Ever wonder the true reality behind starting a business? The company you admire or strive to be like may be successful now, but what was their journey like in the early days? These 10 entrepreneurs are up front and honest about what they wish they had known before they started their business.
It’s Okay to Say No
I’d heard from so many people that you should say yes to every opportunity, even when you don’t think you know how to do it and that you should just dive in and learn on the job… And that’s great advice! But, in the early days, I was saying yes to everything, just like I thought I was supposed to and that led to some gigs that really weren’t right for me–and that I knew weren’t right but had said yes anyway. Sure, it takes time in the beginning to find your sea legs, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever a mistake to trust your gut–and I wish that more of the advice I’d gotten had told me that I didn’t have to say yes just because someone asked.
-Jessica Albon, ThriveYourTribe.com
Have a Mentor
There’s a lot of pride that goes into starting a business, especially when you have employees, and sometimes you can feel the pressure to look like you have all the answers. Many of my dumbest mistakes would have been avoided had I had someone more experienced to turn to for advice. In recent years, I’ve taken the role of mentor a lot more seriously, knowing how many mistakes of mine could have been avoided had I been humble enough to turn to someone who knew more than I did.
-Dave Mason, CabinetHardware.org
Starting a business is daunting, and it’s necessary to put everything in perspective. When I was just starting my firm, my best lesson came from my step-father. These simple, two words, can be applied to so many of the business decisions that were occurring at the beginning and still today. It is this general advice that I was able to remember when dealing with large new prospective clients and the same words ring true when maintaining older ones. It keeps everything in perspective for me and teaches me that everything is important, no matter the size. Plus, it helps me make sure I don’t overlook any details. With my busy life, I know I need help with that!
-Dana Marlowe, Accessibility Partners, LLC, AccessibilityPartners.com
Get Your Elevator Pitch Down on Day One
Study it, read it to yourself 10 times/day until you can say it in your sleep…forwards and backwards. Tell everyone this when they ask, “What do you do?” I don’t care if you’re at the grocery store, bar, gas station, networking event, everywhere! Network. Get out and talk to people, but listen first. Have thick skin. The business world can be brutal I don’t care what you learned in school, you’ll come across so many situations you can’t learn in a text book written in 1985 (Not a fan of college, can you tell :)) Be prepared to work 7 days a week. 14-16 hours/day Hustle You HAVE to be disciplined! If you work form home, have a schedule. This is crucial to success Be prepared to have no social life for a long time Learn to say “No” Don’t listen to the haters. Not family, friends. Go for it! If you’re in your young 20s & single, I envy you. Go for it! You have time and can take the risk Read and study mindset.. It took my 2+ years to learn the importance of this. having the right mindset will make a HUGE difference.
-Adam Dukes, Author, SocialSinergy.com
Buy Cute Sweats
I wish I had known that there are many days, especially in the beginning, that you work all day and night, un-showered, in your sweat pants surviving off random things in your fridge. If I had known that I would have bought cuter sweat pants and hired a grocery delivery service a lot sooner!
-Jenna Dalton, JennaDalton.com
The best way to keep networking is to have a few regular meetings you attend each month-then maybe add a new one each month that you attend to check it out. Not every group is a fit, so I find it works best for me to find a few I really like and get involved in those as a volunteer, board member, etc.
-Michelle Garrett, MichelleGarrett.com
The Importance of Search Engine Optimization
Interestingly, I had two different experts help me with my web design and neither discussed the importance of search terms. For my business, the term that I was trying not to associate with my products was really the keyword that would bring customers to my website. After watching Shark Tank and hearing how SEO created great business results, I implemented SEO tools (thanks to “Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day” by Grappone and Couzin). Within a couple of weeks, my business started showing up on searches, and earning a place on the first page of results, I’ve experienced a significant increase in sales. I spent over a year and half of business floundering in internet no-man’s land until I implemented SEO.
–Kathy Steck, DinerWear Llc., DinerWear.com
Save More Money
I started my business with the money that I had saved; no loans or credit cards. My best advice to any entrepreneur is to save as much as you can before you start your business. Also, do your research and ask questions to determine what you will need to spend money on. You also have to account for emergencies and any hidden costs.
-Tiffany Gillespie, To The “T” Events, ToTheTEvents.biz
How difficult it is to Find Good People to Work For You
It’s been an incredible eye-opener for me to see how many professionals regularly miss deadlines, are unresponsive to communication, produce poor quality work, deflect responsibility for mistakes, and otherwise act in a completely unprofessional manner. I think that when starting out we, as entrepreneurs, expect that the people we hire will take as much pride in their work as we do and that simply is not the case most of the time. Because of this, everything takes longer and is more expensive than you originally expect it to be.
-Cate Costa, CateCosta.com
Think Big From the Start
Test your concept on the market and make sure it works, but don’t “feature creep” it to death. Once its proven, think about scale. Most small businesses fail at this stage because they have a creative concept, but they don’t know how to use it to leverage and scale their business, or they aren’t prepared to scale up. That being said, you have to know not only when to scale up, but also when an idea is ripe and when to start planning an exit strategy. A great example of that is the “Paypal Mafia.” It was an idea that was built for growth from the beginning, scaled elegantly, and exited from when the founders felt it was time. Mind you, the business continued to grow after they moved on, but they exited at a time that was perfect for them – and look what they’ve done since!
-Adam Simpson, EasyOfficePhone.com