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- Believe you can break through the glass ceiling

Photo Credit: Dana Look-Arimoto

Don’t be scared to move out of a company that doesn’t value you!  The glass ceiling is real. I hit my head against it hard when I was first starting out my career. I didn’t want to believe that I couldn’t break through it so I stayed with the company for years and almost killed myself to get ahead. Finally, I left that company. That was hard. But that move out led me to companies who valued me and allowed me to pursue my goals and my dreams. Sometimes you simply have to move out to move up!

Thanks to Dana Look-Arimoto, Settle Smarter!


#2- Hire someone immediately

Photo Credit: Matt Johnson

The reason for that is because it forces our brains to work differently and think in terms of splitting our tasks into high value and low value. Most people never think about that and just continue doing things without any regard for what’s actually effective and pushes the business forward. When we hire someone, it forces us to assign things to them that aren’t worth our time, so it forces us to think about what is worth our time. Getting someone to do the lower value activities then helps us spend more time in the areas that are more effective and push the business forward. Just hiring one person right now, even if you don’t think you have anything for them to do, do it for the leadership challenge, both for yourself and for the other person.

Thanks to Matt Johnson, Pursuing Results!


#3- Say no more often and focus on the essentials

Photo Credit: Jenna Green

When I was younger, I had a bad habit of saying yes to every business opportunity that came through my door. This often resulted in me overextending myself and becoming a jack of all trades, but a master of none. As I grew older, I learned that saying no has incredible power and permits you to focus your precious attention and energies on the aspects of your business that really matter. In my case, I learned that saying no helped me focus my energy and attention on aspects of my business which were necessary to take it to the next level. While there is nothing wrong with experimenting and being keen to say yes to various business opportunities when you are younger, especially since this helps you figure out what works and what does not work, it is a good idea to hone in and narrow your focus as quickly as possible so that you can make sure you are getting the highest return on your investment of time and energy.

Thanks to Jenna Green, Moscow Muled!


#4- Confidence can’t always carry the day

Photo Credit: David M. M. Taffet

Personal excellence and confidence can’t always carry the day. It is essential to remain selfless, sublimate your ego, and embrace a growth mentality as you help your team rise to its greatest potential. After all, it is chemistry, not individual excellence, that rules. How people work with one another matters more than what any individual will bring to bear. The team’s collective excellence will quickly outpace the performance of a group of disjointed individuals.

Thanks to David M. M. Taffet, Petal!


#5- It is okay to not know what’s next

Photo Credit: Patrick Garde

If I could travel back in time, I would tell my younger business self that it is okay to not know all the answers. It is perfectly normal if you find yourself out of your league and do not know what is coming next. Make sure you do not have to act as if you do.

Thanks to Patrick Garde, ExaWeb!


#6- Don’t be too overly critiquing

Photo Credit: Ben Walker

One thing I tell people who are starting out in their business is to not be too hard on themselves. But I did have a difficult time with that. The thing is, you will make mistakes, as it is a part of the entire learning process. There’s also the fact that no one is perfect, so there’s no use in trying to be a perfectionist.

Thanks to Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing!


#7- Stay on a learning journey

Photo Credit: Kimberly Rath

Getting my MBA at Pepperdine recently helped me to see opportunities and possibilities for the organization I lead in a refreshed way. Every individual needs to keep advancing their skills and knowledge each year. Staying on a learning journey keeps you current and relevant in the workplace. With four generations in the workplace, continuing to expose yourself to new ideas helps you stay in the mix of those diverse age groups. It also allows you to be more open-minded to divergent views and have more context for them. When you find your passion – what you are good at and enjoy – it enables you to be a better friend, spouse, parent and community member.

Thanks to Kimberly Rath, Talent Plus, Inc.!


#8-I’d tell myself so much!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Fatta

Stay in college. Don’t date that boy, he will derail your path. Take photography classes. Take computer classes. Learn. Absorb. Keep an open mind. Talk to a college counselor to plan out your coursework. Just stay in college!

Thanks to Stephanie Fatta, BeautyBrite.com!


#9- Take time to understand your gift

Photo Credit: Richard Rubenstein

Be fearless and embrace experimentation until you align your greater sense of purpose with your natural proclivity. Each of us has a gift that takes time to understand and market forces, friends, confidants may at times present confusion. Success occurs through trial and error and a commitment to persevere. Footnote, small wins take as much energy as the large ones.

Thanks to Richard Rubenstein, Rubenstein Public Relations!


#10- Dream bigger!

There’s far less competition for the huge, scary audacious requests than there are for those that are reasonable and uninspiring. Big goals spark the imagination and are far more remarkable. I would tell my younger self to take all her goals and multiply them by 1000!

Thanks to Jodie Cook, JC Social Media!


