CEO Nugget

22 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- Seek out diversity

The advice that I would give out to my younger business self is to seek out diversity. You may not notice it now, but if everyone around you (workers, investors, and board members) has a similar background, you'll lose out on crucial ideas. You say you value constructive dialogue, yet you're not doing enough to encourage it. Go out and find people from all walks of life, including diverse financial and educational backgrounds, colors, genders, and sexual orientations, and show them that it's okay to disagree and question the status quo. As a result, you'll make smarter decisions.

Thanks to Sep Niakan, Condoblackbook!

#2- Network = Net Worth

Photo Credit: Ian Kane

Don’t underestimate how valuable it can be speaking with people. None of us have all the answers and often times people default to typing a question into google versus picking up the phone. I have learned a ton just by taking phone calls with people who contact me via cold outreach or by walking the floor at a conference and stopping by a company booth. The more people I connect with, the more i can learn from their personal experiences or knowledge. Even if I don’t get something immediately from that conversation, I now have a relationship with that person who I can contact in the future. I can’t tell you how many times I have left a conference with a stack of business cards, only to find myself referencing those cards less then 30 days later. The more people you connect with, the bigger your network, and a bigger network typically leads to a bigger net worth.

Thanks to Ian Kane, Unbanked!

#3- Be more selective

Photo Credit: Tatsiana Kerimova

In everything, from the tasks you take on to the people you deal with. If you take on everything in a row, you risk missing out on essential and strategic ideas. Pay attention to each of your ideas, and do not discard them in the routine of current affairs. If a client or partner immediately behaves strangely at the start – believe me, it won't get any better. He will be like that all the time and will waste your nerves and time. You are not made for each other. Try to understand this in time. Create your own rules and criteria to distinguish the important from the meaningless. Spend time and energy only on what will matter to you in the future.

Thanks to Tatsiana Kerimova, Orangesoft!

#4- Be entrepreneurial

Photo Credit: Timothy Robinson

Collaborate with the greatest individuals you know and avoid spending years ensuring that a backup plan is in place. When you are young and filled with incredible energy, a large network of acquaintances, and an abundance of opportunities ahead of you, it is time to consider how you will become a member of the ownership society rather than the wage society. Alternatively, if you choose a profitable occupation, direct your drive toward establishing yourself in order to propel your future.

Thanks to Timothy Robinson, InVPN!

#5- Be brave

Photo Credit: Steve Scott

With time and age, we develop the ability to bolster our instincts with experiences, status, and titles, among other things. However, I think that I would have accomplished more and more quickly if I had been ready to trust my instincts and be more daring at a younger age, rather than seeking validation from others – notably senior colleagues who viewed me as less significant. It wasn't until I developed the courage to speak up and fight for the ideas I considered were the correct ones in terms of the direction that I realized how powerful and true my views truly were.

Thanks to Steve Scott, Spreadsheet Planet!

#6- Be Confident

Photo Credit: Eric Rohrback

Throughout my life, I've made a point of making room for others. I care so much about other people's feelings and emotions that I've turned it into a weapon against myself, further obscuring my self-acceptance. Everybody tells me that it is acceptable to have wants and express those needs, but I refuse to trust them since I am unworthy of being cared for. My anxiety intensifies and convinces me that the man I adore would abandon me one day since no one loves a needy freak. My lack of confidence claims that if you please others, they will not abandon you.

Thanks to Eric Rohrback, Hill & Ponton!

#7- Do what you want to do

Photo Credit: Sebastian Schaeffer

Don't fixate on what your peers are doing, do what you want to do. If there is one thing that years of being in business for myself have taught me that I wish I could have heard much earlier on in my career it is that everyone takes their own route to success and that journey plays out over different time periods for different people. If you keep your head down, persevere and focus on what you want to accomplish, you will get there when you get there. One of the biggest problems most entrepreneurs I have mentored have is that they compare themselves and their paths to others. It is something I did early on and it was and always will be a major distraction.

Thanks to Sebastian Schaeffer, blogrolling!

#8- Narrow your focus

Photo Credit: Nathan Williams

It's tempting to try and think of a big complicated solution that will fix big, complicated problems, but you'll get much further, faster if you think smaller first. Instead of coming up with a solution for a whole industry, narrow your focus to a group within that industry. Then again to a subgroup. Make sure that they have a budget. Really take time to understand the problems they have and feel the pain of deeply. Now solve the smallest possible problem you can for them and solve it really well.

