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Advice From 100 Successful Entrepreneurs On Starting Your Own Business

Joel Brown (Founder of Addicted2Success.com)

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100 Successful Entrepreneurs where asked “What do you wish you knew before you started a business?”

Here are there answers:

 

Advice From 100 Successful Entrepreneurs On Starting Your Own Business

1. I wish I would have known how unpredictable things can be at ALL times. I read a lot before starting my business and realized unexpected things happen, but never did I realize the frequency in which they do. You really need to learn how to adapt everyday to things you may not have forseen waking up that morning. – Scott Fineout

2. Before going into business I wish I knew the importance of having an established “Advisory Board”.  Having a mentor is one thing but having a counsel of people who are not only experts in various business related functions but are also cheerleaders and coaches for your success is another. – Kellie L. Posey

3. I wish I knew about the value of keeping it simple. Starting out young with plenty of energy and great ideas led me down many paths of distraction. Instead, by focusing first on what sells, why and at what price and then staying true to that over time, I would have saved a lot of headaches, time and supported profitability a lot sooner. The saying KISS is popular for a reason and particularly applicable when you’re an entrepreneur. – Deborah Osgood

4. The one thing that I wish I knew before starting a business was how much time you spend learning – it is constant – from self development, to business basics, to social media, – talk about wearing many hats! Oh my and thought motherhood was challenging. I love to learn new things but had no idea it was going to be like this. You have to learn how to act, how to present, how to close, how to keep in contact, how to prospect, and how to keep customers! – Michelle Morton

5. Focus on yourself as much as your product/service. The recipe is only as good as the Chef preparing the dish. – Mujteba H. Naqvi

6. That whatever my start-up budget is… I should have multiplied it by three – Aliya Jiwa

7. The most important, and costly, lesson I had to learn is that in order to grow in a good economy, and in order to survive in a bad one, it’s necessary to understand that one person can’t do it all. It requires the efforts of a team (sales, accounting, production-service delivery, management, etc.) to be effective. Too many young entrepreneurs, myself included, feel they can do it all. That’s a huge mistake. – Tom Coalson

8. Financially, I learned that you should get incorporated and need to have a great accountant that specializes in small business taxes.I also discovered that success is easier to achieve if you learn from people that know more than you instead of going it alone. – Eddy Salomon

9. I wish I would have known that the hardest part of owning and operating my own business would NOT have been how to create revenue on a monthly basis. I wish I would have hired a full time IT guy and a shrink to manage with my sales force! – Bradley W. Smith

10. I really wished I developed more social skills early on to spend more time developing relationships. Networking has been key to bringing in more business and I had practice this social ability more, then business may have come sooner rather than later. – Ali Allage

11. The best thing i did is to outsource all my administrative tasks. Now i have enough time to focus on other important tasks. – Gagan

12. Never pay full price for anything online (office supplies, stock photography, services, etc.)–always Google for coupons. – Bill Even

13. Location, location, location. It really is true! – Tanya Peila

14.  Finding the right Accounting / Financial Manager right up front was our biggest learning and biggest mistake. Completely changed our financial performance and caused us to hit a wall we should have avoided. – Mike Cleary

15. I wish I knew how much general information I would need to know and how long the process would take. Almost three years later Im still in the “set-up” phase to my business and teaching myself all about websites, graphic design, business law, bookkeeping, customer service, etc. – Leslie Boudreau

16. It’s important to get customer validation early on. You can have the greatest technology, or website, or service, or whatever, but it’s ultimately meaningless if you haven’t verified that there are actually customers willing to spend money on or around what you do. – Adam Rodnitzky

17. Business partnerships are like marriages and should be entered with the same care.  Like marriages, there are a lot of assumptions about what the partnership is/is not and communication about those will lead to better success. – J. Kim Wright

18. I wish I had known how few true entrepreneurs there are out there. Every time I thought I had a kindred spirit with whom to share experiences, lean on for support and provide support to them, it turned out that they were looking for a paycheck. Find a partner and a kindred spirit BEFORE you launch.  – Tom Reid

