On the way success, there will be lessons learnt since experience is the best teacher. New entrepreneurs can emulate and learn from the experienced entrepreneurs so as to avoid common mistakes that are bound to occur when starting a business. Not only does this save resources, but is also saves time spent in rectifying mistakes and instead new entrepreneurs can focus in making their ventures profitable.
We asked entrepreneurs and business owners what advice they would give to new entrepreneurs.
#1- Choose the people you associate with wisely
Surround yourself with ambitious people. The people you spend the most time around will have the greatest impact on your development and career trajectory. If you are around hard working, intelligent people, then their positive qualities will rub off onto you. They can offer advice and constructive criticism when you need it. Individuals with strong work ethics are successful eventually, even if one of their ideas doesn't work out. Choose wisely who you spend time with. It matters a lot in determining entrepreneurial success.
Thanks to Earl Choate, Concrete Camouflage!
#2- Several Tips
Be original. What makes you unique or special? Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competition? Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source. Be relevant. Brands aren't created in a vacuum. Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day. Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting. Prospective customers can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behavior & make a great lasting impression. Be nice to everyone & make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help! It is true you should never burn a bridge, that really is great advice and I can tell you dozens of stories over the years where that has served me well. You just never know when your paths will cross again with old colleagues, former bosses, etc. Kill them with kindness and don't ever burn that bridge, trust me it pays off! Also, be the best prepared at every meeting, work your butt off and smile. It has worked for me at least!
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#3- Never stop learning
As a new entrepreneur, you should be continuously absorbing information. Learn from your successes and failures. Experience is the best teacher, so take action. However, that doesn't mean you can't also learn passively from others by reading books, attending conferences, and networking with professionals in your industry. There is always a skill you can develop further – sales, marketing, design, management, finance, accounting, writing, etc. The moment you think you have nothing left to learn is the moment you stop progressing.
Thanks to Yves Frinault, Fieldwire!
#4- Hire Smart
Your first hires should know more than you. Identify the strengths of the founders and start out by hiring employees (or freelancers to help alleviate payroll woes) who are experienced in the areas you lack. If your management and business acumen are unparalleled, then hire creatives and business development support. If you’re creative that knows how to scale the business, but has no marketing background, then bring on a marketing guru. Once you have a leader in place that excels in each facet of the business, you then can build teams beneath them. Out of the gate, you need to ensure that you have the best of the best in place to lead. Be smart. You can’t do everything yourself.
Thanks to Tiffany Rafii, UpSpring!
#5- Three things
I've been an entrepreneur for 15 years. I have run 5 different businesses. Being an entrepreneur is both amazing and horrifying all at once. Keep these 3 things in mind and you'll stack the odds in your favor: (1) The most important thing is having a healthy team. Without this, nothing else is possible. (2) Grit is the single most important entrepreneur quality. You will fail. You will fail big. You will fail often. Being a successful entrepreneur isn't about not failing. It's about how you pick yourself up after the fall. (3) Know that you will likely fail. 4% of all companies reach $1 million. 0.4% of all companies reach $10 million. This isn't to say it's not worth trying. This is to add a dose of reality to your optimism, and it is what will keep you hungry and humble.
Thanks to Debbie Madden, Stride!
#6- It always takes longer than you think
People starting businesses are an optimistic bunch — they have to be to face the overwhelming odds that every new venture faces. Having started three successful business, I know that you need to allow more time for things to happen than you would like. Don't be discouraged if your plan runs behind; know that this almost always what happens.
Thanks to Adam Honig, Spiro Technologies!
#7- Be plugged-in to current events
My advice to a new entrepreneur: Be plugged-in to current events. The battle of Waterloo was lost as a result of bad intelligence. Every entrepreneur should be spending dozens of hours a week just keeping current. I read five newspapers a day, 50 books a year, and countless journals, government reports, and magazines. I watch cable news, and see as many cultural programs as I can, usually one a week.
Thanks to Dan Biederman, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures Corporation!
