If you could hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self? What are the biggest lessons learned 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- Never repeat mistakes
Intelligent people learn from their experiences, whereas foolish people make the same mistakes over and over again. Your business will inevitably make blunders. It's inevitable that you'll make mistakes, as well as others around you. Learning from your failures is one of the best pieces of advice I would give to my younger self and other young entrepreneurs.
Thanks to Henry Bell, Vendorland!
#2- Follow your passion
One thing I’d tell my younger business self is that there will be times when you feel like giving up. You will face a lot of challenges before you reach the end goal. So, make sure you choose an idea that revolves around your passion. This is because it can become your driving force – the extra kick to achieve your goals. Therefore, instead of switching between ideas, it is best to keep working on something you love to do. It can be hard, but the end results will shock you.
Thanks to Sam Cohen, Gold Tree Consulting!
#3- Advocate for themselves
I would tell my younger self to advocate harder for themself. This especially applies when looking for small business funding; it’s so important to shop around. Until you ask, you never know what one lender will offer vs. the next or what a company’s risk appetite will be. One might deny you, while another approves the application based on a factor the first lender didn’t even consider, like a cash flow forecast.
Thanks to Nick Chandi, ForwardAI!
#4- Maintain good habits
Maintain only the good habits that you adopted on your road to success because that’s the best way to sustain and keep reproducing your achievements. Continue to learn from the best and take mentorship seriously. Align with a-players. Remember that fulfillment in all forms from finances to romances is based on your relation to the relevant aspect – it demands a well-nurtured mind-body-soul connection. The moment you become emotional about a curveball or life-changing event, return to your point of balance as soon as possible before the gravity of unstable emotions drags you down.
Thanks to Morgan McArthur, Millionaire Mind Events!
#5- Nurture the leaders
One thing I wish I knew at the beginning of my business journey was to look for leaders within my team earlier on and nurture them. When we are in a leadership position, we sometimes forget that we may not always be there, at least not in the same role. If we are in a larger company, we may be promoted or move to another department. If we are the owner of our own business, we may get to the point that we no longer want to run the day-to-day operations, or at least want help so we can pursue another project.
Thanks to Ray Blakney, Podcast Hawk!
#6- Focus on execution
I would give my younger self advice that Felix Dennis gave to me: ‘Ignore great ideas, focus on great execution.’ Most tech entrepreneurs are not short on ideas, but they are short on time and focus. When I look back at all of my previous business ventures, it’s become clear to me that any one of them could have been wildly successful if I had just stayed the course and continued to execute on it. Far too often, we give up our current project for a more exciting, shinier item.
Thanks to Ethan Drower, CiteMed!
#7- Hire an assistant
If I could go back in time to when I started my folder printing business, the first thing I would tell my younger self is to hire an assistant right away. For the first five or six years, I worked by myself. I worked 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week. I did everything, including spending a lot of time on tasks someone else could have been doing, often at the expense of work only I could do. Once you have an assistant, your productivity goes through the roof. You can focus on the tasks you should spend time on, the tasks that help your company grow.
Thanks to Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders!
#8- Avoid others' opinion of me
I wish I could tell my younger self, fresh out of Colorado University, to lighten up and not take other people’s opinions of me so seriously. I worried so much about how to use my degree to be “successful” that I betrayed my better instincts to work for myself and have fun. It took going broke trying to make a career in film before I realized there was so much more to life than being recognized by my peers or by strangers. Life shouldn’t be so serious. So my best friend and I founded our brand together, Culprit Underwear, and I just wish I’d done it sooner!
Thanks to Dylan Trussell, Culprit Underwear!
#9- Focus on solving problems
I spent the first few years of my career marketing what my company had to offer rather than highlighting its benefits to my target persona. The truth is, the average consumer doesn’t care about product or service features; they just need to know how you can solve their problem. When I got into healthcare, I realized the best approach involved empathy and relating to the customer’s needs; my success in marketing had nothing to do with what I thought seniors wanted. It took years to understand that, but the benefits have been exponential.
Thanks to Stephan Baldwin, Assisted Living!
#10- Focus on success, not failure
When I started out as an entrepreneur, I was confident that I could work hard enough to minimize the risks of failure, and outperform all competition. I was going to research harder, prepare better, and build the perfect network. In thinking this way I was actually acting on my fear of failure, rather than my desire to be successful. I was fearful of mistakes, but what I didn't realize was that the mistakes you make, and the challenges that follow, are actually lessons that you need to learn.
Thanks to Shaun Heng, Coin Market Cap!
