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- Don’t be afraid to go against the tide
Here’s the thing, when you’re young you don’t always want to do your own thing. Following trends can feel pretty essential when you have your own business. You don’t want to be late to the party, and you don’t want to be the last one to catch onto a trend. But, why not set the trends?! Be the one who starts the trends in your niche – don’t just fall into the trap of following trends others create. Sure, not all your trends will catch on, but you just have to keep trying.
Thanks to Sam Wood, GoodGlow!
#2- Believe in yourself and take the plunge.
I wasted too much time procrastinating about starting my own business, and wish someone had given me the confidence to follow my heart earlier. And who would have been better at doing that than me? I’d tell myself to believe in destiny and fate, take that step into the unknown, and start my own business. Choose better who you
keep around and, in your circle, socialize more and always be aware of what people are going through – empathize and be present along the journey with your tribe.
Thanks to Erika Barnes, Pet Smitten!
#3- You don’t have to have everything planned out all the time
Success does not come from having a color-coded schedule. Sure, it can help you stay organized – but it does not matter if you stray off track. The best opportunities can come from the biggest surprises, but don’t let wanting to be organized hold you back. Yeah, it might not fit in with what you had planned for your day – but this is why you should use pencils in your planner – so you have room to make changes and not cross things out! Going with the flow can be scary, but little changes can be good for your day.
Thanks to Michelle Henry, Outdoor Dog Fun!
#4- Don’t force what’s not meant to be
Being young and in business means that you can have the impulse to seize literally every opportunity that comes your way. You can get so afraid of saying no to something, that you end up taking on work opportunities that aren’t your first choice or that don’t even suit you. What’s that all about?! Integrity is important when you want to build a successful brand and business, so don’t be afraid to say no to the opportunities that aren’t going to serve you.
Thanks to Adam Enfroy, AdamEnfroy.com!
#5- Regular breaks will work way better for you
When I first started up Innerbody, I fell into this trap of thinking that I had to be constantly working all day long. But, working with 25 mins on/5 mins break schedule was way better and much more productive for me. This habit has stemmed from the younger me because I always used to struggle with the quality over quantity balance. It’s funny how old habits find a way of resurfacing. But, it is so important to give yourself those regular breaks to be able to tap out of work and make sure that you optimize your productivity.
Thanks to Eric Rodriguez, Innerbody Research!
#6- There is no one way to achieve success
You must exercise your discretion and simply try to determine what is effective. In connection with that, I would also convince myself that you don't have to handle everything by yourself. Connecting with others, sharing your journey, and seeking advice or assistance from others are all perfectly acceptable. But not only makes the road simpler but also more enjoyable, and when you let people know what you're attempting to do, more possibilities are provided to you.
Thanks to Steve Pogson, First Pier!
#7- Taking risks is a two-way street
You’ll have better clarity in making moves towards progress if you are well prepared for the pitfalls–both major and minor. Entrepreneurs are often lauded for their high-risk tolerance, but little light is shone on what it takes to be courageous–preparation and using everything at your disposal to ensure you can weather any type of landing. At Handle, we help construction businesses do just that. Every construction project is a high risk, just because of the nature of the industry with razor-thin margins and inevitable changes.
Thanks to Patrick Hogan, Handle!
#8- Prioritize building relationships
I would tell my younger self to prioritize building relationships and networking early on. These connections can be valuable resources for guidance, support, and potential partnerships down the line. I would remind myself not to get too caught up in the day-to-day tasks and always to have a long-term vision for my business. Getting bogged down by immediate deadlines and jobs can be easy, but having a clear long-term plan helps keep the bigger picture focused.
Thanks to Marty Ford, bulletproofroofsystems!
#9- Expect the unexpected
I would tell myself to expect the unexpected. Situations in business will always arise that you could never have dreamed of, and you have to be prepared to roll with the punches. You can’t stress when the unexpected happens, nor can you react with emotion. You have to take a step back and reason through how to deal with it, whether the situation is good or bad. Have confidence in your ability to get through anything, and you will. Every situation is temporary and you can handle anything that comes at you.
Thanks to Carolyn Young, stepbystepbusiness!
#10- Victory is won in inches
I would reiterate the quote by Loius L’Amour that victory is not won in miles but inches. That’s because, for my younger self, every setback led to a spiral of sulking and negative thinking, which in turn manifested as wasted time. Instead, I would tell myself to soak in every win, however minor, because if you hold your ground and keep winning, your efforts will generate compound interest, networks, and lessons. It’s not about winning every deal.
