Many successful entrepreneurs have shared that they wish they had known certain things earlier in their careers. It could be advice about time management, prioritizing their goals, the importance of networking, or the need to focus on self-improvement. Whatever the advice may be, it's clear that every entrepreneur has experienced lessons they wish they had known sooner. By reflecting on past experiences, you can gain valuable insights to apply to your current or future business endeavors. This is one of our favorite questions here at CBNation.
Here’s what CEOs would tell their younger business selves.
#1- Focus on building a strong team
If I could hop into a time machine, I would tell my younger business self to focus on building a strong team and a positive culture. I would also advise myself to embrace change and innovation and to always listen to the feedback from my customers and employees. I have learned that running a successful business is not only about having a great idea but also about executing it with passion, resilience, and integrity.
Thanks to Lily Stoyanov, Transformify Ltd.!
#2- Focus on success, not appearance
I would tell myself looking the part of a successful entrepreneur is less important than being a successful entrepreneur. My younger self was often too preoccupied with looking the part of a successful entrepreneur, thinking that I needed validation from others to prove that I belonged to that elite club and it certainly was true because back then, when our culture was much more superficial than it is today. I do believe it was a product of the '90s culture and is less so today. Today's culture is full of success stories from people who don't look the part but are undeniably successful and as such, have nothing to prove.
Thanks to Namanh Hoang, Ask Nam!
#3- Be careful with business partnerships
I would tell myself to be a lot more careful with business partnerships. Make sure the other person or business is as committed as you are, brings enough elements to the table to complement what I bring, and has similar goals and beliefs. Have the right to include the ability to vet associates or additional partners they wish to bring in. I have had it happen more than once where a third party brought in by a partner of mine has gone on to screw up the deal, one causing thousands of dollars in financial damages. Be sure that the terms of a partnership or arrangement allow rights of approval.
Thanks to Dave Kohl, First In Promotions Inc.!
#4- Remain true to your morals and etiquette
It's worth it! You're going to face some challenges that have nothing to do with your vision. Unexpected perils from individuals that see you as vulnerable, and unwelcome advances disguised as “help for your business” will be discouraging. But always remain true to your morals and professional etiquette. Those negative aspects are going to be overshadowed by the joys experienced when you solve difficult challenges. Witnessing your customer’s satisfaction is going to be the most rewarding. And providing employment for others and seeing them thrive, is going to bring a great sense of accomplishment. Learn from the journey, it's going to be worth it.
Thanks to Maria Chamberlain, Acuity Total Solutions!
#5- Be smart when choosing a partner
If I could hop into a time machine, the first thing I'd tell myself is to be smart when choosing a partner for launching a project. Make sure you're truly vibing with your partner, and that both of you are equally passionate about the project. When it comes to making decisions, don't rush. Take your time. Weigh the pros and cons carefully. And always listen to your clients. Being able to adapt to their wishes and demands is also a very important thing in business.
Thanks to Dmytro Sokhach, Editorial Link!
#6- Focus on one thing at a time
If I could go back in time, I'd tell my younger self not to try and do too many things at once. I would sit him down, give him a slap, and explain that even though he's been successful with SEO so far…when you spread yourself too thin and take on too much, you actually dilute the results. I would then explain to myself that it's okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, it's better to focus on one thing and really master it. That way, you can be sure that the results you get will be much better than if you had just spread yourself too thin.
Thanks to Brian Vastola, MRB Marketing!
#7- Plan for the unexpected
Plan for the unexpected. As a CEO it seems like every time you turn around something new pops up you have to deal with, whether it’s a change in contracted hours, insurance, staffing or something like COVID hits that disrupts everything. It’s all about planning. Be ready for the unexpected to take place so when a situation arises you are prepared to keep the business running smoothly.
Thanks to Bill Herzog, LionHeart Security Services!
#8- Meet more people and build valuable connections
I'd tell my younger self to meet more people and start building valuable connections as early as possible. The role that networking plays in my business today is so crucial. Had I known this back in the day, I would have attended every single event in the area. So if you are still in college and reading this – get yourself out there and meet people. Try to help them in any way you can. You'll see the value of it later.
