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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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How to Create a Winning Startup Culture

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Some time back, in my infographic on 51 Business Mistakes that most Entrepreneurs Make, I had outlined that one of the biggest mistakes is that you do not give any thought as to what you consider would be a great startup culture. And, without good policies or HR to keep things in check, the startup begins to develop a toxic business culture. (more…)

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51 Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Dream Startup

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So you’ve got an idea. You know it will work. And, it means the world to you.

You are an entrepreneur and you think you can rock the world with this one idea that matters to you the most. And, you set out to form the idea into a startup that you are going to nurture and develop into a blooming business in the upcoming years.

However, I don’t want to throw water over your dreams but, I do need to bring this “optimist” you into the hard and cold reality…….. the reality which says that 90% of all startups fail.

Of course, this can bring a great deal of uncertainty into your life and you got to be prepared to deal with it. You are also going to face a ton of challenges in your life which will force you to grow as an entrepreneur. But, the important thing is that you stick with it.

Of course, as Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s friend) once said, “All I Want to Know is Where I’m Going to Die So I’ll Never Go There”. No entrepreneurs want their startups to fail after putting in days and weeks of effort into it.

So, a lot of research has been put forward into knowing what does actually sabotage a startup?

Fortune reported that the single biggest reason startups fail was because they do not identify what the market wants before setting up their startup.

However, it isn’t as simple as that. An entrepreneur needs to perform a comprehensive business plan before he sets out with his business idea. Also, you have to know whether your business idea actually suits you or not. If it doesn’t then, you either you need to fine-tune yourself with your business idea or you need to change the business plan so that it suits you.

And, it is only after that, should you venture upon your startup.
Now, is that all? Of course not. The problem most entrepreneurs face when they first begin their entrepreneurial journey is that they don’t know what they don’t know.

That’s where they tend to make a series of mistakes that may cause great harm to their startup.

That’s why I scoured for successful entrepreneurs to provide me with information on what they think were the most common mistakes that startups do. Plus, I also got tips on how to avoid these mistakes.

You can check out the original article here: 70 Mistakes Startups Make And Tips On How You Can Avoid Them

Now, it’s your turn to do some work. Let me know what you thought of these mistakes and tips that entrepreneurs commit. Do you know of any other mistakes that entrepreneurs do? Comment below!

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8 Key Factors That Discourage Investors From Putting Money Into Your Startup

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Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s winning businesses. Ideas executed brilliantly and with proper investment bring your business success. That is how the world of business got the likes of Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Amazon and so on.

But why in spite of the brilliant and promising ideas at the core of their business, many startups fail to attract investors? Why do investors hesitate to put their money into some startups? Well, investors have reasons and only by deciphering these reasons we could get hold of some deterrent factors that hold them back.

Let us explain some of the vital factors that prevent investors from putting their money in the startups below:

1. Inefficiency or Absence of Leadership Qualities

Inefficiency is the most significant deterrent factor for pulling the success of most startups. This can also be referred to as the lack of leadership qualities. Investors always want to make sure that they don’t lose their money through a company that has an extraordinary business model but no efficient and skilled business leader to make it successful. When fetching investment from investors, you need to offer a clear prospect and detailed plan of how you are going to achieve the goals.

2. Lack of Trustworthiness

An investor puts his money on a venture purely on the basis of the credibility and trustworthiness of the business. This is why besides having a sound business plan with clear objectives, you need to establish the integrity in terms of the security of the investor’s money and how the fund is going to be invested to give results as per business plan.

If an investor has a feeling that the startup may not have enough customers to fulfil its financial liabilities or if it finds that the business is hiding some information, it may further push the trust of the investors down. Total transparency and establishing the faith of the business brand are crucial for finding investors in favor.

3. Lacking Experience in Business Management

You have a great business idea backed up by a sound business plan and solid trustworthiness based on your background, but you have zero experience in managing a business. This is a serious reason for an investor to deny making any investment in your business. An investor cannot put his money just to allow you trying and learning your management skills the harder and riskier way. Uncertainty is the single biggest turn-off factor for any investor and lack of managerial experience is synonymous to that.

4. Business Model is Not Sound Enough

You have a business idea, some efficient, competent and experienced professionals as leaders, the great stamp of trust and pretty much everything that make a company look promising. But what about your business strategy and business model? Are they sound enough to take on the market competition and challenges for business growth? Well, this is what investors are most interested in.

In most cases, a business model is what makes an investor think twice and even take a backward step from investing in a startup. After all, your business model and strategy will decide how your business and products will be able to withstand competition and become victorious.

5. Taking Investors for Granted

This is a big mistake on the part of many startups. Just by becoming confident in the potential and the soundness of the business model and prospect, a business can consider getting investors on board requires just a little effort and time. But in reality, getting investors on board is the toughest thing a business can think of.

This is why without proper and meticulous preparation, it would be foolish to approach investors for your business. Most investors receive hundreds of such emails and a similar number of approaches through other means and they coldly just let them pass. This is why you need to send them very detailed proposals backed by strong recommendations and referrals.

6. Targeting the Wrong Investor

Every business has a target customer base, right? Not all customers are interested in every product in the market. Similarly, not all investors are interested in your business. Investors based on their prior experience and industry exposure, put their money in businesses that they know like their own palm of their hand.

So, targeting an investor who has no interest in your business will only drain your energy and bring you unnecessary frustration. When you are seeking investors for your software startup, don’t approach someone investing in real estate business.