19. Small business owners should carefully reflect on how they can tastefully build referral sources through all contacts, and how to utilize social networks, including the vast resources of the internet, to build a referral base and, in turn, a client base. – Jay Weinberg

20. I wish I knew how important it is to never rely on anyone else. I  wasted a number of years “networking” in hopes of people referring  business. It never worked. My career took off when I assumed  responsibility for every aspect, including marketing and sales. – Rob Frankel

21. I did not realize the level of sacrifice that would be required to become not only an entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth every single second, but I had no idea that friends and family would not be able to relate. – Amber Schaub

22. I wish I had understood how little time I would have to do the things that I need to do in order to “produce” and to make money. Make sure that you spend your time and your energy on the revenue generating matters. Spend the money necessary to get help. Pay someone else to take care of all of the admin stuff. – Francoise Gilbert

23. I wish I knew how hard it was to manage employees and have good, competent help. I also wish I knew how to market, advertise, and work these social media tools. – Jamie Puntumkhul

24. Have a serious exit strategy & plan prior to opening doors. As an entrepreneur I was ready and willing to take the plunge to open my own company, but didn’t realize I had to structure my company around the exit strategy (i.e. make it sellable and transferable, and self sustaining without my everyday presence). – Christopher N. Okada

25. With my first companies I wished I had lined up a client and received a commitment to buy before I jumped in the water. – Patrick  J. Sweeny II

26. I wish that I would have known that my MBA wasn’t necessary to be an entrepreneur. I started business before and thought the MBA+ would give me a better insight to prevent me from making mistakes but I believe you either have it or you don’t. – Janice Robinson-Celeste

27. I wish I would have known how expensive running a business is – mainly payroll taxes, medical insurance, etc. We researched all of our fixed costs, however, the more we billed out, the less we keep. – Marian H. Gordon

28. Find the very best, most knowledgeable people you can afford and hire them with not just salary, but incentives. The better the people, the better the job done and advice given. – Ric Morgan American Business Arts Corporation

29. Several years after starting my business I learned that the best source of advice and peer support are fellow entrepreneurs, especially those who have attained the level of business success to which I aspire. – Charles E. McCabe

30. I wish I had understood the value of investing in high-level talent. As a start-up, it’s scary to think about hiring someone whose experience demands a higher-level salary. So you tend to hire less experienced individuals, but they typically don’t bring the intellectual capital or business savvy that can help you grow faster. – Susan Wilson Solovic

31. Starting a business is like getting married, you think you know what youre getting into and that youll be better then the median, but when it comes down to it you have no idea. – Summer Bellessa

32. The biggest thing I’ve learned and wish I would have known before I had started our company is the difference between sales and marketing. Everyone says sales and marketing together like they’re the same
thing. They’re not. – Scott D. Mashuda

33. I wish I would have known how important a real business plan was, a marketing strategy, and exit strategy were. You should really plan your first two years and have a hit list of sales/marketing opportunities that are interested before you take the leap. – Ben Wallace

34. Probably the most important thing I wish I had realized earlier was how little I knew about how consumers bought things on the Internet. I have been a web developer for years and knew all about technology, but little about marketing and getting inside the mind of the consumer. – Sara Morgan

35. You can’t put your life on hold while waiting for your venture to hit.   I have tremendous regret  around all of the family events, vacations, and time with friends that I missed because I was working on getting my film/company off the ground. – Pamela Peacock

36. Admittedly, we went into GiveForward knowing we’d have to be flexible and patient. All of the good books tell you this, but no one really tells you how emotionally draining that wait can be. – Desiree Vargas

37. Hands down without a doubt no questions asked – effective marketing. It truly does not matter how great your product or service is unless someone knows about it you are still behind the start line. – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

38. I thought if I had a great product and an attractive, functioning website customers would come.  Boy, was I wrong!  In the online world its all about SEO! – Semiha Manthei

39. I wish I’d have known that the only thing important in business is building a product that someone will buy. That’s it. It’s real easy for first time founders to get caught up in visions of grandeur – but in reality, the only things that matter are having a great product, and having customers that will pay actual money for it. – Brett Owens

