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- Not get too comfortable
After starting my career in entertainment in Los Angeles, I landed my first full-time job out of college at a PR firm. I thought “this is it! I’ve made it!” I then settled in and got comfortable. Job offers would come along that were amazing opportunities (and more money) but instead of leaping at them, I continued to start put. Years later, I realize that that comfort and extreme loyalty stunted my career. Never become complacent. Always strive to be the absolute best in your field.
Thanks to Melinda Jackson, Melinda Jackson Public Relations!
#2- How important PR is and mentorship is
Anyway, I would without a doubt tell myself how important PR is and more importantly how important it is to have a mentor or coach. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure either one out till five-plus years into having my own company. Once I did get them both reprioritized for me and my company was we able to grow much faster and smoother. Having a coach or mentor also helps tremendously with mental sanity as well as helping the company, so that is why I would always recommend to anyone starting a business get a mentor first before anything else.
Thanks to Benjamin K. Walker, Transcription Outsourcing!
#3- Trust my own instincts
There are so many things I wish I would have known when I first started my business 17 years ago. But by far the biggest would be to trust my own instincts. It is easy to listen to advisors and teachers and think they know best. But I have found through the years, you have to learn to gather advice and knowledge. Then step back and listen to your own intuition. To make the final call on your own – even if that is completely different than
what everyone else is telling you. Every time I do that, business is better!
Thanks to Andrea Travillian, Aspirify, Inc.!
#4- Don’t shy away from constructive conflict or debate
What would I tell my younger business self? It’s a lesson I could only learn by starting-up my business. And that would be: Don’t shy away from constructive conflict or debate. It’s important to be transparent, and many times the best ideas are born in the midst of debates and disagreement.
Thanks to Peter Maglathlin, Trade Hounds!
#5- Make the right business connections
The idea of going back in time to right your wrongs and set yourself up for success has always fascinated the human race. So, I think everyone has speculated on this from time to time. The longer I am a CEO, however, the answer becomes even clearer. From the very beginning, I would ensure that I made the right business connections. Now, this can be like-minded entrepreneurs at a trade show or an innovative, smart individual that you want to join your team. Surrounding yourself with the right people can often be that determining factor that either propels you toward success, or sends you right back to the drawing board. It’s all about opportunity, and no CEO has time for missed opportunities.
Thanks to Andrea Loubier, Mailbird!
#6- Should have started sooner!
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to start sooner! Once you have a solid plan and funding in place, take action! Do not wait until the perfect time. That time will never come, life will always find a way to make beginning your entrepreneurial journey seem impossible. What’s most important is accepting that the odds are high that you will face significant challenges but that if you persevere, it will pay off.
Thanks to Melanie Hartmann, Creo Home Solutions!
#7- Make those mistakes
I think that the idea of going back in time appeals to our psyche because we want that opportunity to do things right the first time. Yet, my piece of advice to my younger self would be to make those mistakes, and it’s better to make them when you’re younger. The simple fact is that we learn from our mistakes, no matter how cliche’ that may sound. When we think of Walt Disney, we typically envision amusement park rides and Mickey Mouse. However, he was one of the greatest entrepreneurs and CEOs of all time. And he said, “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. And that is still true today. Being afraid to fail makes you afraid to be innovative and to step outside of the box. This can hinder your growth as a leader dramatically.
Thanks to Alexandra Zamolo, Beekeeper!
#8- Don’t give up too quickly
If I could talk to my younger self, I’d say to not give up on ideas too quickly. I had ideas that I implemented and then let drop because we didn’t have the technology to support them. Three times I discontinued a product or service, only to see other people turn them into huge businesses once the right tech became available to do them at scale. Sometimes an idea isn’t bad, I’d tell my younger self…it’s just ahead of its time. Now that I run a content studio with an employee and a team of writers, I’ll be sure to commit to the new products and services we come up with.
Thanks to Linda Formichelli, Hero’s Journey Content!
#9- Hire people smarter than you
When my business started to scale I took on a few new employees in a short amount of time. However, I was intimidated by people with a great resume and/or I thought was smarter than me. I quickly realised that 5 sub-par versions of me was not the way to go. Not only should you not be the smartest person in your company, but you should also be the only one that does your job. Hire others to do the jobs/processes that you are weak in, or even don’t have time to do. That way your company gets bigger and better, not your ego!
Thanks to Ben Mirecki, Carpages.ca!
#10- Three things
Develop more relationships – The more relationships you develop the more opportunities come about. Learn as much about marketing and sales as possible – If you have sales all other problems will seem small. I would learn more about how to make customers the right offers. Do not build more infrastructure until you have outgrown your current one – Do not start a business with an overhead structure and no sales. You are taking on too much risk.
Thanks to Michael Barbarita, Next Step CFO!
#11- You are enough!
It’s not about your suit, your hair or the letters behind your name. You don’t need more continuing Ed courses or anyone or thing to give you permission to Go Get It! You are ready to win. Go for it! Act as if you’re the best and your energy will take care of the rest.
