20 Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Advice
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 – Understand Your Value Proposition
I would say one big mistake entrepreneurs make when starting a new business is their failure to understand their value proposition. What is it about their product , service and offer that compels people to say yes? Until they know this, any marketing efforts or spend in any channels will be like pouring gasoline on wet leaves. For instance, when we first launched, we thought people would like our service because its a cheaper way to get their grass cut. What we found through copy testing in different channels such as ad-words and FB is that the customers ability to get same day service is a much more effective and compelling subset of our value prop that drives more visitors and more conversions on our landing pages. Nailing your value prop first is crucial.
Thanks to Bryan Clayton, Your Green Pal!
#2 – Create Space
Do everything you can to keep from getting overwhelmed. When you're an entrepreneur and/or a business owner, you have 1,000,001 things to do at any given moment. It can be very stressful (as I'm sure you know), and when we get stressed, we start making bad decisions. Repeatedly making bad decisions will kill your business! No one wants that. So create some space between you and your never-ending to do list. Give yourself room to breathe, figuratively and literally. A couple of things that keep me from getting overwhelmed are going for a walk around the block, and doing breathing exercises. Both help me to process everything that's going on and attack the situation at hand, instead of just reacting to it. Because I create space, I can make better decisions (and a better business).
Thanks to Kenneth Burke, Text Request!
#3 – Think Big & Be Big
Think big, be big. You can't scale your business if you think small. It's amazing how your business will change when you make decisions and set a foundation for a 100 or 1,000 employee organization rather than the 10 employees you have now. Work *on *your business, not in it. Age old saying but it's 100% true.
It's a lot easier to navigate from above the forest than within it.
Thanks to Michael J. Smith, Evus Technologies!
#4 – Don't Be Average
Most people are average students, average athletes, and average at most things they do. They are dabblers. They do not commit the time and energy necessary to excel and propel themselves out of the average zone. Be extraordinary. To achieve this, you have to work harder than everyone else. Most successful people don't just work harder, they work MUCH harder. I truly believe that if you wake up every day and give 120% then extraordinary is possible. It is a decision; a decision to not settle for mediocrity.
Thanks to Kristen Moon, Moon Prep, LLC!
#5 – Put Yourself in the Customer's Shoes
The number one thing I do in this situation has always served me well, and it's really not that difficult. I simply put myself in the customer's shoes. If I was on the customer end of this situation, what exactly would I want the business to do for me to make it right? I've applied this concept to interactions with my customers. For example – if a customer didn't like any of the perfumes in a sample pack, they would be upset because it would feel like a waste of money to them. If they contacted me with this issue, I would send them a second sample pack with different samples, free of charge. This doesn't put my finances under too much stress, and the returns are twofold. The customer usually purchases a full price item from the pack, and remains a loyal customer in the future because you've gone above and beyond expectations or requirements to make them happy.
Thanks to Alexandra Saad, Charleston Botanicals!
#6 – Find your niche and go after it
Find a niche and go after it. That's what I did with sports. Dominate your niche before you expand and don't try to do everything at once.
Thanks to Angelina Lawton, Sportsdigita!
#7 – A Number of Things
Here's my best business advice for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses: (1) Pick something where talent, passion, and market need all connect. This gives you the absolute best chance of succeeding. If you're missing one part of this critical triangle, your chances of failure increase drastically. (2) Don't waste your time on social media. Be very selective about only those things that add the most value for you. Spending endless hours on Twitter or Facebook hunting connections or likes is a waste of time. Adding and following complete strangers on LinkedIn is also a waste of time. You will be hired based off of the VALUE you can provide, not on senseless social networking. There is indeed a place for social media, but it is not the primary source of your business income, especially when you're just getting going. (3) Do plenty of research prior to starting up in both the chosen area of field and on small business startups. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes check boxes you need to fill out, such as intellectual property protection, LLCs, insurance, and tech platforms all in addition to your business strategy and basis. (4) Launch in a step-wise fashion. Think about only the essentials, especially if it has a cost associated with it. A lot of people spend on unnecessary things before they've fully tested the idea, product, or business for profitability. That's a good way to lose money. (5) If you are doing a start up on the side of a full-time job, be sure to research any rules associated with your full-time job so that you don't cross any conflict of interest or proprietary information lines. (6) It's very difficult to find that elusive first client or buyer if you're just starting out. What helped me was having an experience sheet. I sat down and really thought about which experiences I had that could in any way apply to my business. I was surprised how much there actually was! Then, I held some clout when discussing with clients what I could do for them.
