Just as you don't need to reinvent the wheel, avoid making mistakes that others have already made. Successful entrepreneurs share their key lessons learned from building their businesses.
1. Don't give up too quickly.
Some businesses do experience success at an alarming rate. But for others, it's important to plan for many long years of work. Don't go into a launch expecting it to be a sprint to the top. Even in startups, it's about the destination, meaning as a company you're focused on achieving long-term goals. For startups, mortality is high, so be willing to give it all you got for longer than the first few months or few years.
"When you're developing something new, you have to always be selling - to customers, investors, employees, partners, reporters, etc. New ideas invariably face a lot of rejection and resistance. The more unique the idea, the more frequent the rejection," advised Beerud Sheth, founder of TeamChat. "Ask the critics why, so you can learn and perhaps refine the idea. Find ways to mitigate their concerns."
2. Don't forget about the balance.
It's important to establish your boundaries and requirements from the beginning. If you put everything you have into your business and leave no time for health, family or fun, this establishes a pattern that is hard to redirect. Make a routine; figure out what's most important. Then be sure to stick to the promises you make to your employees, family and investors.
"If you love and are obsessed with what you are doing, you will want to do it all the time, so it's not surprising that many entrepreneurs can forget to have a work-life balance." Mike Adair, founder of Red's All Natural, suggested, "Be disciplined to do the most important things first so you can break away early and often to walk, workout or see your family. It will make you so much more productive when you return."
3. Don't be reactionary; plan ahead.
Getting ahead of roadblocks and shifting as you go is an important skill for entrepreneurs. Do not fall into the trap of reacting to every new opportunity or roadblock without a thought to the rest of your business. Be prepared to switch gears as necessary and take your time making decisions. However, work to get ahead of potential issues rather than avoiding or waiting for them to happen. Keep learning as you go.
"Starting a new business is a learning process. Along the way you learn to assess future business needs and anticipate potential changes that you will need to make to take your business to the next level," said Katie Echeverry, founder of Unique Vintage. "Rather than awaiting those issues, be ready to respond in a way that lessens the negative effect. Market changes, for example, are not something you as a business owner can control, but they are something you can prepare for in advance."
4. Never get complacent.
Keep working and giving it your all. Businesses must grow and adapt to be successful. Entrepreneurs and business owners are never finished working. Keep moving forward, making improvements and accomplishing new goals.
"Business is about competition, hard work and action. The moment you think you've made it is the moment you've failed. Why? Because all too often that's the moment you take your eye off the ball," explains Ernie Bray, CEO of ACD. "Remember, success requires constant action, innovation and desire to keep pushing forward."
5. Don't hire on skills alone.
Curate a great team based on skill and passion. Consider interests, capacity and drive. Put serious effort into talent acquisition and retention. Once you have a good team, work hard to keep them there. If you launch a new product or project, it may not be the right fit for your current employees. In addition, keep employees' goals in mind. If they're eager to take on a new project or learn a new skill, make room for that and put trust in the team you've created.
6. Don't lose your trust; make customer support a priority.
Always deliver on your word. As a young company, losing the trust of customers early on will ruin your reputation. Clients took a risk believing in you and rely on your company, so keep that trust. If you make a plan and sign a contract, execute! Their business is relying on your business.
In the same vein, make customer support a priority. Take their concerns seriously and build customer support into your business. By listening to customers' feedback openly, you can improve core business practices allowing you to work more efficiently, deliver more effectively, and scale the business.
7. Don't start without a purpose.
Don't just start a business; find a problem and solve it. Starting a real business is about finding an actual problem. This is important for a number of reasons. If you're simply starting a business to run a company, you'll lose focus, trust and motivation. It takes serious hustle to get a business going and keep it running. Without a real problem to solve or a mission to accomplish, you'll quickly fall apart. It's not about the company; it's about the solution it offers.
"As an entrepreneur you've got to constantly remind yourself of what made you start the business to begin with and use that as ammo to keep pushing you forward. If you drift too far off track as you push forward and grow your business, you may lose the value you originally offered," said Kyle Sherman, founder of FlowHub.