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 – Culture is Vital
Culture is a vital component of any successful business. As CEO you must spend enough time with your second tier of management so they fully understand the culture and what you're trying to build. Encourage them to be creative; to try new ideas without the fear of reprisal when they don't pay off. If they buy into this, this culture will soon trickle and flow right through the heart of the business. As an entrepreneur you will eventually need to hire people, so define a HR process that challenges each position; one that lays out a clear profile of who your target employees are and how they fit in. Remember this is your business, so be sure to shape it in your own image.
Thanks to Oscar Macia, ForceManager
#2 – Have a Vision
A number of best practices I put to use while consulting for some of the world's most respected companies have applied equally well at my remote analytics support firm, Spreadsheet Sherpa. First, get the vision right. One of the advantages small businesses enjoy over their larger competitors is speed: the agility to react quickly to consumer feedback or new opportunities. Employees who are waiting for guidance or hamstrung by limited decision rights cannot make the most of this advantage. Get the vision right, broadcast it until it becomes part of the company's DNA, and then turn your people loose to execute and innovate. Second, listen to the client and improve daily. Permanent A/B Split Tests have become our way of life at Spreadsheet Sherpa. When something works, it becomes the new control set and another experiment is launched. We fail a lot on purpose: fail fast, fix fast. That's the primary reason we have anything of value to offer our clients. Third, work from strength. First year startups are often forced to ask a few people to wear many hats. Some of those hats do not fit, often leading to severe productivity losses as employees struggle in areas where they are particularly weak. Pay careful attention to hiring for strengths, placing employees in situations where their strengths can shine, and leaning on external/contracting/outsourcing solutions to supplement weaker areas. Fourth and finally, measure what matters. Startup owners often neglect the measurement of what matters in favor of hands-on activities that feel more impactful. This is a huge mistake. Define 3-5 metrics or indicators of success that your employees can control, display them prominently where everyone can see, and lead daily/weekly judgment-free huddles in which the entire team collaboratively solves for continuous improvement.
Thanks to Derik Timmerman, Spreadsheet Sherpa
#3 – Don't Lose Sight
It sounds obvious, but when faced with the day-to-day distractions of running a business, it is easy to lose sight the vision. Answering emails until the early hours, filling in paper work, sitting in meetings, and traveling the country are all important parts of running a business, but I believe it is important to lift your head out of the sand, take stock, and aim for the castle on the hill. I am guilty of getting caught up in the task at hand, but I always remind myself and my team what the vision is, and highlight what we have achieved so far. Perspective changes as the journey continues; it is less exciting to have an extra 1,000 members using our website each month, because it happens consistently. However, considering this achievement in isolation is a hugely important indicator of progress, and one which can't be taken for granted. By regularly mapping out the journey up the hill, and by recognising the small victories and easy-wins, our team has become more focussed, more productive, and closer to achieving our goals.
Thanks to Andrew Gardiner, Property Moose
#4 – Staying True
I believe that first and foremost you have to stay true to your vision and ethics and make your choices from that sounding board. There will be many choices to make in starting your business and as it continues to grow. It is important to find the right people and/ or team that you not only feel confident in working with but also can meet your standards so you can always stand behind your decisions for your business 100%. It is equally important, especially when obstacles arise to not give up on your vision. Rather, find creative ways to move past the obstacles and create solutions that help propel you to the next level for your business. There may be times you have to rework or tweak your vision for your business or business plan, as that is an element of growth. You will know if you are growing in the right direction if you can still stand behind your business 100%, always choosing to be true to yourself.
Thanks to Iyala Ane, Ane Amour
#5 – Ask for Help
When in doubt don't be afraid to ask for advice or help. Whether it be legal advice (always consult a lawyer) or just an area you are not familiar with, don't be afraid to ask. As a business owner and entrepreneur you will be faced daily with issues and deadlines, if there's a lot on your plate don't be afraid to ask for help and delegate. Having trust worthy people on your team that you can tackle daily work with is a necessity, so take the time to invest in them. As an entrepreneur you should know what is going on at your company on multiple levels, but don't think you necessarily need to perform the duties alone. At then end of the day you must steer the ship, which means always keeping the big picture in mind.
Thanks to Ramin Jaswal, Haus of Rimmy
#6 – Don't Sweat
The best piece of business advice I can give is Don't sweat the small stuff; everything is small stuff. As entrepreneurs, we face challenges all day long. But all it takes to make those big problems seem small, is to simply put it in perspective. When you align the issue or problem you are facing with the right perspective, all your problems tend to seem small and rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So why worry about it? It's a small problem. If you worry about the small stuff, you will never be able to elevate to the level you need to be as a successful entrepreneur.
Thanks to Kornel Kurtz, WebTek
#7 – Cash Flow Management
My most important advice would be cash flow management. Make sure you have enough of it. I would advise everyone to always make sure they have enough cash. The reasons being is you never know when a major client will cancel services, the economy can crash unexpectedly (like in 2007), or when you will have unexpected costs occur. There are many companies that have been thought to be stable that go out of business very quickly. All it takes is one week of missing payroll to go out of business, so make sure you have excellent cash flow management.
