Top Five Take-aways From 30 Years of Experience Building Start-ups!

3 min read

Nobody can really train you or educate you fully to prepare you for what is involved in starting a business. Most of what I have learned over the years comes from the experience I’ve had starting over 7-8 separate companies and helping launch twenty plus other businesses. To be very honest, I’m still learning! That said, I want to share some of the most important truths that I’ve come to learn. 

Love what you do! 

Start a business that involves doing something you truly love doing! You have to believe in either the product or the service that you offer to your customers. The more you love what you do the more your customers will respond to what you offer. The fact that you will be spending most of your waking hours building your business, you better love what you do! Most importantly, the more you love your job, the more you will succeed at it.

Plan for success! 

Nobody goes into battle without having a battle plan. Nobody goes into a game without a game plan! You can be fairly certain that whatever you plan it will likely change! That said, you simply can't NOT have a plan. I’ve launched many companies thinking that I know exactly what the product is, who the customer is and how I plan to sell my product/service. Almost always, we pivoted the product, identified more clearly our customer, and changed how we would position our offering. It is always critical to map out a strategy for your business. Having something clearly defined will almost certainly help lead you to the right answers. You have to start somewhere, and having a cohesive plan in place will allow you to move forward with clarity and purpose. 

Care for your customers! 

Knowing your customers’ needs is essential to building a great business. Next to your employees, your customers are the most important part of your business. Without customers, there is NO business. Understanding why your product/service fills a specific need, perhaps offering something unique, will allow you to build a relationship between you and your customers. You can NEVER listen too much! Your customers will tell you everything you need to know. And, by listening and caring for your customers, you will be rewarded with repeat business. 

Hire the best people! 

You know the saying...“you are what you eat”! Well, in this case…”your business is who you hire”! I can’t overstate how important it is to hire great people. Your employees will define how successful your business is. Essentially, your employees are an extension of you (the founder/owner). As I mentioned above, next to your customers, your employees are your most valuable asset. By treating your employees well, garnering their respect, appreciation and loyalty, you will be repaid tenfold. I always look to hire people smarter than me. And, it is so important to have a team of people alongside you who each individually have a unique and diverse set of talents. Remember…it’s the people behind the business that makes a great business.

It’s a marathon - not a sprint! 

Don’t get fooled by the get-rich-quick scheme. Phil Knight didn’t build Nike overnight (read his book Shoe Dog). Anything worth anything takes a lot of time, effort and talent. The key to remember is that your tenacity and effort will eventually pay off. This is why it is so important to love what you do - to believe in it! There will be moments when you will want to throw the towel in, give up, and fold up camp. That’s just part of the journey. Believe me, starting a business isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice and even a bit of good luck. You even have to be willing to fail some in order to succeed. We always read about the success stories that seem to come out of nowhere, but I can guarantee you, there was a lot of heart ache, pain and effort that came before the success. The best entrepreneurs have the grit, determination and fortitude necessary to build a successful business. And, believe me, in the end, it’s all worth it! 

While I could easily list off another ten items, these are the some of the important ones. The key is to remember that you have what it takes. You will make mistakes. It never goes perfectly.

That said, you will learn, adapt, and find a path towards success. It is well worth the journey! 

Ready to become a small business owner?

Take our readiness assessment to find out more about the road ahead.