#11- See the other side of rejection

Photo Credit: James Pearson

Rejections are part of your blueprint towards success. Treat them as an opportunity instead of negativity. In the very competitive business industry, you won’t be able to please everyone. No matter how passionate, focused and whole-hearted you are in pursuing your business, rejection can be on your way. Instead of fostering negativity, how about seeing it on the other side of the spectrum? Take it as an opportunity to look for better things. Likewise, take it as an opportunity to feed your hunger in learning. You have a long way to go. Rejections are just part of your blueprint towards success. It will keep you grounded, humble and grateful for the better opportunities ahead. It’s a matter of how you pick yourself up and shifting your perspective on the optimistic side.

Thanks to James Pearson, eVenturing Enterprises!


#12- Collaborate and be consistent

Photo Credit: Dianne Crampton

Collaborate early and build collaborations for mutual benefit with other organizations. Collaboration is a skill set that is built on trust. Every group that collaborates is able to do much more with less. Whether internally or externally, collaborations forge and leverage heritage relationships that can withstand the test of time. But it is important to communicate openly, effectively and consistently. Lack of consistency or leaving collaborators wondering can damage trust over time.

Thanks to Dianne Crampton, TIGERS Success Series, Inc.!


#13- Defined your spheres of influence

Photo Credit: Liz Elting

While my Co-Founder and I did a lot of things right, where we faltered was in failing to clearly delineate roles, especially early on. We kind of handled things as they arose, without clear areas of responsibility. That sort of ad-hoc system worked well when we were working together out of a dorm room or a small office, but it became impractical as the company got bigger. So, if I had a time machine, I’d want to make sure we each had defined spheres of influence. It would have helped us work more efficiently, more effectively, and with more amity. Don’t assume what works when you’re a two-person team will work when you have a thousand people.

Thanks to Liz Elting, Elizabeth Elting Foundation!


#14- I would talk to dad

I can honestly say I would not talk to myself. I would talk to dad. I have tried that with my own kids and it does not work unless I stay consistent and follow up, at least until they find their own motivation. I would remind dad that osmosis does not work just because I stand next to him and just because I am his son does not automatically mean I know everything he does. I am a dumb kid and DO want to learn. Don’t waist that chance. Include me in the quarterly meetings and ask me to do the little jobs so I feel included, but not overwhelmed.

Thanks to Christopher Tillman Mgr., Property Conveyors LLC!


#15- Stay positive

Photo Credit: Dora Lau

Everything happens for a reason. Often when we look back on our experience we can be negative and hard on ourselves. I would tell my younger self to stay positive. Everything happens for a reason. It’s a process to find the best research, the best trade shows, the best partners. If I had known all of this when I started it wouldn’t have been the same journey. Being positive allows you to find opportunities and take hold of them. Negativity brings fear, which is a major barrier for success.

Thanks to Dora Lau, Dora L. International!


#16- Become focused

Photo Credit: Sarim Siddiqui

As a teenager, I was always thinking in terms of what MORE I could do. In that hustle, I ended up doing everything but forgot to focus on my passion. These side jobs and skills do come in handy at times but they distracted me from my goal during my prime time. So, focus. Focus on quality rather than quantity.

Thanks to Sarim Siddiqui, PACE Business!


#17- Whatever you do, create a business model first

Photo Credit: Michael Kansky

Do not create a business without testing sustainability of your business model. In a perfect world test two or three business models before investing in the business your time and money so you have room to pivot. Winging things as you go is good and all; it gives you experience and teaches you what not to do at times. But you can save yourself a lot of grief (and time and money) if you plan it out and test it.

Thanks to Michael Kansky, LiveHelpNow!


#18- Two pieces of advice

Photo Credit: Sharon Haver

Your career is a strategic process. Your diverse and expansive experience will position you for entrepreneurial endeavors that are uniquely suited to your specific experience. So don’t worry so much about making the next right step or career move because whatever you choose will become the magnificent experience that you have to offer the world. How you choose to repurpose this experience will be the legacy that you leave to the world.Also, dreams are free. It takes elbow grease to make them a reality!

Thanks to Sharon Haver, FocusOnStyle.com!


#19- Follow your own great instincts

Photo Credit: Kathy Caprino

When you do make the leap, there is something I want to warn you about. Avoid entrepreneurial gurus and marketing experts who want to tell you exactly how to build your business, as much what you hear is going to be absolute nonsense. Remember this – if it feels wrong to you, then it is wrong. Follow your own great instincts, and your own hard-earned know-how, and don’t fall prey to all these experts who want to tell you how you should operate in your entrepreneurial venture if you want to be successful. There’s only one you and you will succeed at the highest level you follow your own highest self and most authentic intuition and wisdom.