Thanks to Dawn Roberts, The Process Maven!
#8 – Put Your Customers or Clients First
Always put your customers or clients first. No matter what your product or service, always keep their best interests in mind, even if it doesn't result in an immediate sale. Be an advisor and solution finder. What you sacrifice now in dollars, you will make up in integrity, credibility and trust. And you never know; the sale may come back to you at a later date or via a referral from that customer or client to someone else.
Thanks to Debbie Goetz, Debbie Goetz Media Connections!
#9 – Change with the Times
The best business advice I have is that; you can't fix today's marketing problems with yesterday's marketing thinking. What I mean is, people aren't digesting content the way that they used. People aren't responding to advertisements like they used to. Today brands need to take an inbound approach to marketing and work to grow a community around their brand. Even though they're all about their brand the public isn't. So they need to create social communities and provide content that those members would find valuable, rather than just talking about their brand or what sale they have. Think of marketing as a ‘give give give ask' relationship now. To need to give your community something they care about and want to read/share (great content) before you ask them for something in return (sign up for a mailing list, follow a sales link).
Thanks to Adrian Lischer, Hello Theory!
#10 – Know Who You Are Communicating With
As a young women who started her first company 13 years ago, I quickly learned the one thing that can make or break your business: It is critical that you know WHO you are communicating with. No matter whether you are sitting down with an employee, talking to a contractor, pitching an idea to an investor, or showing your customers your latest product or service — your ability to have your message land will determine your success. Have you ever found yourself noticing that your message was received differently from how you intended? Make no mistake, you are leaving money on the table or you are not making deals, if you fail to decode the personality of your counterpart right away. To communicate efficiently you want to quickly find out the underlying values which drive your business partners' behaviors. So, how do you decode and how do you do it on the spot? I rely on a personality assessment called BANK. It works within 90 seconds. Let me give you an example: Recently I met with a potential new client who found me on social media. I had no clear idea what his goal was, which problem I could help him solve, and what he already knew about my work. In other words, I had no clue if I was the solution to his problem or not. Using a simple game which played right at the beginning of our meeting, I quickly learned that he is a very structured person who is risk averse and also very passionate about his product and his clients. The game taught me quickly what drives him and I knew right then how to communicate with him in the way he prefers to be talked with. I was able to decode his personality type and I could adjust my presentation style to his. My chance of closing a deal with this prospect increased significantly, simply because I knew which type of language and which tonality to use in that situation. It’s fascinating and this concept is nothing new. In fact, it goes back to Hippocrates, who first defined personality types. Repurposing this ancient knowledge for today’s business world was the best advice I ever got.
Thanks to Brigitta Hoeferle!
#11 – Being Authentic & Transparent
Being an authentic and transparent person is hugely important in business especially when you are the brand. I share both the good and bad and this is something that people and my audience in particular can relate to. It’s important not to make out that being an entrepreneur is all rainbows and butterflies.
This is why I bring strong strategy as well as a softer side to the way I do business and coach people – working on mindset and confidence, how you feel and how it impacts your business. I teach people how to build a connected community and how to build a brand on your own terms. How to stay in your own lane and not be distracted by what other people are doing or what they think. It’s also about persevering and being confident about failure. I walked away from my business and rebuilt it from the ground up. This meant I had to go back to a 9-5 and rebuild my business around my corporate job and family until I was able to resign and work on my business full time. Because of this I now am able to help others reinvent themselves.
Thanks to Chichi Eruchalu, Chichi Eruchalu Consulting & Media!
#12 – Make a Plan & Stick to It
Go down the route of make a plan and stick to it! Much of our five-year plan revolves around upping our game on the marketing side of the business. We intend to branch out into television commercials, newspaper/magazine features, radio and direct mail, as opposed to just e-marketing. We also want to grow the marketing team by investing in more staff. As an e-commerce business, link earning is of paramount importance to us. We currently sit at the number one position on Google's first page, and we are determined to remain there. Investment in staff is another area that is very important to us, and we plan to increase salaries for attendance, attitude and length of service, which should hopefully see an increase in commitment, quality of work and morale in general. And finally, financially I would like to see a 20% gain by the end of May 2018, possibly stretching to 25% if this is feasible.