Thanks to Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS!
#9- Take care of yourself
As a young entrepreneur, I always thought the best way to build a successful business was to work as hard as possible. I didn't realize that it is just as important to take care of your mind and body as it is to make sure your company is on track. I would tell my younger self that it's okay to take care of yourself. You can't expect yourself to be at your best if you're not taking care of yourself physically or mentally. By making sure you have time for rest, relaxation, and play—you'll be able to give more energy back into your business and will be better equipped for success!
Thanks to Mac Steer, Simify!
#10- Pursue a career with a technology firm
Pursue a career within a prominent technology firm and immerse yourself not only within the confines of your designated role but within the broader ecosystem of supportive functions. Engage in a thorough exploration, delving into the intricacies of the product-market fit, and stay attuned. Strive to gain a comprehensive understanding of the customer's vantage point, continuously assessing your performance, and identifying areas of success. With this wealth of knowledge, you can astutely identify opportunities within the range of $50 million to $200 million.
Thanks to Tom Aley, Aidentified!
#11- Stop being your worst critic
I would tell my younger self to stop being my worst critic. I used to look at others as more talented and kept waiting to refine my “perfect” idea that could take me to an IPO or help me build a million-dollar company. The negative, belittling self-talk can be a huge barrier to overcome. I would advise my younger self to let go of the ego, let go of overthinking and insecurities, and be willing to take the next step and be confident to risk it. The young have time and energy to pour into any idea that has proven demand and solves problems. What truly matters is the learning and the mindset you can fine-tune and build up in your entrepreneurial journey.
Thanks to Roman Milyushkevich, Scrapeitcloud Inc!
#12- Stay true to your core mission and values
I'd stress the importance of unwavering focus. Business ventures can be distracting, with countless opportunities vying for your attention, but staying true to your core mission and values is the compass that guides success. Secondly, I'd emphasize the power of adaptability. In our ever-changing business landscape, flexibility and the ability to pivot are invaluable assets. Lastly, never underestimate the value of building a strong network. Collaborate, learn from others, and don't hesitate to seek advice. It's a journey that's not meant to be traveled alone
Thanks to Daniel Evans, Health Recruiters!
#13- Believe in your vision
Believe in your vision. Stay true to your core values. Trust your gut and be persistent. Don't be afraid of taking calculated risks. Remember that failure is the key to success. Encourage and surround yourself with your peers and mentors. They will be your best allies. Never underestimate your ability to adapt. Stay focused, be resilient, and don't lose sight of what you‘re passionate about. Your journey will be full of challenges, but it will also be full of rewards. Don't give up, and keep pushing forward. You‘ll accomplish more than you think.
Thanks to Priyanka Swamy, Perfect Locks!
#14- Embrace failure as a valuable teacher
If I could turn back the clock and have a heart-to-heart with my younger, less experienced self in the world of business, I'd emphasize the importance of patience and resilience. I'd encourage myself to embrace failure as a valuable teacher, to remain adaptable in the face of change, and to prioritize building meaningful relationships in both professional and personal spheres. I'd stress the significance of listening to others, seeking mentorship, and continuously expanding my knowledge base. Most importantly, I'd remind my younger self that success is not a sprint but a marathon.
Thanks to Tracey Lee Cook
#15- Continue learning
Stay curious and never stop learning. The business landscape is always evolving & fast in today's age. Stay updated on industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices. Be mindful of your finances. Monitor your cash flow, avoid unnecessary debt, and save for a rainy day. A strong financial foundation is crucial for business sustainability. Consider how your business can contribute positively to your community or the world.
Thanks to David Caruso
#16- Play to your own strengths
Play to your own strengths rather than comparing yourself to others, especially extroverts. Embracing your introverted nature will be a game-changer. Success isn't about fitting into someone else's sparkly shoes; it's about staying true to yourself. As an introvert, you bring creativity, deep thinking, attention to detail, and empathy to the table. There's a tribe of clients out there who are craving exactly what you bring to the table. Most importantly, practice introvert acceptance. Embracing your introverted nature is essential to maintaining balance and preventing burnout. It’s essential to recognize being an introvert as a valuable asset rather than a limitation.
