Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s purpose is to help entrepreneurs achieve their full potential by enabling life-enhancing connections, designing shared experiences, and providing collaborative learning. A total of 233 EO-member companies were named to the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest growing, privately held companies. We asked these elite leaders what advice they might give their younger entrepreneurial selves if they were leading a startup today. Here's what they shared:
"Don't wait until you have every single thing figured out before doing what you want to do. You will learn and figure things out, and pivot as you go."
"Be brave. Don't think that just because you're young, you don't know what you're doing. As a young startup founder, I told employees that I was older than I actually was--so they would respect me more. I now realize that you earn respect by the way you act and how you treat people. Look yourself in the mirror and acknowledge that you got up this morning to do your best, to do better than you did yesterday, and to treat people with respect. It doesn't matter how old you are or how much experience you have."
"I would emphasize the value of having a clear vision and the importance of reinvesting in yourself and your company."
"Prioritize relationships and culture. In a startup, you're so focused on getting the job done, and solving all the problems, that relationships and company culture can fall by the wayside. These are critically important! And it's so much better when you start on the right foot."
"Don't always listen to so-called 'experts.' Advice is like a curry: You don't know if it's any good until the morning after."
"Be thoughtful about how you define success; look beyond profit and growth metrics. Money comes and goes, but if you're proud of what you're doing and you lead with honesty and integrity, you will find success. Be patient, be curious, and always be adaptable."
"Don't let small obstacles distract you from your larger goal."
"Keep your nose to the grindstone. You can do anything you put your mind to, but you have to stick with it. It's up to you to make life happen for you."
"Don't worry about having all the answers when you start. You'll figure it out as you go. You can write a 30-page business plan, but you won't truly know what things will look like until you start working with clients, employees, and vendors. You can only fix one thing at a time, so don't worry about everything at once, or it will drive you crazy. There's a difference between effective and efficient; being effective is more important."
"You will make a bunch of money, and it won't actually get you what you think it will. Enjoy the journey, invest in relationships, and whether you make a lot or a little money won't matter in the end."
"My phone background reads: 'It takes as long as it takes. Be gentle with yourself.' This quote is a reminder to me that fast isn't always better. The goal isn't more deserving than the journey, and I can't get where I'm going alone."
"Simplify things, and don't build the entire plan until you know you're on the right track. I had a tendency to overcomplicate, which caused wasted time and energy. Use the Minimal Viable Product methodology whenever possible until you see it work, then go all in."
"Many things that seem impossible are only beyond your reach if you believe them to be. The limitations are in your mind."