Thanks to Nathan Williams, Minespider!

#9- Two things

Photo Credit: Brett Welker

I wish I could travel back in time and yell into my face with a megaphone that as a business owner, you should focus as much of your time as possible on revenue-generating tasks and outsource anything that you can't charge clients for. I would tell myself that all of my efforts should be spent on things like prospecting clients, nurturing client relationships and gathering testimonials from people and hiring out recordkeeping and accounting. I spent far too much time trying to do everything myself without realizing that opportunity cost adds up over time in a big way.

Thanks to Brett Welker, Crush the GRE Test!

#10- Stop waiting to be “ready” and just start!

Photo Credit: Tsarina Gems

By waiting for the perfect timing and for all the stars to align you are stalling your own progress. You don’t have to have the perfect website, the perfect office or even the perfect product to start your entrepreneurial journey. Don’t compare yourself to others, follow your own path, that’s what will make you stand out. Yes, you will make mistakes and you will learn from them, but don’t make rash decisions because you are nervous. You might not have all the confidence right now but you have the knowledge and experience, you are an expert in your field, remember that. You will learn more skills to propel your business to new heights. And most important of all, believe in yourself!

Thanks to Irina Kharina, Tsarina Gems!

#11- Get a coach fast!

Photo Credit: Sherry Knight

Although I had a coach to set up my business, I did not have the foresight then to hire someone to help me get the business moving. I had no idea about marketing other than word of mouth which was great, however, I realize now that more is needed. Over the last several years I have had various coaches for different purposes… marketing, program development, pricing and the list goes on. Like many I thought I was smart enough to do it myself – I was – it took time with lots of reading, chatting with other business owners and gleaning information. Trouble was, they were not experts in their field and thus, although helpful it did not take me to the next level. Having made every mistake possible – not having a yearly plan, hiring the wrong people, not holding people accountable, not marketing properly, lacking the knowledge on how to get to yes in a call. You name it! I did it!

Thanks to Sherry Knight, Dimension 11!

#12- Saying no is better at times

Photo Credit: Liam Johnson

I'd tell my younger business self that saying yes is good but there are times that saying no is better. When I was younger, it was very important for me to please other people. Because of that, I easily say yes to every request, every invitation and every opportunity introduced to me. It was later that I realized that saying no has its benefits. When I learned to say no, I had more time to focus on the more significant tasks and activities, and my days became even more productive. I was able to prioritize the essentials and avoid the time-wasters.

Thanks to Liam Johnson,!

#13- Do not fear grabbing opportunities

Photo Credit: Matthew Roberts

Even during my college years, a lot of opportunities came knocking – internships, conventions, and other venues to learn more things. But, at most times, fear of being unprepared and fear of being unqualified overpowered the willingness to learn more. Thus, some opportunities were wasted. If time machines were real, I wouldn't hesitate to go and push my younger self to be more fearless and confident.

Thanks to Matthew Roberts, My Choice!

#14- Busy does not always mean productive

Photo Credit: Joanna Caballero

I remember wanting to keep myself busy a lot of times before because for me, not resting means I am getting a lot of productive things done. However, over the years, I have learned that if I wanted to get more things done by the end of the day, it is more important to work smart rather than to work hard.

Thanks to Joanna Caballero, The Millennial VA!

#15- Learn to remain calm and cool

The ability to maintain your composure, particularly during difficult situations, will have a significant impact on your success. Individuals that are able to maintain their composure have control over their emotions and also do not allow themselves to be carried away by their negative feelings. Additionally, it will help you in clearing your mind and allowing you to discover new possibilities. We are all aware that it is impossible to focus on what is truly important when we are blocked, angry, or depressed… Consequences are panicked reactions – we are at our worst in such states. Keeping my composure has a lot to do with understanding life and the hurt it might bring. If we can maintain our calm, I suppose it demonstrates that we have learned to appreciate both others and ourselves.

Thanks to Eric McGee, TRGDatacenters!