40. Business books and all the education in the world can give you the foundation for starting a business, But they cannot show you the cold hard truth about how difficult it can be to start a business. – Michael Grosheim

41. One thing I wish I knew right off the bat is the benefit of networking.  I spent a lot of time trying to tackle everything on my own, but its really important to reach out to fellow entrepreneurs, complimentary businesses, family and friends for advice and support. – Cailen Ascher Poles

42. I wish I had known how important it is to outsource to other  professionals instead of trying to do everything myself, and  ultimately not always doing everything correctly. – Jennifer Hill

43. I wish I knew exactly how important it is to prioritize tasks and goals. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last few months is to prioritize what is important, in order of its proportionate worth. It is easy to do the little things that make you feel like you are accomplishing something, but it is the big important things that need your full attention – even if it is uncomfortable. – Evan Urbania

44. I was naive enough to think that if I had a great product that helped  people and at the same time had the lowest prices available for the  products we did sell that word would spread and people would be  excited to use our product. – Chris Sorrells

45. I wish I had known that you dont need to be right with your first iteration of your business plan.  Young businesses naturally deviate from their roadmap as the founders ideas about what will work get tested by reality.  Smart entrepreneurs listen to the feedback they get and adapt. – Matt Lally

46. I wish I’d understood the incalculable value of having just the right executive assistant, someone who can leverage your time and actually be an extension of yourself. – Barry Maher

47. I wish I had more marketing skills to take my business to the next level.  At this point I have to hire someone as I am super limited in this area. – Deb Bailey

48. I’ve learned that I can’t micromanage everything, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes you have to delegate certain responsibilties to others. Not only did this help keep me sane, but it was good for team building amongst employees. – Lev Ekster

49. I wish someone would have explained the difference between sales verses marketing. – Tom Pryor

50. I wish I knew depth of the thought process needed in starting a business, especially on a personal level. I wish I understood how my thoughts would affect my business. – Jennifer Ann Bowers

51. I wish I understand “cash flow”. I figured that as long as I brought in lots of business, the business would be great. Cash is king and always keep MORE of it than you forecast or expect to need. – Ryan Kohnen

52. I wish I had taken a class, or gotten practical experience in, using business accounting software. The investment would’ve been minimal, and it would’ve saved me (and my accountant) hours of frustration. Additionally, I wish I had spent a few bucks on an accountant to set up my books properly. – Shane Fischer

53. What I didn’t know then was the value of networking. You never know where business will come from. And having friends and acquaintances from political, business and social circles may prove to be your best new business referral! – Melissa Stevens

54. I wish I completely understood what “cash flow” meant and how important it is to live within a budget and how important it is to hire the correct people, rather than just able bodies. – Kelly Delaney

55. The one thing that I wish I would have known before going into business more, was my own strengths and how I use them on a daily basis. – Jason C. Raymer

56. Trademark/ Copyright info – 3 months after we had started one of the businesses we had to completely scrap all the branding and build a totally new site, social media, EVERYTHING due to a legal issue regarding trademark. – Sarah Cook

57. I wish I knew how to proficiently do marketing via the web, newsletters and blogs. The other key thing is to get the right coach. I eventually used www.onecoach.com, headed by John Assaraf of “The Secret”, who finally helped me pull my business together. – Nancey C. Savinelli

58. I really had to understand the “basics” of business and how to capitalize on the small opportunities to given to me and turn them into “larger than life” success stories. – Darren Magarro

59. I wish that early on I had sought out more business leaders in my field. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized the value of the knowledge to be learned from veteran industry players and how it could help me grow my business. – Jim Janosik

60. I wish I had seriously thought about branding and the longevity of the brand. Looking back, I should have thought about what was going to define my company, what would be a look that would last for years and not go out with the trends, and what image I wanted my customers to see when they first started researching my company. – Katie Webb

61. If you have taken the time to think through things (price, service, contracts, delivery) don’t be so quick to change it up just because a Client wants you to. – Joni Daniels