#11- Prioritize client experience
The best piece of advice that I could have given to myself when I was younger—or to any young entrepreneur—is to prioritize client experience. That goes beyond just meeting their expectations and offering friendly, supportive customer service, although both of those are important as well. I mean truly understanding each client’s business objectives, challenges, and processes—and how your products or services fit. Not only should you be helping clients achieve their goals, but also overcoming the challenges
they face and make sure the entire process is as streamlined and efficient as possible.
Thanks to Thomas Samuels, Cardinal Expo!
#12- Trust your gut
I remember the whirlpool of second guesses and trust issues I had when first starting out. It's hard to trust your intuitive self when you are looking to make rational choices all the time. Only later on did I realize that sometimes your gut makes better decisions than your brain. At times, particularly in startups, the logical step does not make sense, and that is where your intuitive/gut feeling comes into play—embrace it and let it drive you forward.
Thanks to Mike Ward, The Finances Hub!
#13- Make connections
Starting a business is so much more than figuring out the best product design, logistics, cost of goods, and organized bookkeeping. While undeniably all of that is important, I wish I focused more on one important factor that would initially help my business with its breakthrough through partnerships and networking. So my advice is to go out there and make connections. Be friendly, be personable, and make an impression on other business owners, right from the day you established your entrepreneurship.
Thanks to Alicia Ho, Precious Ones Photography!
#14- Learn from failures
From an early age, we’re taught that failure leads to negative consequences. As we grow, and as our business grows, we need to look at failure as a learning opportunity. Maybe a specific marketing strategy didn’t execute as well as we had originally planned, or our sales goal just missed the mark. What can we learn from this and what needs to be improved on? Embrace failures and accept them as a new opening to achieve something
Thanks to Sara Adam Slywka, Nestig!
#15- Minimize spending
I have been in the affiliate business for several years and here is what I would tell myself if I could turn back time. I wasted quite a bit of budget and time on marketing when trying to promote my sites. Since there are so many platforms to put my marketing budget into, it's important to choose the right one so that I do not use up my budget prematurely. I should minimize the recurring costs. With more and more businesses targeting entrepreneurs, it's too easy for newbies to get stuck in the marketing loop.
Thanks to Billy Chan, Drone Last!
#16- Preserve relationships
If I could hop into a time machine, I would tell my younger business self to preserve the important relationships in life. When we are young, we seem to be always in a hurry. We are always in pursuit of getting successful and ticking boxes. While there's nothing wrong with those things, remember that while success is important, other aspects of your life are important too. Spend time with your family and friends while you still can. It is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a business owner because achieving it can make you more motivated to work harder.
Thanks to Tobias Rawcliffe, Number 1 Plates!
#17- Embrace positivity
I would love to tell my younger self not to sweat the little things and focus on the bigger picture. Every closed opportunity offers a chance to open a new door and not give in to self-negative talk. There were times when I stumbled and failed in search of achieving perfectionism in all my business dealings. It only bred self-doubt and attracted more trouble and pain. Once I surrounded myself with positive and like-minded people, everything fell into place. I stopped doubting my abilities and formed stronger relationships that pushed me to accept failures and have an open mind.
Thanks to Susan Gagnon, Costumes Heaven!
#18- Use failures to succeed
One that I would tell my younger self is to use your failures to fuel your determination to succeed. I remember that as soon as I started my business, I had an additional original idea regarding another aspect of 3D printing and I used it to apply for an Italian grant for people under 35. They denied the funds for lack of managerial skills and a not very innovative idea. Two years later, a large company launched something similar to my idea. When I heard that I was crushed. However, today I am grateful for that experience because it was so disappointing yet impactful that it became the engine of my success.
Thanks to Alessio Lorusso, Roboze!
#19- Be with people who inspire you
To my younger business self, I would say, Surround yourself with people who can help you be the best version of yourself. You must raise your standards within your inner circle because every person you surround yourself with greatly affects every aspect of your life. You want to surround yourself with positivity. You must be around people who inspire you but challenges you at the same time. As a business leader, you should always open yourself to learning from other people.
Thanks to Ryan O’Donnell, Sell Hack!
#20- Stop sacrificing sleep
Pursuing the creation and growth of a business takes a heck of a lot of work, and the culture surrounding entrepreneurship often encourages the phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to stop sacrificing sleep in an attempt to get more done. I went without sleep so often that I spent my days fatigued, and looking back, I know that if I had created a healthy sleep schedule and routine, my work wouldn’t have suffered; rest would have made it easier to pursue success was aiming for.
