If you could hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self? What are the biggest lessons learnt since you started entrepreneurship? This is one of our favorite questions here at CBNation.
Here’s what CEOs would tell their younger business selves.
#1- Face it
Face it – you don't know what you're doing on your own. You're young, you've already made mistakes and you didn't have good role models regarding finances. Get mentored immediately! Much of what I learned was more-or-less self-taught (technically by being mentored) but I didn't seek that help until I was in my later 30's. I wish I would have sought council much sooner! I would have made fewer mistakes. Now, I'm the one mentoring others about finances and paying it forward that way. It's an amazing life.
Thanks to Jeff Rose, Good Financial Cents®!
#2- Bring in the experts!
Instead of laboring under the illusion that you have to know it all and do it all, ask for and accept help; especially help from experts. I kept my business ‘close to my chest', partly out of pride and partly out of fear. I boot-strapped my company into existence and hindered my own growth by holding onto the idea that I needed to manage ‘on my own'. Had I been willing to openly discuss my options, particularly funding options, my company could have grown at a much faster rate with much less stress.. It is not necessary for you to finance your growth out of your own pocket.
Thanks to Anne Miner, The Dunvegan Group!
#3- Two things
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self I would tell her just how bad of an idea of buying a house while still tied to the military was. That would have easily saved us a few thousand dollars worth of debt. I would also tell myself to look into blogging and freelance writing because if anything, I wish I could have started doing those things much sooner. I truly feel like I found my calling in life by doing these. Not only that but because of the experience and self-taught knowledge I have acquired, I discovered that I want to go to college for business marketing and business management. Two things I never would have realized had I not started my own sole proprietorship.
Thanks to Nicole Durham, Struggle Today Strength Tomorrow!
#4- Work more on the business
I would tell my younger self to work more on her business and work less in her business. I spent all the early years as an entrepreneur only managing the day-to-day requirements of running my business, and failed to prioritize planning and strategy for business growth. I got stuck on the entrepreneurial hamster wheel which I know stunted the growth of my business in relation to what was possible. In my 8th year of business, I began to prioritize time to work on my business resulting in a huge upswing in my business impact and growth.
Thanks to Bri Seeley
#5- You cannot please everyone
As a business owner now, I am doing a much better job of acknowledging this. Everyone will want a lower price, more services, or this or that. But I know I cannot please everyone and I need to make decisions based on what is best for my business and clients – and hold firm to those decisions.
Thanks to Rebecca Asfour, The Dailey Method!
#6- Three things
First, I would tell myself, “Stop working and take care of yourself..” One thing I learned from my investors is that I need to take care of my body, or else I won’t be able to take care of an entire company. I would ask myself the questions that my investors ask me today: “Are you eating?” “Have you been sleeping?” “When is the last time you took time away from work?” I don’t regret working as hard as I did, but I could have made more time for self-care. Second, “These problems are only temporary.” I stressed myself out with small personal problems, such as losing a girlfriend, or not having enough money for a laptop. In just a few short months, I was over that girlfriend and was able to buy a laptop. I was even able to buy a car. Those problems were temporary, Dipesh.Third, Invest in hard-working people, not their resumes. I made the mistake early on of working with people who were recommended to me, but I never really looked into their backgrounds. I didn’t trust them, but they had a good resume. That person ended up costing me hundreds of thousands of dollars in time, resources, and opportunity to do better things.
Thanks to Dipesh Desai, BillTrim, Inc.!
#7- Climb the ladder sooner
To my younger self I would say you should have climbed the ladder sooner and not looked to see if someone was holding it! At 37, I was financially struggling to provide for my 3 sons. Daycare, diapers, formula, clothing and pediatrician costs -even with health insurance – left me living paycheck to paycheck. Inside I KNEW there was more than my $22K salary as a nurse and I was on a march to find it. I read every book on taxes, self-development and entrepreneurship the local library had on a shelf. One day I landed my first contract as a clinical research and development consultant paying me $35 an hour! I didn't look back, wonder how I was going to pay health insurance, or IF there would 40 hours a week of billable time. Onward and upward to earn six figures in 1996. No more putting items back at the grocery checkout for this mom. 1996 to 2019 income revenue has steadily grown annually and currently exceeds seven figures, including new revenue streaming sources. From a sole proprietor to a staff of 7 employees and numerous consultants around the US, I've become one of the nation's leading Patient Advocates. With a reputation as fierce as Dog the Bounty Hunter I learned early on it's all about which way you look.
