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What I Wish I Had Known: 8 Entrepreneurs Share Their Startup Secrets

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Jeff Bezos Amazon Startup Advice

If you’ve ever tried to start your own company, then you know that some of the “advice” you get from friends, relatives, and even perfect strangers isn’t always all that valuable.

It can range from the simply unhelpful (“Don’t go out of business!”), to the impossible (“Give it everything you’ve got!”), to the downright dangerous (“No matter what happens, stick it out!”), but you can bet that once everyone has offered their two cents’ worth, you probably won’t be any closer to grasping that elusive secret of success. Of course, that all changes when you’re getting your advice from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. These people know what they’re talking about, and they’re willing to share their wisdom with you. Yes, you. So get ready to be enlightened, because here are nine pieces of startup advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Here are the 8 secrets of startup success from a handful of successful entrepreneurs.

 

What I Wish I Had Known

 

1. Jared Kim (Founder & CEO of Forge)

Jared Kim Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t burn out. Take care of yourself by getting 8 hours of sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. If you don’t take care of yourself, there’s no way you can take care of your company in the long-term.”

It may seem as though your new company is the most important thing in the world, but it isn’t. If you sacrifice your own health and happiness for the sake of your company, then you’ll just end up without happiness in either.

 

2. Leo Widrich (Co-founder of Buffer)

Leo Wildrich Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

It took me years to finally start saying no to things that would take me away from what really needed my attention. No to meetings. No to interviews, and no to extra projects (for extra money.) When I implemented my daily to-do lists my whole day/week/month changed. I would only accept opportunities if they could come after my to-dos were completed.”

Sometimes, as the founder of a new startup, it’s easy to overload yourself. When new responsibilities or opportunities come along, feel free to put them on your plate, but only if they don’t end up costing you time and energy that should be going towards more important issues.

 

3. Mark Otero (Founder & CEO of Klicknation)

Mark Otero Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

Know your weaknesses: Knowing your weaknesses is as important as knowing what your strengths are, and even more important as your company grows; hire or have co-founders who are great in areas where you are weak.”

Chances are you’re not an expert in every area where your business will require you to be an expert. Maybe you have problems with finances. Maybe you just don’t get marketing. Maybe the idea of schmoozing with investors makes your sweat through your suit. Well, that’s all OK, as long as you’re sure to hire people who fill in the gaps in your armor, as the Mark Otero, founder of Klicknation, explains.

 

4. Todd Pedersen (Founder & CEO of Vivint)

Todd Pedersen Vivint Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

First, if you’re going to run a company, you have to provide the best service you possibly can for your customers. Second, you have to treat your employees like gold. And then three, everything else will work itself out.”

The secrets to building a successful company aren’t really secrets at all; you just give customers what they want and treat your employees well, like Todd Pedersen, CEO of Vivint, has said. Of course, just because it’s simple to say, it does not necessarily follow that it’s easy to implement.

 

5. Phineas Barnes (Partner at First Round Capital)

Phineas Barnes Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

Your choice of partners and investors should be thought of as permanent and are therefore the most important two decisions you make.”

Starting a business is a big commitment. In fact, if all goes well, then it may be a large part of your life for the rest of your life, as Phineas Barnes of First Round Capital explains. As such, you’ll want to be very careful about whom you include in your startup, because if you aren’t, you may end up having to deal with an imperfect fit for years—or even decades—to come.

 

6. Jeff Bezos (Founder & CEO of Amazon.com)

Jeff Bezos Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”

For some reason, many of us have been conditioned to be more afraid of failure than we are of inaction. However, failure, in addition to being inherently valuable as a learning process, contains within it the chance of success. And no matter how small that chance is, it’s better than the chances of success when we choose not to even try.

 

7. Peter Berg (Founder of October Three)

Peter Berg Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

Be really picky with your hiring, and hire the absolute best people you possibly can. People are the most important component of almost every business, and attracting the best talent possible is going to make a huge difference.”

While CEO’s and founders, and the ideas on which their success is built, often get the spotlight when it comes to business, the truth is that it is the employees that actually breathe life into a company. Even the most innovative idea can wither and die without the right kind of support from a talented workforce, so give your hiring process the attention and time that it deserves.

 

8. Thomas Edison (Founder of General Electric)

Thomas Edison Startup Entrepreneur Success

 

 

 

 

 

The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

You have an idea that will change the world? Well, it’s not worth anything unless you can turn that idea into a reality. So take the plunge and see just how far that idea can take you. Or, you can sit around trading advice over the internet.

