As someone who has pursued entrepreneurial dreams and now has the honor and opportunity to work with many others, here are the top five takeaways from my board work with early-stage entrepreneurs, as well as from friends and clients who started businesses that are now large corporations.

Starting and growing your own business is not easy. It takes guts and courage to take a leap of faith and invest in the all-consuming adventure of entrepreneurship. Every successful entrepreneur I've met, or have learned from, developed a new idea or invented a solution that solved a problem.

That's how I started Media Minefield 11 years ago. Through my experience as a news reporter, I saw a problem that needed fixing. I spent years setting up stories and receiving press releases from public relations firms that didn't get it. I knew there was a way to do public relations differently and use the news to help people. As Media Minefield has grown and our services have expanded to meet new client-facing problems, I've worked with and learned from entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. The lessons we've learned are consistent themes successful entrepreneurs have embraced. 

1. Don't Wait

I've talked with countless people who have great ideas that don't go anywhere. Many are afraid to make that jump into the unknown. It's paralysis by analysis. New entrepreneurs often spend too much time thinking about what could go wrong or which steps will make it go right. When you take a leap of faith and start your own business, you can't wait. Get out of this stage and start doing.

2. Surround Yourself With a Good Team

Many entrepreneurs have the mindset that they have to do it all. Sometimes that is the case when you're starting out. I know it was when I started. But the sooner you start building a team that supports you and fills in your knowledge gaps, the faster your company will grow. I hated doing the payroll, billing, and taxes. When I handed that off, I was able to really focus on what I do well.

It's also important to surround yourself with people you trust and who give you enough encouragement, but aren't afraid to challenge or speak up when they don't agree with an idea. When you start a business, failure of some kind is inevitable. Having a strong team and support system are essential for moving past the failures.

3. Your Brand Is Your Front Door

One of your first hires or first vendors should be someone who helps build your brand. In today's world, the majority of your potential clients and customers are digital natives. The front door of a business used to be its literal front door. Now it's a business's website and social media pages.

Knowing your message and how you consistently communicate it is the first big step. At Media Minefield, our team of trained journalists and social storytellers work with entrepreneurs and their teams to help them hone in on their messaging and how they talk about themselves, while strategically aligning it with their content. You need to use earned, owned, and paid media to share your brand. And you have to evolve to reflect online trends if you want to succeed and extend your reach in your target market.

4. Know Where You're Getting Your Information

As a new entrepreneur or business owner trying to grow a company, learning from other entrepreneurs can be helpful. Meeting with people who have been there before can help you understand the mindset for success and how to overcome failures. There are so many books, articles, and podcasts out there about being an entrepreneur, but it's important to know where you're getting your information from and absorb it all with context. Find books written by people of color or by women who overcame more difficult circumstances than a white male. Learning is a key part of growing as an entrepreneur, but it's also important you're hearing from a diverse number of voices. They're out there.

5. Focus on What You Do Well

It has been incredible to see friends and colleagues who started with an idea and ended up with an IPO. People who do it successfully maintain their focus and quickly identify the core services or offerings they excel at and do differently than others. The key to setting yourself apart from the competition is to offer new and creative solutions to problems and to do those things really well. When you start a business, you have to say yes to everything and join every group to see what you can do and what people will pay for. But at some point, you have to say no and focus on the bread and butter of your business. In other words, you need to stay on the freeway and avoid off-ramps that distract you from your goal.

The key to success is innovating and focusing on core values from the beginning. Companies that don't identify core values early on struggle because they don't know what they're working for. As the old adage goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."