Thanks to Gail Trauco, Medical Bill 911!
#8- Several nuggets
I would tell myself that most things you need to be successful in business you learned in the first grade. That being said, know what you don’t know and surround yourself with people who know what you don’t. One of many failures was thinking I needed a bit of everything to give myself the best chance to succeed. I learned that, though it’s tempting to be all things to all people, focus on your core and try to please one guest at a time. I would remind the younger version of myself to be the dumbest person in every room. Company growth comes from building a team of people better than you.
Thanks to Pedro “Pete” Mora, Fajita Pete!
#9- The market is big enough for everyone
I would have advised myself to socialize a bit more and get to know more people within the industry. When we first started out, we were quite secretive about everything that we did. I think we were afraid that competitors were going to steal our clients from us. But what I have come to realize is that the market is big enough for everyone (depending on how you look at it). Networking with other companies or even bigger companies has helped us to understand the problems that they are facing and even given us access to clients that we didn't even think about.
Thanks to Shawn Lim, Tree AMS!
#10- Test and take action
As you get introduced to the world of online business courses, it's very easy to feel like every course that you read about is what you need to make your business successful. Each season when you are focusing on one online business program that you have invested into with discernment, trust the system and focus on putting what you have learned from the program into actions. Test each action vigorously for 1-2 months, you will be making real progress – either the program works and you start seeing traction, or you see no traction and so may have to refine your current business idea. If you are always reading about and drooling over new courses after courses, that's a warning sign of not actually implementing what you are supposed to be focusing on at the moment. Keep an eye on your credit card statement and see if it's stacked up with monthly installments on (some abandoned) courses with no result to show. Real result takes real action, not just information consumption.
Thanks to Stephanie Cristal D., FaithfulSalt.com!
#10- Keep going, you’re gonna make it!
Given the chance to go back in time, I will be a supportive friend to myself. I will make sure I get my spirits up especially during times of failure. Keep in mind that failures are opportunities for learning, pick myself up, do better on the next challenge, and just keep going. If your let yourself grow and improve along the way, success will be waiting at the end of the tunnel!
Thanks to Ivan Orville, Shiny Leaf!
#11- Focus on content marketing
The most successful businesses I've ever run succeeded due to a strong content strategy. I spent a lot of time experimenting with Facebook Ads and trying every growth hack in the book. However, the way to build a sustainable business is to have recurring organic traffic back to your website generating all your traffic and leads. This was true in both e-commerce and SAAS businesses I've built. Just wished I was a bit more patient and played the long-term but sustainable game instead of trying to make a quick buck.
Thanks to Nicole Martins Ferreira, Linkiro!
#12- Your business won't work unless you do
Don't worry about getting there; the journey really is the reward, and if you disconnect from that, you will miss the whole point. Focus on your mission over money, on service over acclaim. Prioritize self-care; it's connected to your abundance. And from there, keep showing up. You're going to be just fine, superstar.
Thanks to Keren Eldad
#13- Research your Market
If I could go back in time, I would advise younger self do market research and pay attention to your customer’s needs — One of the reasons that why new businesses fail is because they don’t understand their market. If you want a successful business, you need to research your target market before launching your business thoroughly. Get really in tune with the essential attributes like a market price, where your target audience and potential prospects are. The better you understand your market, the easier it would be to stand out among the competition. Keeping in view your consumer needs and market trends, develop a powerful solution for them, which would be a win-win for you as well for your clients.
Thanks to Dylan Sprouse, Sprousebros!
#14- Three nuggets
I would tell myself to listen to my gut, it is never wrong. There is no fast elevator to the top, it pays off to do the work. The ONLY asset you have is your reputation, ALWAYS honor your word and treat everyone with kindness
Thanks to Dolores Hirschmann, Masters in Clarity!