7. Non-Realistic Proposal for Funds

Investors normally come with huge experience of your industry and so they have a clear idea about the fund requirements for your business startup. Moreover, they already have invested in other ventures or have gone through many proposals. Naturally, they have every bit of estimate already in their mind. So, any proposal claiming a lofty and unrealistic amount will only face rejection.

This is why it would be wise to become meticulous about your estimation of the required fund and calculation of various cost factors. Have meticulous details about every facet of investment backed up by breakup of the costs. Only when you can convince them with correct estimation, investors can take interest in discussing the matter further.

8. Make Sure Your Product Solves a Customer Problem

Will any investor put money in building a simple calendar app now? No, simply because such an app idea has no value for the end users now. Will an investor put money in a product that has already been outdated and has no use? No, no investor has to even go through such a proposal for dismissing them.

Well, to fetch investment, your product must be thoroughly customer-centric. It not only has to solve a problem but has to deliver some competitive value in comparison to similar products in the market.

Obviously, finding an investor for a new business is not an easy task, considering the huge competition that businesses need to deal with. But, if your business idea is unique and you fill all those requirements correctly as mentioned above, finding investors may not be as tough as it sounds.

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5 Must Have Branding Tools for Your Startup

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Your brand is more than just the colors on your website. And for startups, it’s important to create a strong and memorable brand from the beginning if you want to stand out from the competition, scale your company, and find your ideal customers faster.

Here are 5 simple tools that will help your company avoid branding mistakes, take charge of your visual identity, and set a solid foundation for future growth:

1. Graphic Design Software

The word “design” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before deciding on your startup’s logo, colors, designs, and overall tone, consider working with a brand strategist who can translate the core ingredients of your startup into a visual identity that speaks to your target market.

Brand strategists have expertise in the psychology of colors, shapes, textures, and words, and they will work with you to make sure that your branding appeals to your target audience. Once you have those basics of your brand established, there are several tools that can help your company refresh and maintain your visual identity.

The absolute best graphic design tool for non-designers is Canva. While the free version has a lot of functionality, the paid plans offer more customization such as the ability to import your exact brand fonts and colors.

But if your company handles all of your design in-house, you will need something more advanced than Canva. In that situation, I would recommend Adobe Creative Cloud to startups who work on their designs in-house, as it includes top-notch design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, InDesign, and more.

“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room – Jeff Bezos

2. Visuals & Creative Imagery

Have you ever wondered where your competitors get those beautiful branded photographs that end up on their website? While it’s possible that they worked with a photographer, it’s also likely that much of their imagery comes from stock photos.

Here are my recommendations on the exact places to purchase stock imagery to improve your company’s branding:

  • Creative Market – A treasure trove of quality visual imagery where you can buy anything from stock photos, to branding mockups, to social media templates (Facebook cover photo, anyone?), to custom fonts… the options are nearly endless.
  • Adobe Stock – Beloved by designers, and the platform offers tiered pricing plans based on your image needs and download quantity.
  • Pixels – If you’re on a tight budget and just need to grab an image or two for a blog post, you may be able to find what you need on Pixels – which is great because all of the photos and videos on Pixels are free!

3. Social Media Scheduler

You’re a leader. You’re an entrepreneur. Your staff, board, funders, and admirers depend on you to make big decisions, lead the ship, and plot the vision towards your company’s future. You don’t have time to stare at a blank screen every day wondering what to post on Facebook.

By using a social media scheduling tool, you can sit down for a few hours, schedule batches of content, and schedule the dates and times when it will post to your accounts over the next couple of months. Then, once the content is posted, you only need to worry about responding to comments and engaging with your customers. 21st century efficiency at its finest.

Popular social media schedulers include Buffer and Hootsuite, both of which include free and paid plans. Not sure what exactly to post? Check out these social media ideas from influential businesses. And if the idea of writing and planning months of content still overwhelms you, our next tool will help you stay organized and on-brand.

4. Editorial Calendar

When it comes to your content, it’s time to step it up a notch and start thinking like a media outlet. Every piece of content that you put out as a company, whether it’s an e-mail blast, blog post, social media post, podcast, or video, needs to be aligned with your brand.

Each major magazine maintains an editorial calendar which outlines the overarching theme for each of the upcoming 12+ months. By establishing a monthly content theme in advance, they create a framework to generate and organize their ideas.

Consider creating an internal editorial calendar that will guide your startup’s content over the next 6-12 months. The software tool you use to maintain your editorial calendar isn’t that important — I like to use Trello, but you can also create a simple numbered list in Google Docs or Microsoft Excel. You may be surprised at how quickly the creative juices flow once you have an editorial calendar in place.

“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand

5. In-Person Networking

Offline efforts count towards your branding too! And if you run your entire startup from behind your laptop screen, you miss out on ample opportunities to build your business offline and gain local referral partners.

If you’re new to in-person networking, start by visiting Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com where you can browse for events in your area. Think outside the box when it comes to selecting events to attend. For example: If you’re a chiropractor, it makes sense to attend local holistic health meetups. But you could also attend a travel event and meet digital nomads who don’t yet realize that a chiropractor can help them recover after long plane rides.

Remember that you’re not at the networking event to make instant sales, you’re looking for referral partners and connections. Don’t be the person who tries to shove your sales pitch down everyone’s throat upon meeting them.

As you can see, there are many simple online and offline resources that can help you spruce up your branding, reach new customers, and pique the interest of your target market. If you take branding one step at a time and start with the tools above, you will be well on your way to creating a brand that your customers will cherish and remember.

Have you used any of these branding tools before? Are there any additional tools that have helped your startup’s branding shine? Share your thoughts below!

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