Thanks to Cherene Francis
#12- Focus on progress and be cautious with mentors
Firstly, I would reiterate the importance of small commitment everyday; don’t focus on the end goal, but instead – focus on daily progress. Every small, persistent step on a daily basis will create larger results than focusing purely on the end goal. Secondly – be cautious about the Mentors you choose. Just because someone is perceived as a successful Mentor, doesn’t mean they actually are. Some people charge for bad advice; choose your mentors and advice wisely.
Thanks to Khabeer Rockley, The 5% Institute!
#13- Take care of yourself before you take care of your company
They’re both important and they are both deserving of your time, but it’s easy to forget that you personally need moments that are dedicated to you. Your business will survive for an hour or a day – maybe even a week! Take that time to relax and do something that isn’t focused on money or someone else’s needs. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or reconnecting with friends, make sure there are no ulterior motives.
Thanks to Morgan Taylor, LetMeBank!
#14- Learn to say no to things and set aside personal time
If I could hop into a time machine and say something to my younger self, it would have to be to learn to say no to things and make sure to set aside personal time. Saying no to things sounds counter-productive, but you avoid spreading yourself too thin and you free up time to put your full attention towards something else. Make sure some of this free time is intentionally set aside for yourself — like working out, going for a run, a hike, a walk or anything that really nurtures that mind-body connection.
Thanks to Dvorah Graeser, KISSPatent!
#15- Do the important, not the impressive
During the initial stage of my business, there’s a lot of activities that needed my attention. Like looking for prospects, follow up with clients, accounting, managing staff, etc. It was over-whelming for the first 2 to 3 years for me. I would tell my younger self to focus on 1 or 2 important things that really build the business, and schedule my week according to the business activities. If the activity is important, I would invest more time and effort. If it’s not that important, lesser time will be allocated. Or if outsourcing is a better option, then go for it.
Thanks to Cyrus Yung, Ascelade Pte Ltd!
#16- Focus on processes from day 1
In the end, what separates most companies are the tried and true processes they have in place. In the beginning, processes weren’t as necessary because I was doing most of the work anyway. As we scaled I realized I can’t have my hands on everything anymore but needed to ensure that quality didn’t waver. This is definitely something I recommend when speaking to young marketing agencies.
Thanks to Zack Bowlby, ROI Amplified!
#17- Don’t act too quickly
One thing I would tell my younger business self would be take my time making big decisions. Don’t act too quickly. Think things through and talk to trusted family or mentors for guidance. We often think we need to do things in a hurry because it makes us look more responsive. The reality is that sometimes we miss important details that we would not have overlooked if we had taken our time instead.
Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!
#18- Find the right people sooner
Get a great team together from the start, don’t try and do it on your own. Founding your own business is one of the most rewarding things you can do, but it’s also one of the biggest challenges and you need people in your corner. The sooner you find the right people, the sooner you’ll start building that vital team dynamic and be able to delegate where necessary. As a founder, it’s easy to feel like you need to do everything yourself,
but not only is that unrealistic, it’s isolating too. Surround yourself with talented people who you trust and who share your passion for the company from the very start. You’ll boost each other when things are tough, share each other’s victories and help each other, as well as the company, to grow. There are ups and downs in starting a business, but with the right team you can ride through the good and bad and those wins will feel all the better.
Thanks to Alex Dyer, Tutor House!
#19- Learn more about (and not be afraid of) credit
I’d tell my younger self to learn more about (and not be afraid of) credit. At 47, I’m just learning about the benefits of using credit as a tool to grow and expand. Growing up I always heard credit and credit cards were bad, and to just avoid them at all costs. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’m just now educating myself on this topic, and my business is probably behind because of it, but we are catching up.
Thanks to Will Hanke, Red Canoe Media!
#20- Put more money back into the business
If I could go back in time to when I was just starting to develop and imagine my own business, I would tell myself to always put some of the money I’d earn back into the business. This is especially tough for Solopreneurs like myself, where the money we make goes directly towards buying food and paying the rent. But my websites and my business really started leaping forward once I started re-investing as much as I could in the business – from getting better hosting, to buying ads and better tools. You should never wait for the right moment to divert some of that money – had I done it from the start, I probably would have shaved a year or two from the time it took the business to reach the point it’s at today.
Thanks to Or Goren, Cord Busters!
#21- Never assume anything about anybody’s status or ability
At 9pm on my third day as a corporate lawyer, I was asked by a senior partner to “go to the printer” to help one of the firm’s largest clients prepare an SEC filing for a convertible debt offering. Of course, I had little idea what I was doing, having only worked for the firm for a few months the summer before. I assumed that since I was new, the company representative would be fairly junior as well and the tasks fairly basic and low risk. I (thought I had) arrived early only to find the company representative already deep into his review of the “docs” and my father’s sage advice ringing in my ears, “if you are 5 minutes early, you are 10 minutes late.” I then compounded my mistake by approaching my client as if he were junior like me and we were just working on something unimportant. Lucky for me, he was very understanding and even kind as he explained he was the Senior Vice President, Finance at the client (a Fortune 50 company), and we needed to get the $4 billion deal done within 48 hours to avoid payments that could have a material effect on their quarterly earnings. Oh, and we needed to be perfect, since even small mistakes could delay the deal or create significant liability. Humorous? Not sure. We got the job done and laughed over a beer after we filed the documents. A learning moment? Absolutely. I never assume anything about anybody’s status or ability, or the importance of the task at hand.