#8- Take time to write a comprehensive list of instructions for each role you require
As a start-up business, you will be working on your own or you might have a couple of staff working alongside you. Either way you will in this initial start-up stage find yourself doing everything from sales, marketing, manufacturing or delivering your product and services, the accounts, chasing money to even the more menial office tasks like cleaning toilets, washing up and general admin. My advice would be to take time to sit down and write a comprehensive list of instructions for each role that is required. Include exactly how you have found to be the best practice to get the result required, then once you get to the point of taking on staff you can give them full written or instructions of what is required for the role they have been taken on for. It saves time further down the line but it also keeps you focused, removes any confusion and stops you being interrupted and dragged back into micromanaging the role you just gave up when it is handed to a new employee.
Thanks to John Hynes, Copy Print Services Ltd!
#9- Be open minded
Keep the big picture in mind of where you are headed and relax about the detours during your career to get there. There are many ways to Rome and you can not plan everything!
Thanks to Kristina Roth, SuperShe!
#10- Find something you can offer for free in exchange for email addresses
Find something that you can offer your customer base for free, and then have a clear strategy for using it to acquire email addresses. I'm a CEO in the language learning arena, and when I was first starting out, I created a blog with a lot of free resources for learners. This got me attention, but I still didn't have a solid mailing list. Even when I launched my first product line and crowdfunding campaign, my mailing list was still small. A couple of years later, a marketing consultant suggested I redesign my site to offer learning tools in exchange for email addresses. I went from a ~5k mailing list to a ~50k mailing list within 2 years, and was able to use that to launch the most funded Kickstarter app of all time.
Thanks to Gabriel Wyner, Fluent Forever Inc!
#11- Planning is key
My advice based on having experienced setting up a group of companies is to make sure you plan.Look for and encourage constructive comments on what you’re looking to do. Look for this from those who have gone before and may have failed as there are many lessons learnt from failing and also from those who have succeeded. Planning is key, you will know what area or genre of service or product you’re looking to provide. However, planning is what supports that quest and burning desire to be an entrepreneur. This planning requirement ranges from the early stages in terms of “is there a market and if so where and how do I get to it” through to “how do I make sure my business is funded not just at the outset but with enough funding to ride the various waves of the unplanned or unexpected you will without *doubt face”. However old the old adage is, it still applies “fail to plan and you probably have planned to fail”!
Thanks to Tom Anderson, Thornton & Lowe!
#12- Have a five-year plan
“Setting yourself a five-year plan will give you a clear goal structure, allowing you to plan for potential setbacks, as well as when you will need to hire staff and who they will be. A five-year plan doesn’t need to be followed to the letter – a lot can happen in such a long space of time – but setting out the goals you would like to have achieved will help you to budget and bring your goals into a cohesive chronology.”
Thanks to Steve Pritchard, Cuuver !
#13- First focus on getting dollars from customers, not investors
My advice is in regards to taking on investors. Many first-time entrepreneurs think that bringing on capital early is critical for a startup. I’ve found it to be a huge distraction from what should be the primary focus of the entrepreneur – developing and refining your product/service through direct interaction with prospective customers. Every minute spent on developing business plans and theoretical models, shiny slide decks, building boards, and pitching to investors siphons away from time spent meeting with prospective customers and developing and validating your product/service. If money is needed for scaling down the road, that is different, but early on, entrepreneurs should focus on getting dollars from customers, not investors, as that is the engine that will ultimately sustain them.
Thanks to Mark Rheault, Infinite Leap!
#14- Never stop believing in yourselves
I'm not the smartest guy in the room, but Ive learned that at times motivation can outlast intelligence. Make a conscious effort to compartmentalize the challenges and keep focusing on the positives in every situation. I'm also a big believer in personal development, so listening to podcasts or reading books helped draw inspiration from the thousands who have gone before us. Countless entrepreneurs struggled in similar ways – if they could overcome, so can we.
Thanks to Jason Burke, The New Primal!