#15- Identify a megatrend that you’re best positioned to see before anyone else
The world's faster runner cannot beat a train traveling at 200 MPH. For a business to succeed, it's vital to identify a “mega trend”. This will carry the business to entirely new levels. Where can one find such a thing? Avoid chasing what everyone else seems to be chasing in the moment. Instead, examine the things most familiar and relevant to your every day. Dig deep, gain insight from your surroundings, and expect to be surprised by what you find. In my case, being a Chinese immigrant helped me notice a compelling shift in consumer behavior among Asian Americans. Once I realized the explosive growth in purchasing power across this group, we were able to grow Weee! from nothing to tens of millions of dollars of revenue in four years.
Thanks to Larry Liu, Weee!
#16- Don't be daunted by the work
If I could jump into a time machine and give my younger self some advice on starting up a business, first and foremost I’d tell myself not to underestimate all of the work that goes into growing a business—as a science guy at heart, it was a whole new world to me that was bigger and more complex than I’d imagined. Honestly, if I’d known then what I knew now about starting a business, I might have strongly considered passing on it and kept my cushy government job—but then all of us here at Phoenix wouldn’t be where we are today, creating new technology that is driving innovation in so many industries from nuclear technology and energy to healthcare, aerospace, and defense! I’d have to tell myself not to be daunted by the prospect of leaping into the ocean head-first—It’ll be hard, but it’ll be worth it.
Thanks to Ross Radel, Phoenix, LLC!
#17- Find a business coach
I started my business in January 2017 on a whim. I have learned a lot but it has definitely taken forever for me to make progress and learn all the things that I didn't know I didn't know. The one thing I wish I would have done soon is finding a business coach to help me grow faster. I didn't want to spend money on anything and tried to figure it out all on my own. Then I started spending money on a few courses here and there and learned a lot but still needed help moving to the next level. I wish I would have hired my coach a year earlier. I didn't want to spend the money and didn't see the value in it. Since I have hired my coach, my income and business has continued to skyrocket. I am no longer losing money and can actually pay myself. If I could go back in time I would tell myself that building a business fast is not about figuring it all out on your own. Find and pay for the right people to help you grow.
Thanks to Ashley Patrick, Budgets Made Easy!
#18- Take it Seriously
I would tell myself to take my business more seriously. I was working a full-time job while starting my business, so would not work on it every day. I wish I could have told myself then that this business would take off and it needed more work put in. It would have taken me less time to get my business off the ground if I spent more time on it. My eCommerce business started producing full-time income after 2 years of work so I was able to quit my job.
Thanks to Becky Beach, MomBeach.com!
#19- Be more tech-savvy and take the internet more seriously
That way, I could have established a stronger internet presence earlier on and continue to build it over the years. Nowadays, it’s vital to be computer and internet literate as a business owner. In law and many other industries, we’re seeing a strong trend towards the paperless, and some organizations are struggling to keep up. This goes doubly for cybersecurity. For lawyers in particular, any perceived breach of client confidentiality or negligence concerning client privacy could land you in hot water.
Thanks to Lance J. Robinson, The Law Office of Lance J. Robinson
#20- Trust and invest in people
Trust in people, but make sure they're worth investing in. No one can go it alone; people are an essential part of success. However, it's important to bring in like-minded, goal-oriented people who are positive and can help drive you towards success. They should be helping you achieve your goals and if they aren't, don't waste your time.
Thanks to Mike Falahee, Marygrove Awning Co.!
#21- Keep your eye on the prize
Don't get bogged down with where you should be – It's easy to get wrapped up in things that don't matter. Comparing yourself to others is a quick measuring stick and a fast-track to losing sight of your personal goals. Stay focused, keep your eye on the prize, and don't worry about how successful others are. If you stick to what's important, your own success will come.
Thanks to Eddie Johnson, Anabolic Bodies™!
#23 – Several things
If you decide on content marketing as your marketing strategy, work to your strengths when creating it. Don't do videos if you don't like being on camera. Don't write articles if you'd rather drink bleach than sit down to write. Also, think in systems and processes whenever possible so you can automate as much as you can, freeing up your time to work on your business instead of doing the menial day-to-day tasks. Also, if you can outsource it or hire an assistant that does those tasks while you bring in the money, your business will grow faster. Make sure you diversify your income so that you don't rely on only one product or one client to keep your business afloat. Relying one a single source means that you have a single point of failure. If that income stream dries up, you're dead in the water.
