CEO Nugget

28 Entrepreneurs Share Their CEO Nugget

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 be afraid of failure

Photo Credit: Christopher Zoukis

Some of the greatest lessons I've learned in business have come from failure. Likewise, some of my most profound successes have come from reaching higher than a reasonable business person would think reasonable, yet succeeding despite the odds not being in my favor.

Thanks to Christopher Zoukis, Zoukis Consulting Group!

#2- Be okay with constant change

Photo Credit: Andrea Travillian

The one thing I have realized in my 18 years of running a business is that very little ever stays the same. In fact if things are not changing I start to worry! That typically means I am not innovating, or staying in touch with new market trends. And that is never good for business. So be ready for things to change the second you have them set, and you will be good to go!

Thanks to Andrea Travillian, Aspirify, Inc.!

#3- Focus on getting rid of limiting mindsets

Photo Credit: Robert Brill

There is so much opportunity in the market, and there are so many people who do the work we do poorly, or with bad intent, that even just showing up to do things the right way, makes a huge difference. That spirit of achievement combined with the desire to do the work for the right reasons is a winning combination. The journey will come with hardship, but you are prepared to endure the hardship and come out the other side successful because you have the knowledge, instinct, and guts to make it happen.

Thanks to Robert Brill,!

#4- There is no perfect path to success

Photo Credit: Terry B. McDougall

You have to use your own judgement and just try stuff and see what works. Related to that, I would also tell myself that it's not necessary to do it all on your own. Connecting with other people, sharing your journey and asking others for their insights or help is absolutely okay. Not only does it make the journey easier, it also makes it more fun, and when you let others in on what you're trying to do, you get presented with more opportunities.

Thanks to Terry B. McDougall, Terry B. McDougall Coaching!

#5- Be Prepared

Photo Credit: Jase Rodley

Starting your own company can have many tasks, and sometimes feel like you are doing 10 people's jobs at once – especially at the beginning. The more prepared you are for this, the less sleepless nights you will have, and the more manageable it will become. It would be typical to say just go for it, but only do it when you are fully ready, it is not worth leaving any stone unturned or anything to chance when you are building your own potential future

Thanks to Jase Rodley, Dialed Labs!

#6- There is no race

Photo Credit: Michael Lowe

There is no race, and you will do everything you need to at the time you need to do it. Frustration is a wasted emotion when you are working on something you feel so passionately about. As long as your passion and determination are maintained at the forefront, all the bumps in the road will be worth it, and won't stop you from getting to your destination. Look at the positives of hat you are doing, and enjoy every second, because this is your life, and you're doing this for you.

Thanks to Michael Lowe, CarPassionate!

#7- Cash is king

Photo Credit: Aalap Shah

To often, in my business ventures to date, I utilized debt to accelerate the sales pipeline, which in unexpected moments of crisis or when it came time to sell the business, create a poor results or lower valuations.  It almost became this endless loop of negative cashflow early on when the investment did not strategically pay off.  I wish I had learned that staying as lean as possible, utilizing debt for targeted initiatives, and favoring building assets would help me in the lifeline of each of my business ventures at the time of sale or for future growth.

Thanks to Aalap Shah, 1o8!

#8- Say NO more often

Photo Credit: Lisa Davis

I would tell my younger business self to say no more often, so that my younger business self would have more time and energy to dedicate to the things that truly matter. When we start out in our business lives, we tend to be very eager and enthusiastic and willing to chase every opportunity we see. The problem with chasing every opportunity is that it lacks focus, and can prevent you from landing any of the opportunities. As with many other things, less is sometimes more. Focus on the things that really matter and knock them out of the park. In my opinion, one of the most important skills to develop in business is an ability to resist saying yes to every opportunity so that you are able to go above and beyond when it comes to the opportunities that really matter.

Thanks to Lisa Davis, Shanti Bowl!

#9- Always, always focus on the long game

Photo Credit: Jonas Bordo

In the early years of my career, it was easy to focus on what I needed to do right now, without thinking of the long term ramifications of those choices. If I'd stayed focused on the long term–thinking several moves ahead, if you will–I think I could have made better decisions about where to invest in myself, who I wanted to work with and what roles to pick along the way.

Thanks to Jonas Bordo, Dwellsy!

#10- Start heavy entrepreneurial work as soon as possible

Photo Credit: Peter Laskay

I would not give specific advice, as I still cannot say that I know everything about this thing. I learn something new almost every day. However, I have to walk my path and this time cannot be shortened. Unless I started it earlier. When I think about how many years I lived in such a way that doing things that don’t seem to work… I always looked for the shorter path and hacks. These can work only for a while, but the real hard work can’t be spared.

Thanks to Peter Laskay, Petworshiper!

#11- Hustle now, harvest later

Photo Credit: Tom De Spiegelaere

My younger self was too focused on shiny things that I sometimes lose sight of the endgame. If I could hop into a time machine, I would tell my younger self to focus on hustling now even when it seems the monetary benefits are still far away. I would tell myself to keep learning the trade and don't let my skillset be stagnant. Curating a personal stash of new knowledge, tools, and resources will pay off in the end. Things take time, and there's a need to nourish the seed and care for the plant until it bears fruit. I'd tell myself, Don't be sidetracked by shiny things that don't match the goals you've set. Focus on hustling and you'll have a bountiful harvest later.