Thanks to Dan Thomas, AIQuoter!
#11- Most people don’t see your flaws except for you
I think if I had to say one thing to my younger self, it would be that most people don’t see your flaws except for you. I think many young entrepreneurs think they are under a scope for a lot of their beginning business years. This leads them to take fewer risks, and do what others think instead of what they feel they should do. I have felt this myself, and also felt that many other business professionals could spot things I was doing wrong while I tried to figure things out for myself.
Thanks to Dayna Jackson, Wholesale Sparkle!
#12- Spend time pursuing marketing endeavors
Spend the majority of your time on marketing and advertising for your business. These initiatives bring clients to your establishment and expose your products to your intended audience. You must allocate a percentage of your business budget to the marketing initiatives you require to promote your enterprise. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and starting a business may be incredibly isolating. Remember why you founded your company and use your enthusiasm to motivate you constantly.
Thanks to Eleanor Fletcher, The Best Brisbane!
#13- Stay on top of the technology learning curve
The first thing I’d tell my younger self would be to stay on top of the technology learning curve. Acquiring hard skills, like learning a programming language or mastering the Adobe Suite, can streamline or automate parts of your business’s workflow. Scaling up from an individual venture, a small company with a few tech-literate employees can do the work of many. It can be hard to fully appreciate how new tech and software can improve your output once you fall out of touch with industry-specific technology.
Thanks to Will Ward, Industry Arabic!
#14- If you’re not feeling it, just take a break and return to it later!
When I first started working in the website space, I found it hard to take breaks when I wasn’t feeling in a productive or inspired mood. I wanted to prove to myself that I had worked hard to get where I am and that I was worthy of being a founder. As a result of this, I would put a lot of pressure on myself to be constantly working, I wish I could go back and tell myself that every working day has to be about quality over quantity. You must choose your passion independently.
Thanks to Ella Ding, Smoothies N Cookies!
#15- Celebrate the little successes
If I could, I would go back and tell myself that it is perfectly okay to celebrate the little successes we have as we go along. Too often, the concentration is geared toward the future and how we are going to tackle the next hurdle. It is too easy to forget that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. After a while, we come to realize that if we don't take pride and acknowledge the little successes that make up our routine, it all just becomes one huge slog.
Thanks to Colin Toh, Headphonesty!
#16- Seek help from a business consultant
A mentor would have given me industry-relevant and practical advice. The suggestions would have revolved around how to face business challenges. A business consultant would have enabled me to broaden my horizons and inevitably bring a positive change to my community. When I started my venture, I wished a mentor would have been there to guide me through uncharted lands. A consultant could have made me aware of the importance of networking events.
Thanks to Shaun Connell, WritingTips!
#17- Never give up
I would tell my younger business self to never give up, no matter how tough things get. I would also tell myself to always believe in myself and my abilities, even when others doubt me. Finally, I would encourage my younger self to take risks and seize every opportunity that comes my way, even if it means stepping outside of my comfort zone. These are the things that I believe have helped me succeed in business, and I would want my younger self to know that.
Thanks to Jennifer Spinelli, Watson Buys!
#18- Grow from failure
It’s difficult not to take every little mistake and failure to heart as if it’s some kind of personal attack when you’re at the start of your business venture. If I could go back and sit down to speak with my younger business self, I would let him know that it’s encouraged to take leaps, even if they end up being failures. I believe that a lot of my successes could have been even grander if I’d been bold with my approach to business and had taken a leap of faith.
Thanks to Ned Priestly, My Quick Loan!
#19- All things will pass
I’d take a ride back to the year after I graduated from college and I’d sit down with the younger version of myself and simply tell him “These things will pass and you will be stronger for having endured them”. That was a period of my life when it felt like everything was going wrong and I was caught in a personal downward spiral and stuck in a professional loop, and it was driving me crazy. Embracing your mistakes will allow
you to test completely new ideas and implement out-of-the-box solutions.
Thanks to Granger McCollough, Elite Patio Direct!
#20- Enroll in business classes
I learned the hard way that having a brilliant idea isn't enough; you also need to know how to execute that idea sustainably and profitably. I was just 19 when I started making more money than a young man like me could have imagined possible. My main concerns at the time were money and success. Back then, I knew nothing about mortgages. If I had known then what I know now, my chances of success would have been substantially better, and I would have avoided bankruptcy.
