Some kids want to be firemen when they grow up. Others doctors, lawyers or even astronauts. I wanted to be a business owner.
I held steadfast to his words and that dream through college and into adulthood. And while I prepared myself as much as I possibly could, once I finally started my own business I quickly realized I had a lot more to learn. Some things you only learn by doing.
For those of you ready to embark on your own entrepreneurial journey, here are three pieces of advice:
1. You need more than just a good idea.
Those stories you sometimes hear about "overnight successes"--products that were discovered and took off? Yeah, that's rarely how it happens.
Realistically speaking, you're likely one of several people with the same or similar idea. When my co-founder and I first pitched our company Tile to an investor, he informed us that earlier that same day another company launched with a similar product.
The investor asked how we were different. I fell flat on my face. I was caught off guard, and I was unable to offer key points of differentiation. Lesson learned: Your idea can't take you all the way. It takes persistence, foresight and a well-thought out plan.
2. Embrace your board.
It can be a touchy subject. People sometimes talk about how intrusive a bad board of directors can be. But it doesn't have to be that way.
I was fortunate to find a great board member early on. When you're building a fast-growing startup, things will go wrong. You need investors who will be true partners. Ones who will give you the room you need to figure out a solution. And ones who have the experience to help you think it through. So don't be afraid of the board, try and use it to your advantage.
Lean into finding board members who have operating experience. Finding partners who have been CEOs of fast-growing companies will allow them to have empathy for what you're doing.
They will realize that when they ask for things, sometimes they just aren't going to get done. They will realize that asking you five million questions and dropping ten million pieces of advice on you isn't actually helpful.
Most importantly, they will be the first to tell you that you are running the show and that they defer to you on the best course of action.
3. Define your vision and repeat it. Over and over again.
In the beginning, when it's just you and a few friends, you all know what your goals are. But as you grow, so do the layers between you and your team. It's easy for people to get lost in their day-to-day tasks, eventually burning out and leaving.
As CEO, it's your job to give your employees purpose. Define your vision early on, and repeat it to your team over and over again. Don't just say it once when people join, remind them constantly: This is the vision, this is where we're headed, and this is how we're going to get there.
Repetition goes a long way.
In the end, starting a business is tough--don't ever think that it isn't. It's a learning process. Sometimes you'll make the right decision and other times you won't. You'll be busy, but be sure to take time to reflect on those learnings to help you keep pushing successfully ahead.