Thanks to Stephen Light, Nolah Mattress!
#21- Learn self-confidence
I would definitely tell myself to take more chances and believe in myself more. I have learned self-confidence over time, it is not something I was born with, however, if I had known how to achieve it sooner I would have reached my goals sooner. Another point would be to confirm something that I believed in from an early stage in my business career, yet repeatedly saw others who appeared to progress without the same ethos… honesty /is/ the best policy!
Thanks to Ricci M, White Rabbit Consultancy!
#22- Delegate tasks
The biggest piece of advice I would give to my younger self is – you don’t have to do everything by yourself. To delegate is to succeed! I wish I knew that when I was starting out because I was doing everything by myself and soon realized that that type of approach isn’t working and won’t work in the long run. The trick is to find reliable workers you can train. They need to be skilled, resilient, and smart. Once you have a team, you’ll be able to delegate your work and tasks with ease and let the results speak for themselves.
Thanks to Adam Hempenstall, Better Proposals!
#23- Have supportive people
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that having supportive people around you helps a lot in stressful times! It can be easy to accidentally push people away, especially when you are under a lot of pressure and trying to make your business successful. However, having supportive people actively in your life can help you with work stress. It is necessary to have someone to talk to even if they may not fully understand the situation.
Thanks to Brian Chung, Alabaster Co.!
#24- Be patient
If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to be patient and take things slowly. As an entrepreneur, you must continually balance your business activities with your other obligations. It's crucial to strike a balance between the two. Concentrating on your task is crucial, but don't rush your development. Take a break from work and spend time with your loved ones and friends. Those moments will not return, so don't lose sight of them.
Thanks to Alex Bryce, WeInvoice!
#25- Have a clear market strategy
I would love the opportunity to give my younger self some good street smarts advice. I would first tell me to always have a clear value proposition for your product and a clear go-to-market strategy. It's important to have a simple cap structure. Don't issue too many shares or options and make sure you know who your investors are. And finally the most important advice: don't spend money you don't have and please ignore the Silicon Valley hype about losing money in order to grow. You'll find that most of those companies end up failing.
Thanks to Gary Guseinov, Real Defense!
#26- Never too late to dream
I would use that time machine to tell my younger businessman self that it is never too late to dream new dreams. At my age, I can say with confidence that no one is too old to have new goals and dreams. If I have realized new ambitions at my age now, how much more for my younger self? I will tell him that he shouldn’t be crippled by doubt and uncertainty, and that time is a friend and not a foe. The world is truly your oyster only if you want it to be.
Thanks to Jason White, All About Gardening!
#27- Master networking and marketing
I would have been able to grow my business much faster if I had mastered two key things. Networking is the first. Over the past three or four years, my network has been crucial to growing my business from six figures to multiple seven figures. I would advise myself to master the fundamentals of marketing, such as direct response marketing, copywriting, Facebook advertising, and sales funnels. I believe anyone can grow a lucrative, impactful, and successful business by networking and marketing alone.
Thanks to Michelle Caruana, HANA Resources!
#28- Pain and grief is temporary
Some days you may feel the happiest, while some days may feel unbearable with the intense pain of your current circumstances. The only way to combat this is to hold on and never give up. You may wonder why you have the worst luck out of all, but remember that whatever happens, happens for the best. All of the pain and grief is temporary when you finally break free of this constant loop of gloom and sadness. Things will soon make sense, and every mishap that occurs in your life will result in
better outcomes as you soar your head high and move ahead in life.
Thanks to Chun-Kai Wang, Snake.IO!
#29- Be grateful
I think when we are young we are always looking for instant gratification, and are always seeing large accomplishments. However, as I age I am seeing the value of little wins and I am more grateful for them. We sometimes do not realize that the little things are what help to make the big things happen, and we tend to lose sight of the important things because of it. I also am recognizing more than my accomplishments only need to be valid and recognized by me, and that validation from other people is not as important.
Thanks to Jake Rheude, Red Stag Fulfillment!
#30- Create your own path
In today’s world, standards are set to give you the illusion of participating in the status quo. You will “make it,” if you go to college. I would tell myself to choose from each facet of life, authentic learning, lessons that set you up for a living. My “jobs” were always selling. From the age of 10, I was learning how to sell, organize, and treat people fairly. And today I am the CEO of the fastest-growing construction technology in the market. I would tell my younger self to enjoy the journey. Don’t follow the crowd, create your own path!
Thanks to Shelley Armato, My Smart Plans!