Thanks to Mark Silverman, Amava!
#22- Two things
You’re already naked so you might as well go for it. What I mean by naked is- you were born and that means you’re going to die sometimes, no exception. So, why not strive for the greatest life possible for you? Why not go for the greatest business you are capable of? Dream lofty dreams and then turn them into reality. Because you are alive now and that means you have nothing to lose. #2- People are nicer than you think. By nicer I mean more helpful, Earlier in my career, I was very hesitating of asking for favors even with folks that I had a connection with, and that I helped in the past. As a result, I struggled to get anywhere and missed a tonne of opportunities along the way. I would tell my younger self the people can be kind and helpful if you can ask for favors nicely and have helped them first.
Thanks to Nikola Roza
#23- Anticipate the importance of offline and mobile software
As someone who works in the employee training industry, I would tell my younger self to anticipate the importance of offline and mobile software capabilities. This has been a game-changer in our industry, and it allows for invaluable flexibility in nearly any piece of software. Contrary to what we thought five years ago, sometimes it’s more advantageous to promote offline capabilities as opposed to online ones. This holds especially true for my industry, because many companies and organizations need to use our learning management system (LMS) in areas with limited connectivity. They’ve run into problems in the past with e-learning courses and LMSs that can only be used online, because they limit employees and employers alike. Similarly, making sure your software is easily accessible and usable on mobile allows it to be used on the go. What use is software if it can’t be used where and when it’s needed? That’s why we’re huge believers in supporting offline and mobile compatibility for software.
Thanks to Nina LaRosa, Moxie Media!
#24- Understand marketing strategies
Learn everything possible about marketing BEFORE starting a business. When I launched my professional cleaning service, I was an expert at cleaning carpet, but didn’t understand how to generate a steady flow of orders. I wasn’t sure how to grow my business. Opening the company took 10 minutes and about $100, but the next steps were a challenge. I now understand marketing principles. I’ve learned by trial and error about offers, referrals and the importance of SEO. Today I have a thriving, in-demand business, but the process would’ve been easier if I’d had a better understanding of marketing strategies when I began.
Thanks to Stan Valadzko, SV Professional Cleaning!
#25- Don’t be afraid to break the norm
If I could hop into a time machine, I would tell my younger business self that it is never wrong to be unique and do something that hasn’t been done before. Broaden your horizons because it will enable you to discover, create, and innovate. The world is a world of constant development and breaking what the present holds is your only funnel to the future.
Thanks to Alisha Lawson, Shiny Leaf!
#26- Get comfortable with putting out fires
As soon as you think you’ve got things figured out, a new challenge, idea, external force, or difficult customer will test your motivation to keep going. You must absolutely develop a focused mindset and remember why you got into your particular business. Challenges are a given not the exception to business. So, unless you can learn to think on your feet and make confident choices, your business will crumble. I believe the content our team produces is one of the top in our niche. It’s always best to stay humble and keep learning. That’s the only way to guarantee you’ll stay above everyone else.
Thanks to Prem Kumar, Visa Tutor LLC!
#27- Three things
Firstly, concentrate only on sales. Let everything else be the background, especially fundraising. Money from investors is much more ‘expensive’ to get than from customers. If your product does not require complicated research or development, then you need to sell it to customers before looking for money from investors. That’s the fastest way to confirm the validity of the business idea and the business model of your company. That is how you’ll get the money for further development. Even if you think that this is not your story and you have a special case, trust me, this is exactly what you need to do. Secondly, not every customer is worth messing with, even if he pays. He may seem to be promising. But if he fools around for too long and distracts you from the main tasks, just say ‘no’ and stop any business relationships. Thirdly, unless your product is created for enterprise clients, don’t work with big companies until you reach at least $1m monthly revenue. They take a lot of time and are expensive to maintain (legal, insurances, account managers, custom software development, etc). You’ll spend way too much time and effort to achieve success with them, and they will distract you from more important things you have to do.
Thanks to Alexandr Volodarsky, Lemon.io!
#28- Set realistic goals
Set realistic goals that can be measured, learn from my mistakes and move on–dwelling or wallowing does nothing but produce further negativity, and research my industry more effectively so I had a better sense of how things are done. With that said, realistic goals eliminate disappointment, learning and moving on eliminates negative thinking and doubt, and conducting more research would have made my first business more competitive.
Thanks to Kristin Marquet, Marquet-Media.com!