Thanks to Julie Muir – Celebrant
#17- Resilience and adaptability are key
If I could talk to my younger self, I'd tell him resilience and adaptability are key. Change is good. It's not the waves that make you a great sailor; it's the storms you‘ve faced and the lessons you‘ve learned. Don't just aim for the bottom line – objective for what you bring. Establishing real relationships and delivering top-notch service will always be better than just trying to make some quick cash. And remember, success isn't always about the money – it's about the experience. So wear your cowboy hat, dust off those boots, and get ready for a ride.
Thanks to Matt Little, Festoon House!
#18- Systemize everything and delegate
I would definitely tell my younger self to systemize absolutely everything you can. Have a process in place for any task that you do daily, weekly, or even monthly. Systems & processes take the guesswork out of routine practices and make it easier to delegate & train the person taking over the task. Of course, you can do the task the best, but if someone else can complete the task 80% as well as you could, you have to accept it. Delegation is the best tool for scaling and expanding. It gives you so much more time to work ON your business, as opposed to IN the business.
Thanks to Kayla Caruso, Music Lessons Australia!
#18- Don’t let fear hold you back
To my younger self who was afraid to take charge – don’t let fear hold you back! Be bolder when it comes to challenges; never underestimate your own potential or the power of teamwork. Every risk you take will bring new opportunities for growth – even if it doesn’t turn out as expected right away. Believe in yourself and trust those around you; together you can create something truly amazing despite any doubts or fears holding you back from achieving greatness. My favorite author Haruki Murakami mirrors my thoughts which brings me great reassurance in times of uncertainty.
Thanks to Jason Smit, Contentellect!
#18- Do not underestimate
Looking back at my time as a CEO, I'd tell my younger self not to underestimate how tricky it can be. At first, I thought being a CEO in a digital marketing agency would be easy as I knew a lot about Internet marketing, but I quickly realized there's a lot more to it: hiring people, bookkeeping, and sales. The big lesson I learned is that being a CEO requires more than being an expert in a chosen field. It requires evolving into a well-rounded business professional, adept at orchestrating the diverse symphony of business tasks.
Thanks to Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO!
#19- Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself when you make mistakes. You'll likely run into a lot of them during this journey but it's the mistakes and missteps along the way that truly shape and mould who you are as a person and as a business leader. Remember to embrace them and learn from them. Don't get lost in a world of immediate victories, keep your passion close to your heart. Remember that true legacy is built over years, not moments. Remember that you are in it for the long game, cherish the journey, and never forget why you began this path in the first place.
Thanks to John Truong, Alliance Compensation and Litigation Lawyer!
#20- Be more confident
I'd tell my younger self to be more confident. I'd say she needs to back herself much more, be more open to trying things and failing, and simply put herself out there more. One of the biggest things I've learned over the years is that I need to be my best advocate and salesperson. I need to have confidence in my abilities and knowledge (and the ability to increase my knowledge!) and not be afraid to share what I know with others or explain why people should choose to hire me, work with me, publish me, etc.
Thanks to Kellie Byrnes
#21- Not to fear mistakes
If I could step back in time and share a pivotal CEO nugget with my younger business self, it would be to embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. I would advise myself not to fear mistakes but to view them as valuable lessons that refine one's strategies. By shifting the perspective on failure, I would encourage my younger self to take calculated risks, be resilient, and continuously innovate. These experiences, although tough at times, shape a stronger, more agile entrepreneur, capable of navigating the intricate journey of building and leading a successful business.
Thanks to Ben Pu, Ship Sage!
#22- Embrace challenges as opportunities
Looking back on my journey as an entrepreneur, the one piece of advice I would give to my younger business self is to embrace failure and view it as a stepping stone to success. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. Surround yourself with diverse perspectives and empower your team; their success fuels yours. Stay adaptable in the face of uncertainty, and remember, failure is a catalyst, not an endpoint. However, I have come to realize that failure is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Thanks to Daniel Seeff, footcardigan.com!