Thanks to Tom De Spiegelaere, Tom Spicky!

#12- Invest in yourself and your craft

Photo Credit: Laurie DeSalvo

Invest, invest, invest in yourself and your craft so you can be the best at what you do! Invest in in-depth training from the best and brightest in the field. Hire a coach who can further guide you and hold you accountable to your goals. Invest time, effort, and capital on the front end to thoroughly research your market, build a concrete business plan, and determine how you will differentiate yourself from the competition. Finally, always be adaptable, nimble, and ready to pivot as the marketplace changes around you.

Thanks to Laurie DeSalvo, FiSource Group!

#13- Avoid second-guessing yourself

Photo Credit: Rex Freiberger

I think my business advice to my past self would be to act with confidence even when I didn't feel it. To take more risks instead of shying away when there was a danger of falling on my face. I've trusted my gut more in recent years and it's made all the difference. If I hadn't second-guessed myself so much earlier on, I think my businesses would have taken off very quickly.

Thanks to Rex Freiberger, Superlativ and GadgetReview!

#14- Have multiple mentors

Photo Credit: Obu Ramaraj

The one piece of advice that I'd give to my younger business self is to differentiate myself right from the start. It helps when you have multiple mentors to guide you. A mentor from your industry to help you grow your business and mentors from other industries to draw inspiration from. I will tell my younger self to not be afraid and to approach successful entrepreneurs. Sometimes, it can be ideas you gain and sometimes you might walk away with business opportunities through collaboration.

Thanks to Obu Ramaraj, Smart Money Solutions!

#15- Negotiate for more

Photo Credit: Chanda Torrey

Women tend to accept the pay and benefits that are offered to them with a new job. We tend to undervalue ourselves and take anything. But 95% of the time, you can negotiate for higher pay and/or more vacation time. Start the negotiation much higher than you want so you have some wiggle room and don’t be afraid to go back and forth a couple of times. When they are close to what you want, say you will take it if they give you more vacation time. It is uncomfortable when you are doing it, but you will be so happy you did when you have extra days you can spend on the beach and a few extra dollars to spend along the way.

Thanks to Chanda Torrey, Gifter World!

#16- Network ALL THE TIME

Photo Credit: Marc Gadsdon

Getting to know your peers, people in your verticals or other areas of business will give you some great contacts and you can absorb knowledge giving your business that boost it needs in the beginning. You can learn about problems and more importantly solutions before you even encounter them as others will have been there and done that. The more you know, the fewer the obstacles you face and the better your problem-solving skills will be. Right now over 75% of my new business is from referrals, and I have only begun networking the last 2 years. If I had gone down this route at the very start, it's not unimaginable that my business revenue and clients would be 3x the size.

Thanks to Marc Gadsdon, Logicata!

#17- Find you own voice

Photo Credit: Andrea Heuston

Stop living your life by someone else’s ideas. It took me a long time to find my own voice in life, in business, and in leadership. I was always reaching for the approval of others. Once I realized that I needed to approve of myself and stop judging my own voice, I’ve been able to clear a path to success.

Thanks to Andrea Heuston, Artitudes Design!

#18- You don’t need to have all the answers before you start!

Photo Credit: Shelley Steyn

Knowledge certainly is power but you will learn more from doing than from reading all the books on leadership, entrepreneurship, technology or business. Find the right advisors and mentors for you. Listen, learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You won’t regret asking a question but you may regret not asking it.

Thanks to Shelley Steyn, Pamper Hamper Gifts!

#19- Delegate tasks

Being the CEO of a company, I always recall how I started. Putting up my own business from scratch brought stress and I have been through the lowest of lows and highest of highs. It was a roller-coaster ride. If I could bring back time, what I should have done before that I am certainly practicing now, is to delegate tasks. I now know that I can never do everything myself. This is why we hire people to help us maintain our business. As a young entrepreneur, I was scared of not getting involved in all of the business processes which made me very frustrated and stressed in the end. With the right people, accompanied by trust, everything will fall into place. Never fail to trust your employees and acknowledge them every time they do well. The best leaders are those who are effective followers.

Thanks to Carolyn Cairns, CreationBC!

#19- Be willing and ready to pivot

Photo Credit: Michael Hammelburger

The journey of an entrepreneur has its ups and downs and if not for this belief, I would long have left my practice and instead resort to an 8-to-5 job. There'd be no challenges, no learnings, no life lessons. But I prepared myself well to what's ahead and it's by only welcoming change and be ready for it that any entrepreneur can achieve his goals.

Thanks to Michael Hammelburger, The Bottom Line Group!