Thanks to Ryan McEniff, Minute Women Home Care
#8 – Take a Step Back
I'd encourage any business owner or entrepreneur to continually step back from the day-to-day operations of the business in order to devote 5-10 minutes a day to thinking about the big picture linkages that have or could make one's business more successful. At the end of the day, companies basically revolve around a network of key individuals, contacts and customers that buy our products, use our services, or directly or indirectly promote our offerings to outside entities. By looking at how this network comes together, a business owner can pinpoint the critical players (connectors) and devote added time to ensuring that those individuals receive the most attention. So it is more than just focusing on one's largest customers, it is about valuing critical business and vendor relationships and leveraging them to the fullest extent possible. It can start with simple questions like who else is my attorney or accountant connected to, what can I do to ensure that my vendors and core customers are also having success in their B-2-B efforts, or how can I start to introduce my network to each other to create an even stronger and connected business foundation. Such a focus will feed one's own new business efforts, operational improvements, and existing account or current customer base growth.
Thanks to Matt Davison, Martin Davison Public Relations
#9 – Persistent and Gritty
The best business advice I can offer has to do with being persistent and gritty. In business, failure is never an ‘if’ question – it is a ‘when’ question. It will happen. The best advice I can give would be to get into that mentality of knowing and understanding that failure will come eventually. When that fact is established in your mind, you will be better prepared to react and rebound from a challenge that would normally cripple others. Have the grit and persistence to navigate through the problem at hand!
Thanks to Sebastien Dupere, Dupray
#10 – All About Leverage
Thanks to innovative technology, the barriers to entry for starting and running a business is low. The key to business success is people, not just capital. Many business owners spend their precious time and effort chasing capital, not people. If you can bootstrap your company, and focus on profitability, not just market share, you will not need investors. If you give your employees equity, they will be motivated partners, not just employees or investors. Building a team of motivated, intelligent, driven employees that share your vision will enable you to focus on solving customer problems and building a successful business. If you sell equity to investors, you give up ownership and control, plus your investors are focused on an exit strategy to maximize their internal rate of return. When you get to a point where you need capital to grow your business there are innovative new sources of funding available. One such source is Royalty Based Finance. You obtain growth capital in exchange for a small percentage of your monthly gross revenue. Unlike traditional funding, you retain ownership and control, and you do not have the restrictive financial covenants and terms of a traditional loan. People are the key to success.
Thanks to Joel Sparber, Cleargrowth1
#11 – Passion
Ensure that you are passionate about what you are about to undertake. If you don’t find value in what you are doing, if you don’t care about what you are doing, if you feel like you are wasting your time, or you would rather be somewhere else……it will show! It will show in your attitude, it will show in your processes, and it will show in your results. While it is impossible to find work that is 100% enjoyable ALL the time, if you aren’t enjoying what you are doing MOST of the time, I would recommend that you look elsewhere for a means to pay the bills – whether that be finding a new job or starting your own business. Your time is the most valuable resource you have available to you. If you aren’t using it to conduct activities that are important to you, and that provide value to others, you won’t be putting forth your best efforts, whether you realize it or not. Be passionate about what you do, and everything else will fall into place.
Thanks to Tim Maciejewski, Maciejewski Group, LLC
#12 – Take an Interest
My best business advice would be to take an interest in staff and execute a strong employee engagement strategy. Employee engagement and client engagement go hand-in-hand. Happy employees equal happy clients. At Assurance we spend exceptional amounts of time showing employees our appreciation for the hard work they're doing. We've really fostered a culture that is based on appreciation – whether it be small or big, public or private. But, it's more than just keeping employees happy. True engagement is employees who know that what they do helps clients. There's a lot of moving parts that go into making an employee engaged, and as a business, you need to help employees understand what their purpose is and how they work together with the team to help their clients.
Thanks to Steven Handmaker, Assurance
#13 – Develop People Skills
My best business advice: Develop your people skills. No matter what business you're in, you have to be good with people. Through studying my own business and those of my competitors, I have found that the ones that network a lot tend to be more successful. To network, you have to be good with people. To take advantage of opportunities that life presents, you have to be good with people. I will give you an example. A few days ago, I was sitting at the coffee shop and I noticed this patron had a broken foot. I asked him what happened and one thing led to another and I told him about our service, and a couple of days later he signed up with our service. The reason I was able to talk to him is because I was sincerely concerned about this person. I wasn't trying to sell him anything. When you're being genuine, people can tell and they will appreciate that
Thanks to Jesse Harrison, Zeus Lawsuit Loans
#14 – Overcome Self Doubt
My best business advice is to just start things and learn to overcome any self doubt. This is my best business advice because most people prevent themselves from accomplishing their goals or getting anywhere due to self doubt and simply not starting what needs to get done. My name is Ian Crueldad, born and raised by a single mother in San Jose, CA. I am the founder and CEO of Internpub. It is an online platform where people can rate and review internships. I founded the company during my last semester of my senior year at the George Washington University in 2015. I was able to receive investments as well before graduation. Around the time I started my company, I had no business background nor was I a business major. I graduated with a political science degree and a minor in philosophy. I had no idea how to set up a business, what it takes to run one, nor did I have any tech skills. I was doubting a lot about whether or not I can start my tech company. However, I just went on and started it anyways. Now the company has been growing every month. I was able to secure funding early on. I learned numerous skills along the way and employ people under me.
Thanks to Ian Crueldad, Internpub
#15 – Focus on People
For me, the number one component of a successful business is the team. It is absolutely crucial to focus on the people over everything because at the end of the day what you think your business is going to be and what it ends up actually being is going to change a lot over time. It is the people that make sure that you go from transition to transition smoothly by identifying problems, seeing roadblocks and figuring out solutions. The best people are going to stand with you and get you through that process faster. It is critical to hire A players and build a team that is excited to be along for the ride. As your business scales, you need more people that are able to help maintain what you've worked so hard to create. You have to hire people who are better than you, people who possess different skills sets than you to ensure a successful and balanced company.
Thanks to Michael Krasman, UrbanBound