When you've formulated a new business idea in your head, where do you go for advice on how to make your dream a reality? Your parents? Best friend? Google?
These sources almost always have opinions to share, but unless your BFF is an entrepreneur, you might be getting just that — an opinion. It's better to take your advice from experts instead.
We asked 30 experienced business founders and CEOs to share their best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs in any space. If you're confused about what to focus on, how to hire a great team, or ways to prove you're a worthy leader, skip the Googling and read what these successful founders have to say.
On Following Your Passion
The only thing that will get you through the tough times of being an entrepreneur — and there will be many of those — is being very singular and passionate about what you are doing. If you're not, if you're chasing money or anything else, then the highs and lows of startup life will absolutely wear you out. —Andrew Filev, Founder/CEO @ Wrike
If your only goal in your business is to make money, don't bother. Find something you can be passionate about and run with it. Find other people who are committed to the same cause or passion as you, and divide and conquer. —Blair Nastasi, Founder/CEO @ Media Moguls PR
Give it your all. You really can't try and start a business and give 50% effort. You need to dedicate as much time and resources to your endeavor as possible. I would also recommend having some skin in the game. Obviously, your time is important but when you invest your own money into the business, it will just make you work even harder. —Jason Parks, Owner @ The Media Captain
On the Mental Hardships of Being a Founder
There's nothing better than starting your own business but you have to be OK with the ups and downs. You are going to have higher highs and lower lows than you've ever had before. From an emotional standpoint, you need to be ok with this. But in the end I'd advise "just do it." —Will von Bernuth, Co-founder @ Block Island Organics
You will have setbacks. They are normal, but the ones who will be successful think outside the box and figure a new way around the setbacks to push them ahead. You need to be innovative and have a different state of mind then the rest. —Marc Appelbaum, Founder/CEO @ Global Branding Central
On Smart Business Planning and Change
Keep a nimble mind. It's good that you want to stick to your vision, after all it's your baby, but things change along the way. Don't be afraid to embrace change and mix things up. —Brad Zomick, Co-founder/Senior Director of Content @ SkilledUp
Double everything. It's like a home remodeling project. If they say it will take 2 weeks to complete a project it will probably be 4 weeks. Same goes for money. If you think it will cost $5,000 it will probably be $10,000. —Kimberly Rath, Co-founder/Chairman @ Talent Plus, Inc.
On Growing Your Business
I think the most important thing for young entrepreneurs to have is focus. It's not a lack of capital that kills startups, it’s lack of bandwidth. If the idea is good enough, there will be plenty of time to leverage it out to other aspects of the market. Stick to your knitting in the early stage and give yourself the opportunity to expand focus once you have the credibility of the core idea’s success. —Luke Schneider, CEO @ Silvercar
[Don't] scale too quickly. It can be appealing to try and get your product out there as fast as possible, but it doesn't always work out. Repositioning and improving your product cannot be considered failures. —Nabeel Mushtaq, Co-founder/COO @ AskforTask.com
Have patience. Ideas and businesses are not created overnight. Things will tend to take longer than expected, whether that is fundraising, product development cycles, customer acquisition, etc.... In Silicon Valley, this is tough, because the whole culture here is built around a short-term focus of how quickly you can grow. Have resilience and don't give up so quickly. Survive another day and keep at it. Those who have patience and resilience will eventually find success. —Jonathan Tang, Founder/CEO @ Vastrm
Understand what market segment you service and market only to that segment. Become the leader in some aspect of your industry such that no competitor can ever come close to replicating your model. —Louis Altman, Founder/CEO @ GlobaFone
On Carefully Accepting and Incorporating Feedback
Get plugged in with the entrepreneurship community in your city/state. There are a lot of people there who have done it before and can give you rock solid advice. —Sean Higgins, Co-founder @ ilos Videos
Be careful who you choose to listen to. Too much of the wrong feedback and ideas can choke your creativity and your beliefs. Feedback is the lifeblood of a startup, but you need to be able to put the feedback in context. Does the person giving you feedback share your lens? Do they fit your target persona? —Nick Kellet, Co-founder @ Listly
Everybody will tell you what you're supposed to do, if you ask them. Don't ask, just figure out what kind of company you wish existed — and make it. Maybe it'll succeed, maybe it'll fail, but either way your odds are best if you trust your instincts and ignore the naysayers. —David Barrett, Founder/CEO @ Expensify
On Talking to Your Customers
