Maintain the focus on service, on the employees, on quality, on integrity, on building long-term partnerships with clients. I have a fundamental issue that when public companies report their results it’s all about “our revenue grew by this much, our profits grew by this much.” We never hear how these public companies’ quality has improved, or how their service has improved, or that their customers are “this percentage happier with us.” There’s no metrics representing the voice of the customer. And it is fundamental to track customer satisfaction.
Thanks to Faisal Husain, Synechron!
25) Partner Early
Partner and partner early. Working with others brings in resources and skills to reach a much bigger audience with a stronger message. Partner with suppliers, outsource marketing skills you don’t have and collaborate your way to success.
Thanks to Carl Mazzanti, eMazzanti Technologies!
26) Build a Strong Team
As a business leader you can't do it all. Each of has a passion, what we're good at, and weakness (sometime this is our blindspot). So once those are identified you can begin surrounding yourself, as I did, with great people. People that fill the blind-spots and are great to work with. I've done that in at Sun Microsystems and now with Matrix Marketing Group for over 12 years.
Thanks to George Schildge, Matrix Marketing Group!
27) Invest In Your Business!
My best tip would be to invest in an area of your business that would set you apart from the competition. My husband and I are the owners of Newton's Cab Co. in Burlington, NJ. We didn't want to blend in, we wanted to stand out, we wanted to be the best cab in town. So, we decided to invest in our vehicle. We started with a 1998 Lincoln Town Car with wood grain, leather seats and a smooth ride. We've since upgraded to a 2007 Chrysler 300! It cost us a pretty penny, but it was well worth it. Our customers are pleasantly surprised, excited even, when we arrive at their locations. We provide a service where our customers are happy to be associated with us. They are not ashamed to be transported in our vehicle, all because we made an investment in that area of our business. Ultimately, it is our car that sets us apart from the rest.
Thanks to Makeda Mutema-Newton & Tejumold Newton, Newton's Cab Co.!