#20- Slow down and give it a chance

Photo Credit: Andy Wood

The head of my younger self was full to the brim of business ideas. So many in fact that I spent most of my time starting something and then quickly hopping on to something else. The result was that I didn’t really make a big success of anything. In today’s world of fast internet and social reach, I would probably be 10x worse! It wasn’t until I learned to focus properly that I managed to grow a real business. So if I could go back in time I would tell myself to slow down a little and give things a chance to succeed before switching to something else. Focus and be less impulsive!

Thanks to Andy Wood, Evil Marketers Club!

#21- Always have more than one client

Photo Credit: Stefan Pinto

Never, ever trust that your one great client — the one that demands all of your time — to be your only source of income. This may sound obvious, but it was not to me, and I am sure it isn’t to many — especially those starting out. It takes a significant amount of time and resources to get your first client. If the client that you do get is a great client, we tend to rest on that accomplishment. But beware: having one client is only great when things are going really great. Incidentally, that business (an LLC) was started in 2000 and I folded it in 2008 (during the crash, no explanation required and hence my point). Of course, during that eight-year run, I had other clients here and there, but that ONE client was really the one that carried my business.

Thanks to Stefan Pinto

#22- Don't work for free

Photo Credit: Timothy Marsh

At the start I didn't value my skills enough to charge and I figured, I would work for free and build my skills. Except, it devalues my whole industry. It is demotivating. You don't feel like you are valuable. And you can't afford to buy anything when you make no money. Plus I learnt, these people who are wanting free work from you don't want to pay you. So when I had enough of working for free and asked for money, I had to look for new clients. I regularly come across new graphic designers offering their services for free and I send them to nospec dot com to explain just how detrimental this practice is.

Thanks to Kassandra Marsh, Lakazdi Business and Marketing Document Design!

#23- Learn how to learn

Photo Credit: Tom Hacquoil

If you’re trying to build a business, pace and momentum are incredibly important. You have to out-innovate / out-compete / out-work everyone else if you want to win – the pace of change is increasing across basically every industry right now, so from my perspective if you can learn faster / adapt more swiftly, you have a real advantage. On that basis, go and learn how to learn – i.e. find what works for you (some like books, some like podcasts, some like videos, etc) and find the top sources of knowledge in your industry (there are always unknown blogs, influential people, books etc that successful people in your space consume – don’t be afraid to ask them where they go to learn). Once you’ve found both, invest a bit of time every day in learning so you stay ahead.2. Learn what / who to ignore. Somewhat contradictory to the above (and not intended to offend anyone) – learn what / who to ignore. You may well be surrounded by educated, respected, successful people, many of whom will want to be helpful / add value / provide opinions on your plans, your new business idea, etc. This is great, but whilst it’s a privilege to have people that want to be helpful, industries, technologies and markets are changing faster than ever, and what worked well for them may work terribly for you. Don’t be afraid to chart your own course and try things. If I listened to everyone’s advice when I was starting out I wouldn’t have ever done anything – sometimes a lack of preconceived notions of how things are ‘supposed to be done’ and a bit of naivety are healthy – I would know.

Thanks to Jess Stanier, Pinpoint!

#24- Two tips

Photo Credit: Senida Kiehl

Relationship: no matter how great your product or service, people will only buy it because of YOU, not because of IT. Start by building relationships, ask your target audience what their problems are and how you might be able to help, start selling once you've gained their trust. Online presence: build a solid online presence, before marketing your products. Building an online presence and marketing at the same time is a hell of a job and no one will reply to your emails. Start online, establish yourself as a voice in the subject matter, a connoisseur of the field you'd like to develop your business in, and you'll soon be asked, how come you don't have a business to sell all this.

Thanks to Senida Kiehl, Expat Education!

#25-Learn financial modeling and coding

Photo Credit: Isack Kohn

My piece of advise is 1st learn financial modeling for your business so you learn to game plan for the unforeseen and 2nd is to learn some basic coding skills. You don't have to be a full-stack developer but understand basic code will give you a huge leg up as you try to scale your business.

Thanks to Isack Kohn, Perthshire Minerals & Royalty, LLC!

#26- Trust the process

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

Life is going to take you down roads you never imagined you might venture into — or even think are possible. I started my career as an attorney and now I am a business owner, which the younger version of me would not see coming! But I would not change anything because I am so happy with where I am now and what I do. Trust the process. It will take you exactly where you need to be in your professional and personal life.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#27- Value internal relationships more than client relationships

It is more important to ensure the team is happy with their jobs than it is to make a deadline. You can lose a client or potential customer, but losing a team member can contribute to losing a large number of clients. Rewarding team members with bonuses and allowing them flexibility will help keep the team happy, healthy, and available to give the extra creativity needed to do their crucial work within the company.

Thanks to Irina Gedarevich, eSEOSpace!

#28- Start with my company's purpose

Photo Credit: Amir

Figure that out first, even before the product. What kind of impact do you want to make in your life and other on people's lives? Then design your business around that. Surround yourself with passionate people that share those same values and passions. Then, trust and rely on them to help build a better company. You do not have to do it all! You will accomplish more if you learn how to delegate and hire the right people – the ones who are there for you and your company's purpose, not just for the job.

Thanks to Amir Mostafavi, South Block!

If you could hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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