If you haven’t spent at least as much time talking to your customers as you have building your prototype, stop and go have as many conversations as you possibly can. Ask open-ended questions about people’s experiences and challenges and listen very carefully to the words they use. You’ll get more game-changing insights about your product, messaging, positioning and sales strategy than you could ever learn from reading business books. —Alex Turnbull, Founder/CEO @ Groove
On Failure and Success
“Act more. Think less.” I believe that many entrepreneurs can suffer from “analysis paralysis” and overthink themselves to inaction, which lets valuable opportunities slip through their fingers. I encourage my employees to be proactive in their roles and learn from their experiences — good and bad. Failure isn’t a negative, as long as you learn from what you did! —Rob Bellenfant, Founder/CEO @ TechnologyAdvice
It's so important to celebrate the small wins. When you venture into entrepreneurship for the first time, experiencing the frequent and unpredictable ups and downs can be unsettling. Every day is a journey and the low moments of uncertainty and doubt are inevitable. You will question yourself, your model, your team. When that tide turns again (which it will), take the time to celebrate and reflect on that win. It will serve as your foundation for the next bumpy ride. —Samantha Laliberte, Co-founder @ Ezzy Lynn
The secret of leadership is to create more leaders. You do that by giving up responsibility and [letting] the other person fail on their own. We never learn from others' teachings, we learn from our experiences; please let your managers/leaders grow the same way. —Annkur P. Agarwal, Founder @ PriceBaba.com
I really encourage any aspiring entrepreneur to view themselves as the archetypal member of the team — focus on building habits and behavior that they want to see in others and that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. —Colin M. Darretta, Founder/CEO @ WellPath Solutions
Read, learn, and read some more! The amount of information that can be found on the web is incredible. And don't forget about books — How to Win Friends and Influence People, Lincoln on Leadership, and The Big Leap are great places to start. As a leader, you need to be good at a lot of stuff. Start rounding out your hard edges so that you can make yourself easier to work with. —Arsham Mirshah & Chris Mechanic, Co-founders @ WebMechanix
On Hiring a Great Team
Never, ever, settle on a co-founder. If it's not right, take a pause. Even if you have to drop the project entirely for a while. Even if you fall far behind. Because a great co-founder will just take you to so many amazing places, so much faster. —Jason Lemkin, Co-Founder/CEO @ Echosign and SaaStr
Get great at recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding. Building a world-class team is perhaps the single greatest talent a leader can have, but in my experience, few new entrepreneurs recognize it — let alone work deliberately to develop their skills in this area. —Ben Landers, Founder/President/CEO @ Blue Corona
Build a team of people that aspire. You don’t want the person who is the best in the field, you want the person who desperately wants to be that person. —Jessica Jessup, Co-founder @ Giftovus
Hire for the person and personality first, specific work skills second. Does the person have the smarts and people skills? Do they have the hunger and determination to succeed? If so, their specific prior work experience is less important, particularly because in a startup everyone wears so many different hats. —Alex Moazed, President/CEO @ Applico
My one piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs is to hire people who compliment each other. Not everyone needs to have the same personality to have a great culture. Find complimentary people who work well together. Make sure that the team is involved in the hiring process so there is buy-in. —Deborah Sweeney, CEO @ MyCorporation.com
On Remote Employees
Actively embrace remote working and invest in the right tools that make it easy. Location shouldn't matter anymore. Embracing this means that you can hire the best people — not just the best people in the vicinity. —Sam Bruce, Co-founder @ muchbetteradventures.com
On Nurturing Your Company Culture
Culture is something that you should manage intentionally. Culture is not a ping-pong table, beer, and a dog-friendly office. Culture is a competitive advantage and it will be the thing that helps your employees deliver great work. Start by taking the time to identify your values as a company. Then write them down, post them on the wall, and revisit them on a quarterly basis. —Chris Ostoich, Founder @ BlackbookHR
Your employees are your most valuable asset. Even more important than your first funding round or your attempts at going viral. You must focus on creating a work environment that is empowering, flexible, and enjoyable, especially if you’re looking to hire millennial-aged (or younger) talent. Also focus on hiring people much smarter than you — if you’re not, you’ve got it all wrong. —Clayton Dean, Co-Founder/Managing Director @ Circa Interactive
A culture will naturally evolve and as a business owner it's your job to pay attention and be a catalyst for that culture. If you see employees all heading to the gym over lunch, offer to pay for gym memberships. Try and recognize culture shifts and help your employees bloom. —Jim Belosic, CEO @ ShortStack
What's your best piece of business advice?
You may not be a business founder or a startup whiz, but we know you have business lessons to share. Hit the comments and teach our readers something new.
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