1. "The best money is other people's money."
Granted, self-funding your business involves tremendous risk. You may have to get by on little or no income. Your business may grow more slowly. You'll need to bring your product or service to market fast, since short-term revenue will provide the funds to keep your startup afloat.
All of which means bootstrapping can be extremely stressful.
But still: Self-funding is the number one form of financing used by entrepreneurs to start a business for good reason. You can test your business idea while facing little or no external risk. You can chart your own course, without having to answer to partners, investors, or lenders. And while you will assume all the financial risk, you will also reap all the rewards, i.e., profits.
Plenty of people told me to seek investors, partners, or other forms of financing. Instead, I self-financed my last business. And I'm really glad I did.
2. "The quicker you add employees, the faster your business can grow."
Many startups hire employees as quickly as possible, even in advance of need. Why? For one thing, rising head count can seem like a proxy for success. (After all, if you're adding employees, you must be doing well.) Another reason is to prepare for anticipated growth; when business booms, you need to be ready.
Those reasons sound great in theory -- but are terrible in practice. Only hire people when you need them. In fact, only hire people a little after when you need them. Smaller teams are more agile. Smaller teams feel a greater sense of responsibility and ownership. Smaller teams allow employees to take on a variety of roles, to find creative ways to solve problems, to stretch and grow.
And then there's this: Instead of adding people, focus on finding ways to automate processes so you don't have to add people.
Sometimes, the only way to increase your top line is to add more employees -- but not always. A rising head count will often be correlated with success but will never cause success.
3. "Forget about taking a vacation if you're building a business."
You're dedicated. You're hard-working. You'll do anything you can to make your company succeed -- including working an endless string of long-hour days.
That kind of devotion is admirable. But also shortsighted. You need time to recharge.
So do your employees. Research shows that four out of five employees would take more vacation time off (time they've already earned) if they felt genuinely encouraged by their boss to do so.
And, in case you need one, there's also a practical reason to take time away: Without you there, unexpected gaps will pop up. Gaps in training. Gaps in skills. Gaps in experience.
Gaps you can then fix.
And, in the meantime, your employees will get the chance to shine, to show they can handle bigger roles and greater responsibilities. Force yourself to take time off. In the long run, you'll be glad you did.
4. "Great leaders never micro-manage."
You set clear goals. You make sure the training and resources are available. You provide the authority necessary. Then you step back.
Textbook delegation. Which is great. Until it's not.
When your business is engaged in working through a complicated task that is strategically important, you need to be a helicopter boss: knee-deep in the details. Helping your team work through issues. Sometimes leading. Sometimes doing the work yourself.
Being a helicopter boss is unavoidable when you launch a company. After all, you set the course. You create the culture. Your vision, your ideas, your standards -- you are the company.
Then, once the vision, standards, and course are clear, you may be able to step back.
From some things.
Leadership is never one thing. It's never always 30,000-foot leadership. It's never always micro-managing. It's never always helicopter-bossing. Leadership is whatever the moment and situation requires.
Don't be afraid to micro-manage when necessary -- just as you shouldn't be afraid to step back and let other people take the reins when it makes sense.