One piece of advice I give all new entrepreneurs is network! Without networking, we would not be close to where we are today. Beleive it or not entrepreneurs are very helpful people and most of the time if you just ask you will get the help you need. When we started our blog we joined as many blogging Facebook groups as we could. We jumped headfirst into creating relationships and networking with others that were already successful. This helped us grow our blog quickly and get over the learning curve much faster than we would have by ourselves.
Thanks to Kelan & Brittany Kline, The Savvy Couple!
#16- Hope for the best but prepare for the worst
You need to think positive and believe that your startup can succeed. However, you should do so while also having contingencies for the worst possible outcomes. If you are employed, do not quit your job until your new business is stable and is profitable enough to support you on its own. Set up separate emergency funds for both personal and business use. You can never know when you’ll be in a financial emergency. One your business is making enough money, start investing for your retirement.
Thanks to James R. Nowlin, Excel Global Partners!
#17- On Hiring Friends
When first launching a company, you don’t have a lot of proof of concept. A lot of people don’t believe you can do it, so you start hiring friends because they believe in you. In the early days, it can be tough to build a staff. When the business grows, it can surpass your friends' skill sets and the business might outgrow their capabilities. Later, it could become hard to hire the right people with friends already in place. Be aware that you will have to make tough calls in the future including perhaps firing your friends but you must focus on allowing the business to grow and build to move forward. Example: Your first sales guy is a friend. He does well and gets you off the ground. HE may be good at sales but as you grow he may not be strong VP of sales material. He might be a great salesperson but not a good manager. So, instead of moving a friend up based on longevity and loyalty, make sure you place the right person for the right position.
Thanks to Jim Alvarez, Gesture!
#18- Feet First, Not Head First
Small starts can lead to great success. Too often people say, Follow your passion, as though passion alone is all one needs to find success. You don't have to dive headfirst into the deep end of the pool and then discover you don't know how to swim nearly as well as you thought you did. Instead, you can step into the shallow end, and then make your way deeper and deeper, one step at a time. Start small. Try something. Does it make money? If yes, great. Do it more and expand. If the answer is no, then you haven't lost more than you can afford to lose. Now it's time to rethink your approach. Try something slightly different, and then go a little deeper into the pool.
Thanks to Anne-Marie Faiola, Founder of Bramble Berry Handcraft Provisions!
#19- Purchase a web domain BEFORE registering a business
One of the very first and most valuable lessons I learned from my attorney, was to purchase a web domain BEFORE registering my business with the Department of State. If you register your business first, your new company name becomes public information and people who troll the internet looking for new businesses will buy up domains that you might want for your new business. For example, when I did a name search on the Department of State website and DGMediaConnections.com was available, had I registered my business before buying the domain, someone else probably would have purchased that domain and I would have had to pay a huge premium to obtain that domain. Since I purchased the domain and then registered my business with the Department of State, the cost of the domain name was nominal.
Thanks to Debbie Goetz, Debbie Goetz Media Connections!
#20- Fail Forward
Every entrepreneur is going to fail at one thing or another – it's simply inevitable. What will make you a successful entrepreneur is having the ability to learn from your mistakes, assess what went wrong, and determine how to do things differently in the future.
Thanks to Sacha Ferrandi, Source Capital Funding!
#21- Couple pieces of advice
1) I would give to new entrepreneurs is to make sure your product or service is solving a big enough problem. If your problem is not 10x better than the traditional product or service, it will be hard to have product market fit. Talk to strangers, family, friends, co-workers and see if they would PAY for your product or service…. not just see if they like it. 2) Defer taking money if possible because it forces you to be metrics and ROI driven on every dollar you spend and it gives you the freedom to move at your pace and be stingy with your equity.
Tell yourself to be like a cockroach because they never die. (a) Keep Burn low–When you have too much money, poor decisions can be made. When money is tight you make more disciplined operational decisions, have more controlled growth, and you make smart. (b) Stay lean–Build upon what is working and if all else fails its easier to pivot when things are lean. (c) Keep your focus on making the lives of other people better and you will succeed.
Thanks to Gene Caballero, GreenPal!