#16- Start selling

Photo Credit: Nathan Hughes

Create your product or services and start selling. Simple is that. Business is all about selling. if you know how to sell, then nothing matters. Besides, I recommend you to read at least 20 good books on Marketing, Finances, Management and case studies of your core – competent industries, biography/autobiography of successful entrepreneurs. and self-development books. it will definitely help you.

Thanks to Nathan Hughes, Diggity Marketing!

#17- Don't give other people so much power

Photo Credit: Kressa Peterson

There are so many people out there who work really hard and make their dreams come true. No one is immune to that opportunity but you will have to work harder than you ever could have imagined. All the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it. Just because one thing does not work out doesn't mean that it was not a piece of the puzzle to the Big Thing in your grand life plan. Believe in the process, believe in yourself and dont ever let anyone tell you that you are not smart enough, capable enough or have enough experience (Heart and Brain surgery excluded-along with a few other things-lol). One thing I really wish I knew when I was young is that 90% of what you are told is BS and the rest is up to you. Trust yourself! And Your going to be on Shark Tank and get a deal with Mark Cuban ( that sure would have helped my confidence when I was younger).

Thanks to Kressa Peterson, Shower Toga!

#18- Several things

Photo Credit: Mark Daoust

I would tell them to enjoy the freedom, potential, and prospects of those early years in business. As any business grows, it takes on its own  personality and structure. In many ways, those early years of a business are the years that present the most opportunity for an entrepreneur to make an impact. As a business grows into a more mature business, it demands more and more of its founder and owners. If I could talk to my younger self, I'd double down on appreciating the rawness and unchartered nature of those early years in business.

Thanks to Mark Daoust, Quiet Light!

#19- Two things

Photo Credit: Kai Arter

The first and most important lesson I would tell my younger business self is to learn as much as possible about business, sales, and marketing “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin. Courses and books may cost money, but lack of knowledge could cost you a lot more money. Secondly is to develop networking skills, to connect with new talent, business partners and customers. Building genuine relationships with other people and businesses opens a world of possibility for new customers and business growth.

Thanks to Kai Arter, We Power Your Car!

#20- Treat everyone with respect

Photo Credit: Francis Locknear

Whether you are dealing with a client, talking to a manager, or leading a team, always treat everyone with respect. No matter how high you have climbed the corporate ladder, remember that the taller the bamboo will grow, the lower it would bend. Treat everyone individually and appropriately no matter their circumstances nor their contribution. You should always exercise sound judgment and be clear with your expectations. Make sure that you give everyone an equal footing on achieving organizational and personal goals. Help each employee feel valued and their work environment is filled with understanding and respect. Lastly, as the leader, hold yourself accountable the way you hold everyone else accountable.

Thanks to Francis Locknear,!

#21- It's at least 90% Perseverance

Photo Credit: Tim Latham

I've worked in large corporates & tiny startups. Experience has demonstrated over & over again that perseverance is the single thing that differentiates middling from top performer, also ran from successful & yet another good idea from an idea that delivered impact. Yes, I have an MBA but the tough truth is that the world has been changed more by business people who didn't give up than by business people who had amazing ideas.

Thanks to Tim Latham,!

#22- Have a positive outlook in life

Photo Credit: Martin Luenendonk

As a CEO, I have experienced a lot of challenges along the way. It was not an easy journey and even up to now, I have been experiencing hard falls, failures and success all at the same time. I believe that we can survive these times depending on our perspective and outlook in life. I wish I could tell my younger self that it is very important to have a positive outlook in life so that no matter what life throws at you, you will never be broken. There was a time in my life that I almost gave up because all I can see and feel is negativity. I know I have hurt a lot of people and passed opportunities along the way and it might have been avoided if only I had stayed positive all throughout. So to young entrepreneurs out there, always have faith and have a positive outlook in life no matter what situation you are in, because it will help you survive in the long run.

Thanks to Martin Luenendonk, FounderJar!

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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  1. Advice I would give my younger self:
    Don’t let the big picture scare you. Each day, begin with one task. Little by little, things will get done and in 6 months you can look back and see all the small building blocks stacked up, creating something incredible. If you can climb a mountain one step at a time, you can build a business one day at a time. As I learned on Kilimanjaro, “pole, pole” slowly, slowly. As long as you stay on course, you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.

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