The choice is yours.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Lidiya K

    Jan 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Wise words!

    I think we all need to focus a bit more on the first one. So many people work hard, stay focused on their goals, put effort and sweat in what they want to achieve, but meanwhile forget to take care of themselves. And soon this becomes the reason why they fail. Or even if they succeed, they can’t really enjoy it as they’re in such a bad shape.

    Thanks for putting these quotes and tips together.

  2. Sean Dudayev

    May 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I like the Edison quote, an idea can take seconds to think of but it takes years of effort to build it into existence.

  3. Enock Langat

    May 11, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Reading trough these quotes are as if all were directed to me! The encouragements are incredible, am in the process of developing my company but also my daily life entails encouraging Small scale farmers to implement the ideas they have, while informing them on the new ideas in the market.
    I really like being part of these, keep up the hard work

  4. Joseph Njuguna

    May 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Am really changed after going through the list of advice I’ve started a Janitorial business at least by now am powered to move a niche high

  5. Augustine Kitonye

    May 10, 2014 at 6:37 am

    These are witty pieces of advice, rich with wisdom on how to make to make dreams come true

  6. George Celeste

    May 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Article like this makes you feel like you can do it too. By reading the list i asked myself one question, what is it these people have that i don’t?” Whoever answers this question is already on his/her way to success.

  7. Masibulele koti

    May 9, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Wow wow wow I am so encouraged today, after reading quotes and watching a video I feel so energetic.THANK YOU JOEL!!!

  8. Wan Muhammad Zulfikri Wan Yusoff

    May 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    “You have an idea that will change the world? Well, it’s not worth anything unless you can turn that idea into a reality. So take the plunge and see just how far that idea can take you.”
    Well said, Alex.

    Taking action is the thing that separates the weak and the strong.

  9. willie j wilson (@wilsy111)

    May 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    why is it so hard to find a mentor ? I have been in the trucking industry for over 17 years and wanted to start my own company.
    I have ask many of my fellow trucking company friends can they become a mentor to me. how did you guys make it work.?

    • sheilamakena

      May 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      You have worked 17 years in the industry. Wow! Can you imagine the amount of wisdom and experience you have gained? You know the ins and outs of the game. You don’t need a mentor so much as you need to start believing in your own ability to bring something new and fresh to it. I’m pretty sure you have noticed certain loopholes and discovered ways to help the industry progress further. Develop what you already have and connect with someone you trust within the industry that you can share your idea with. Things will come together but it’s going to take you stepping up to it and owning it. 17 years makes you an expert! You can do this!

    • Veronica Reczko (@VeronicaReczko)

      May 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Mentors do not have to be physical people that you work with. My mentors, to name a few, are Jim Rohn, John C. Maxwell, Napoleon Hill, and Success Magazine. You can find mentors all over and there are books and CD’s on anything you want to learn. A small step would be to invest in the book, video, or audio and listen to it while you drive. My biggest mistake in this small step was I became obsessed with the knowledge and not obsessed with the application of the knowledge. Do not hesitate to apply the leadership, organizational, and developmental skills you learn. Hope this helps!

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Startups

You Are The Problem With Your Business

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A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.

I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.

Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.

Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?

Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.

The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.


Your company is a reflection of you.

It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.

One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.

The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.

In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.

The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.

The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.


Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.

The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.

Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.

Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.


Change is a must.

Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.

Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”

You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.

Change you.

Not the business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up

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Image Credit: Unsplash

You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.

How to Evaluate Success

As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.

But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Numbers

When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?

The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.

So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.

This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.

In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.

2. Impact

Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).

In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins

3. Freedom

For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.

The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.

Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.

4. Time for Friends and Family

As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.

Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.

A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.

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Startups

The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.

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spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.

I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.

People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.

This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.

I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.

I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.

That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.


Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.

I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.

They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.

All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.


Your clients tell you every day that you suck.

I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.

Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.

The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.

That wasn’t it.


You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.

I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.

Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.

The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.

They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.

“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.

I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.

The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.

It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.

The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.


You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.

A good business solves a problem.

That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.

This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.

Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.

Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.

Solving only your problem will make you poor.

The problem still wasn’t their website or product.


Creating more problems.

Everything this business owner sold created more problems.

They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.

They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.

They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.

Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.

If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.


The heart of the problem.

It’s the business owner.

The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.

The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.

You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.

Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.

Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Entrepreneurs

18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups

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Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)

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