Thanks to Neil Anders, trustedrate!
#21- Focus on the fulfillment
It’s easy to get hung up on the big dream and end goal that you consider to be a success and then get let down if those successes don’t occur. If I could speak to my younger business self I would remind her that success doesn’t happen overnight, but fulfillment can. If you wake up every day and try to do the best you can, then you can carry that fulfillment with you. Eventually, the steps you take every day to seek fulfillment will lead to long-lasting success. Be dedicated, be patient, and above all be daring.
Thanks to Amanda O’Brien, The Discerning Cat!
#22- Work closely with a mentor
You may be prepared to the best of your abilities before you start your journey as an entrepreneur; however, you cannot always be prepared for the full spectrum of challenges that await you. I would advise my younger self to work closely with a mentor who can help avoid some pitfalls. Although these challenges are necessary for growth, there were a handful of situations that would have served me best if I could have avoided them.
Thanks to Marc Roca, 4WD Life!
#23- Networking is crucial
It’s easy to get caught up with the details during the seminal stages of your career and focus only on the day-to-day. However, I would love to remind my younger self of the importance of growing my network along with my daily grind. The connections you make will help snowball your growth and make it happen faster. Furthermore, through collaboration, entrepreneurs are more likely to go much farther than they initially thought.
Thanks to Igal Rubinshtein, Home Essentials Direct!
#24- Prioritize work-life balance
It's important to focus on your career and work hard, but it's also crucial to make time for yourself, friends, and family. Burnout is real, and it can be detrimental to both you and your business. Also, I would urge my younger self to save and invest wisely. Planning for the future is key to becoming a successful business owner. I have to network more and build strong relationships in the industry that will lead to new opportunities, connections, and valuable advice.
Thanks to Kevin Wang, Inyouths LED Mirrors!
#25- Focus on building a relationship with your target audience.
When creating a business, one might become too narrow-minded and focus too much on the product or service, rather than building a brand that will genuinely connect with the customer base. Being transparent, having a clear mission and vision statement, interacting with customers on social media, and showing that their voice is heard is just as important as creating a phenomenal good or service. I wish I knew that putting in the effort to build a relationship would help my business as much as it did, especially at the start.
Thanks to Natalia Grajcar, Natu.Care!
#26- Believe in yourself
If only I could jump in a time machine – there would be so many business decisions I would change! Ultimately, I would tell my younger business self that I should believe in myself, my ideas, and my products. I spent so long thinking that my business wouldn’t survive, and I kept a ‘backup plan in the back of my mind. But that wasn’t necessary – in fact, it was often a hindrance to my success. Now, I know that my business is wonderful, and many consumers are invested in what I have to offer!
Thanks to Jason Dempsey, Home City Living!
#27- Don't be afraid to fire the wrong clients
While it's true that the adage the customer is always right is common knowledge, it's crucial to understand that not all clients are in the right. If a customer is causing trouble and it's affecting your profits, or when the effort required outweighs the rewards, don't be scared to let go of them. Just as there are bad brands, likewise, there are terrible clients. You must know that it's acceptable to let go of bad clients so that you can concentrate on acquiring the ideal ones.
Thanks to Samuel Grout, Home Stratosphere!
#28- Your network is your net worth
Every person you meet in your entrepreneurial journey can positively or negatively affect your business's success, so choosing your people wisely and fostering great relationships with them is important. Hiring the right employees, picking out the best suppliers, connecting with strong investors, and establishing effective customer service will affect your business' growth in the long run. Never pass off an opportunity to meet someone new or learn something new.
Thanks to Stacy Lewis, Eternity Modern!
#29- Observe your heart
There is a significant distinction between doing things correctly and doing the right thing, in my opinion. Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing the right things. The former involves procedures, proper documentation, compliance with the law, etc. Doing the right thing is frequently more difficult and occasionally goes against established laws and conventions, yet this is often where we discover our humanity.
Thanks to Edward Mellet, WikiJob!
#30- Always be respectful
Whether you're a rookie in the field or a giant in the industry, life will always demand respect from you, and care for your peers, mentors, employees, partners, and yourself. Always remind yourself that respect establishes strong connections filled with trust, value, and compassion that you'll need to be successful in what you do. You'll see that people will respect you as a professional and your business when you practice this. Stay focused on your goals, trust your gut, and never give up. You've got this!
Thanks to Ankit Batra, Hollyweed CBD!