Thanks to Kathy Caprino


#20- Three things

Photo Credit: Dave Thornton

The main piece of advice I would give my younger self is to think big! Invest and build the business in a way that will help you when you have more offices, staff, CRMs, data, larger client volumes, etc. Secondly, don’t undersell yourself! Really spend the time understanding the market rate and where you should be. If you undersell yourself at the start, some of your early best clients could end up having unrealistic price expectations as you grow. Also, keep on top of credit control – don’t put all that hard work in winning and delivering the work to then not send all the invoices, or chase them effectively. Finally, don’t overdo the networking. You need time to sleep! If your eye starts twitching, that’s a sign that you need a holiday. Have fun and make sure you’re setting up a business you will enjoy as it will be a huge part of your life for a long time.

Thanks to Dave Thornton, Thornton & Lowe!


#21- Don’t talk, act

Photo Credit: David Michael

My biggest piece of advice would be to not get carried away by the theory or brilliance of an idea before it’s a genuine success. In my late 20s, I started an awards search engine, which in theory was a great idea. The biggest mistake I made was telling everyone about it, launching it to much fanfare on Linkedin, and generally getting carried away with the theory of how great an idea it was. I got validation from friends and family that they also thought it was great, and it was all the more embarrassing when it failed. So my piece of advice would be: don’t talk, act. Let your results do the talking for you. Stay hungry and focused on the outcome, and never let yourself think that you’re cleverer than you are.

Thanks to David Michael, David Michael Digital!


#22- First focus on profit!

Photo Credit: Brandon Monaghan

I see far too many companies in the e-commerce space raising money without actionable steps to profitability. Early on in my business journey my partner now, Justin Kemperman, drilled into me how important profiting first was. Due to that mentality, we have had several companies scale to 7 and 8 figures with no outside capital. This meant that we had to budget accordingly, put in long hours, and focus on conversions over fancy design and branding.

Thanks to Brandon Monaghan, Miracle Brand!


#23- Never leave anything you can do today for tomorrow

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bass

The best piece of business advice I would give my younger self is all businesses should be run like a hotel. Whatever rooms you didn’t sell last night you will never get back no matter how many rooms you sell tomorrow. Meaning you should never leave anything you can do today for tomorrow. I have learned throughout my career to finish everything I could before I went home, never leaving it for the next day.

Thanks to Jonathan Bass, Whom Home!


#24- Have more self-confidence

Photo Credit: Malte Scholz

I was often quite insecure about certain business decisions and trusted others more than I trusted myself. However, I understand now that I shouldn’t have made so many compromises since some of them cost me both time and money. I had very good business ideas that I didn’t follow through with because I was afraid of failure. After many years in business, I learned that failure is sometimes a great thing because this is when you learn and grow. I never risked and always played safe in the beginning which did save me from potential losses but also slowed down my growth.

Thanks to Malte Scholz, Airfocus!


#25- Understand how compound interest works

Photo Credit: Kari Lorz

If I was to go back in a time machine there is no question as to what advice I would give myself! (as this is my biggest financial regret). My advice would be to understand how compound interest works, especially in investing. This kills me now as I was blowing hundreds on dumb clothes every month in my 20’s when I should have been maxing out my IRA and my 401(k)! If I had only grasped that simple, yet profound concept I would be retired, and living on an island today. This gets me in my gut every time I think about it! (Yes, I am working on accepting the things I cannot change). 🙂

Thanks to Kari Lorz, MoneyfortheMamas.com!


#26- Wax On, Wax Off

Photo Credit: William Schumacher

Soaking up training is a critical endeavor in your younger years. Find your Mr. Miyagis when you are younger so that you can learn the skills they have spent years perfecting. You don’t realize when you are going to need them to be second nature as a leader down the road.

Thanks to William Schumacher, Uprising Food!


#27- Stay on top of credit card payments

Photo Credit: Susannah Caviness

Being in year two of business (and dealing with a pandemic), I am still experiencing typical roadblocks and making mistakes that all start-ups go through. If I could hop in that time machine though, and give one small piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to stay on top of credit card payments. Monitor that credit score, and make sure you are always making payments on time and making smart choices. This should be self-explanatory, but so much of money management is not taught in schools. I had to learn the hard way (and am still dealing with some consequences), that your credit score takes a LONG time to fix.

Thanks to Susannah Caviness, Tower Press!


#28- Perceive failure as very important feedback

Photo Credit: James Jason

Back then, any time I failed, my heart sank and I beat myself trying to avoid it as much as I could; but it never stopped. I cannot count how many times I wanted to quit. With time, though, I learned that failure is feedback that tells you what to improve on. By addressing my shortfalls, I was able to streamline my business over time; and now, I enjoy every bit of it.

Thanks to James Jason, Mitrade!


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

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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(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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