Thanks to Lee Fisher, Wooden Blinds Direct!
#13 – Surround Yourself with Business Owners 1 or 2 Levels Above You
While there are many amazing apps, tools and systems to help you build your business, my best piece of advice comes by way of the human form. Instead of focusing on time blocking and processes at the beginning, instead intentionally surround yourself with fellow business owners who are one or two levels above you. Seek out their wisdom by following the content they put out, or attend seminars where they are speaking. By learning from those who have gone before you, the wisdom one can glean from their been there, done that knowledge is priceless. If you wish to take this advice to a deeper level, seek out a mastermind group or accountability partner to assist with your goal setting and to better fuel your success story.
Thanks to Naomi Hattaway, 8th & Home!
#14 – Surround Yourself with the Right People
Surrounding yourself with the right people is key to success. Peer entrepreneurs who are super motivated will help you push through those tough days or weeks. Experienced mentors will help you avoid dumb mistakes and give you perspective about where you're at and how you're doing. Lastly, I love to surround myself with books. $10 can buy you a lifetime of experience and lessons learned. That's the best return on investment.
Thanks to Andrew Randazzo, Prime Medical Training!
#15 – Don't Just Check the Box
Don't just check the box… when you start a business you have a metric ton of things to do. It seems that everyday the list gets longer and your time is less. Early on, you can make mistakes by just trying to get things done too quickly. You will say to yourself, CHECK, I got that done but you have to really be thoughtful of what you are doing, who you are hiring, and what you are are signing early on. It is the foundation you are building and doing things to quickly can leave cracks down the road.
Thanks to Garrett O'Shea, PockitShip!
#16 – Marketing is Constantly Moving
Marketing is a constant moving target. We have found that what worked 6 months ago from a marketing standpoint does not always stay true. This causes our team to continually try new avenues to ensure we are acquire users at the lowest cost possible.
Thanks to Lizzy Ellingson, Blueprint Registry!
#17 – Action Even Before You're Ready
My best career advice is that dreams and ideas and research is nice, but the most successful people I know, take actual action, and way before they truly feel ready to. Perfectionism can be totally paralyzing, and truly– you will never ever feel totally READY or cool enough, or smart enough to do the things you want to do in the world. No one is going to give you the permission you are probably waiting for. The people that can get over this fact quickly, and just DO and CREATE the things they want (even if it's baby steps), are always the ones that seem to win in the end, and at a much faster rate then those who get stuck by it.
Thanks to Sarah Adler, Simply Real Health!
#18 – Use Data As Much as Possible
Some of the best business advice I can give new entrepreneurs is to use data as much as possible to make fast, informed decisions about their business. The more tests you can implement, the better. The more data you have about your customer's behaviors, preferences, and mindset, the less risks you take and the sooner you can decide what direction your business should head.. If you are a startup, you'll have a limited amount of capital. You need to optimize your limited investment and get the best ROI in the shortest amount of time. Making data-driven decisions is the only way to curb risks, speed up outcomes, and achieve success.
Thanks to Adrian Ridner, Study.com!
#19 – A Few Things
(1) Test your ideas before you start building: I always recommend that people follow the Lean Startup model because the sooner you get your idea out into the market, the sooner you get feedback from customers so you can iterate. The worst trap I see entrepreneurs fall into is spending tons of time getting their product perfect and out there, but really, you should be launching rapidly and often in order to get fast feedback. (2) Show some traction before you try to go out to get funding: You'll stand out amongst everyone else pitching VCs for funding if you can prove that you've gotten some traction already with your idea. You don't have to have a million users to show traction — try running a beta with 100 people, for example. (3) Careful with co-founders: You’ll be raring to go, but take the time to be very careful when picking your co-founders and founding team. They play a bigger role in the success/failure of your company than you think. (4) The most important skills you need: Thinking outside the box, and a very healthy dose of gumption and rolling with the punches. No specific business training but it must be someone who is eager to learn.
Thanks to David Burhenne-Sanderson, Reelgood!
#20 – Make Small Bets
The best business advice I ever received was to test a few areas and then give 100%. I focused on making smaller bets with product performance and operations, and when I saw potential success, I gave the project my all. To counter this, the worst business advice I ever received was to go big or go home. I believe that if I had followed this advice, I would have been out of cash and out of business.
Thanks to Michael James, Frederick Benjamin!