In 2012, I started a podcast as a way to connect with and learn from other entrepreneurs. To date, I have interviewed over 1,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners about what it takes to build a successful business.
Here's what they have taught me:
1 - Ignorance is Bliss
Many start businesses in categories or to solve problems in areas the founder has no previous background or experience.
This ignorance allows them build their business without the constraints or prejudices an industry veteran or insider has about what will or will not work.
2 - No Such Thing as an Overnight Success
It takes longer to see success than founders expect.
The common quote is "my business was an overnight success several years in the making." This reality means the entrepreneur needs more time, money, patience and willpower to stay the course.
3 - Overnight Success Isn't Always Ideal
When a company does experience the rare overnight success, it comes with a unique set of problems - a product that must be manufactured more quickly than expected, a need for cash to ramp up to meet demand or the daunting task of hiring employees quickly.
When starting your own venture, you shouldn't focus on failing. Your questions should center instead on "what if you succeed?"
4 - Money is Not the Problem
In fact, having less money makes an entrepreneur and their team focus on what's really important to move the company forward. A safety net of money from investors or the founder reduces the urgency for getting it right and can create an environment of frivolous spending.
I have heard stories from entrepreneurs that started with as little as a few hundred dollars to those that have received several million in funding. More often than not, the businesses with the smaller amounts of starting capital do better in the long run.
5 - Adversity is Important
Without some bumps in the road, the entrepreneur won't build a company that will sustain. Each new challenge the company faces makes the organization stronger and better equipped to reach the ultimate goal.
6 - One Key, Unexpected Connection Made the Difference
Time and time again entrepreneurs shared how an unexpected meeting at a networking event or conference was the key to making their company work.
Entrepreneurs must be constantly networking and connecting - the best progress on their company is rarely made sitting behind a computer screen or locked away in their office.
7 - Persistence is Paramount
This is especially true for entrepreneurs developing a physical product. They share stories of making call after call until that one manufacturer or product design firm gives them a shot. Entrepreneurs are master salesman and realize that every "no" brings them one step closer to a "yes".
8 - It's Not About Getting the Product on the Shelf (or Online)
Making sure the right marketing message and build up is in place before the launch is key. Smart entrepreneurs invest in strategic marketing, build a buzz and their audiences well before their product or service is ready for release.
9 - The Lone Ranger Entrepreneur is a Myth
The very best, most successful companies are built from partnerships.
There is an "outside person" and an "inside person" or one partner is focused on sales while the other builds the technology. Understanding your individual strengths and weaknesses (and acknowledging them) is critical to long-term success. The accountability of a partner serves as great motivation - you don't want to let each other down.
10 - Very Few Plan for the End
Every business has an end, but there is so much focus on getting the company off the ground that few entrepreneurs think about what they want down the road for their efforts. This lack of clarity about an ultimate goal causes some of the most destructive rifts and tempers the potential of the organization.
Bonus: Stop Asking Others "What" They Do
Everyone you meet has an interesting and meaningful story. I walk away from every conversation with a new tip, technique or lesson. My advice to you - don't just ask what someone does, find out what got them there.