Thanks to Björgvin Benediktsson, Audio Issues!
#24- Pressure makes diamonds
Trying to accomplish something never been done before creates a whole lot of fear. That fear causes as much struggle as it pushes you into unimaginable success. It's always been all or nothing. Therefore, every presentation, blog, partnership or what ever you have to do, do it with your whole heart. I like to remind people that pressure makes diamonds. You give yourself a 10x chance when you're all in. What I can promise you is that some day you'll say wow I made it or you'll be a better person for trying. Either way, you win! I wish I could tell you not to fear, but that would be misleading. Embrace it.
Thanks to Ethan Taub, Loanry.com!
#25- Be more patient and have faith
If I could go back in time, I would say to my younger business self to be more patient and have faith. When you’re in the business world, you need to be prepared for lots of changes, challenges and hard decisions. Unless you are ready to persist, you will burn out easily. Back in the days, I wanted instant results and got frustrated when things didn’t work out as I planned. It took me time to learn how to wait for opportunities and learn from failures.
Thanks to Harsha Reddy, SmallBizGenius!
#26- Pay attention to advice and replace the weak team members
Coming out of a military company and thinking I was well prepared to be a CEO. You are right to have learned that communicating the mission to everyone in the organization is a key part of leading it. But you have failed to understand a key tool you have for improving an organization – replacing the weak members of the team who cannot get on track. Particularly where a company needs to be led in a new direction, it is your duty to replace those senior managers who are not helping. In my first role, a turnaround, I spent 18 months longer than I should have working with existing management before I gave up, replaced them and the company began to improve. Coming out of a top business school and thinking I was well prepared to be a CEO, I hadn't paid enough attention to insights into the attractiveness of different industries. Yes it is essential to choose an industry that you find interesting and valuable, so that you can give of your fullest, but pay attention to the advice you were given to try and get in an industry that is growing, rather than shrinking. Having said which, I have enjoyed myself in publishing and now in e-commerce!!
Thanks to Joel Poznansky, Wicked Uncle Toys!
#27- Get a more qualified candidate
In the early stages of my business, I'd look for less qualified candidates that I could hire for less and try and mold them into top notch employees. Every now and then, you strike gold. For the most part, you spend too much time trying to train and trying to motivate the employee to do when they just don't have the skillset or they aren't qualified. Always spend a little more money to get a more qualified candidate. It will help your business grow faster and you won't have to micromanage.
Thanks to Jason Parks, The Media Captain!
#28- Get rid of perfectionism
The most important thing you have to get rid of in the digital world is perfectionism. So much time is wasted in companies where you try to get things right the first time around. You think your own ideas are right when, in fact, you'll never know how the market will respond. You'd be surprised how many of the things you don't think would work – are the very things that will make your company successful. Just today, we launched an amazon listing with what we thought to be sub-par product photography and descriptions, only to see that we received 22 orders within the first 7 hours of putting it up! The amount of time wasted with iterations and adjustments in the planning phase slows down and sometimes kills company growth!
Thanks to Andrew Alexander, LimitlessAcademy.com!
#29- Pay Attention to the Small Things
As we continue to develop our product based on customer feedback, I found that small things make a big impact on your bottom line. For instance, something as simple as a message that reassures people you won't sell or give away their information when they sign up helps increase the sign-up rate quite a bit.
Thanks to Andy Karuza, FenSens!
#30- Be clear and detailed
Looking back, if there is one important thing for a CEO and business owner to understand it is being clear and detailed in directions and expectations for employees. In the early days of my business, too often I would give employees assignments for projects with just a brief explanation and description of what I was looking for. This often led to frustration and even tension between myself and employees when they returned projects that didn’t quite capture what I envisioned. As I started to realize the issue was with how I was delegating the task initially, being too vague in conveying what I was looking for, I began focusing on improving overall communication in the workplace. This worked wonders. With comprehensive project preliminary write-ups and clearly defined expectations, my employees and my business were able to reach new heights, and the work atmosphere became one of excitement and collaboration.
Thanks to Brandon Amoroso, electrIQ marketing!