62. I wish I knew not to expect things to happen for us. Often times, we were waiting to get lucky and not making our own luck. We learned that nothing is going to get handed to us on a silver platter and if we want it, we have to go out and get it. – Ben Lerer

63. At the time of founding it I was so focused on survival I didn’t think about the exit strategy. – Laurence J. Stybel

64. I wish I’d know how much easier it is to build a business around an established market that’s already looking for a solution to its problems rather than trying to build the market around the business I wanted to start. – John Crickett

65. How challenging it is to get people who request our services to pay. Since we are a nonprofit/community organization, everyone thinks our services are free because of grants or corporate giving. – Candi Meridith

66. You have to have to have some sort of passion in order to be successful. But no matter how much you want to believe it, doing what you love because you love it and doing what you love as a business are different. Don’t expect every day to be bliss. – Andy Hayes

67. I wish I knew it didn’t take tons of money to get started, so I would have started it sooner. I think that holds a lot of people back. – Candy Keane

68. When I was opening my first business, I made the near lethal error of leasing a business location without a plan. Once I got in the location I had to do three times the amount of marketing necessary just to contend with the competition. I spent more on marketing than I would have spent on the extra rent of a better spot on the street I was on. – S. Zargari

69. I would have spent more time selecting the most qualified technical resource by interviewing more people more strenously to ensure we got the most talented resource for our money…both short term and long term – Jennifer Myers Robb

70. Get a coach – someone who can walk you through the jungle to get you to the gold. Why bother flying blind, when others have blazed the trail before you? Starting a business without a coach is like getting in the car and driving. Sure you can move–and fast–but using a map is so much smarter than not. – Richard J. Atkins

71. I wish I’d known it would not be enough to know my stuff cold. (I’m a subject matter expert, but the same would apply to someone with a product.) You have to really know (or be willing to learn FAST) how
to market yourself and have a plan to do it. – Judy Hoffman

72. I just wish I knew how much free goods I would have to give out in order to promote my products. – Jacqui Rosshandler

73. I wish I knew that there was a fine line between self-employment and un-employment. Second, I wish that I knew more about the competitiveness of my type of business and had spent some time interviewing people who were successfully doing what I wanted to do. – Cyndi A. Laurin

74. I wish I had known that starting a business would give me so much happiness, and worry. I knew that it would be hard, but I had no ideas of the hills and valleys that would come with being a business owner. – Shay Olivarria

75. I knew that starting a business was going to be a lot of work, but I didnt know much work and that it was going to go slower than I had expected.  I wish I had known that there was going to be a lot that I didnt know, but that its ok because Ive figured it out (and am still figuring it out!) along with way. – Grace Bateman

76. Everyone will not be happy or supportive of you starting a business or succeeding in it, and that’s okay, as you do not need their nod, their vote of confidence or their praise… you have your own. – Anahid Derbabian

77. Don’t work with your spouse. If you want to wreck a marriage, be together 24/7 with one person exerting power over the other. – Susan Schell

78. Relationship Marketing – I wish I had understood the importance of staying connected with past clients and nurturing relationships with current clients. Your personal life, your spiritual life and your professional life is all about the relationship. – Sandie Glass

79. I wish I would have realized earlier the importance of having a core group of target customers. Find a handful of people and build a trust with them. Test various products and services on them and eventually use their passion and your business to fuel evangelism to grow as you refine your business model. – Dayne Shuda

80. If you’re young, and especially if you’re a woman, you may be tempted to undersell your product or service – or worse, give them away – in order to get into the game. Don’t. Set up a pricing structure that’s in line with your business plan and allows you to grow your business. – Ruth Danielson

81. I wished I had learned about the need for business systems and process documentation and why they are important. I have found they are a life saver to developing a work environment that thrives since everyone in the company knows what they are supposed to be doing and can easily reference the steps. – Adam Sayler

82. What I wish I knew before I started a business was a really great business advisor! Most of us go into a business with a big heart for the product and lots of excitement. Few of us really know how to run a business. –Kelley Small

83. I wish I knew how long it would take to build a steady stream of clients and establish strong relationships with customers and vendors. – Alexis Avila

84. I didn’t take into account what being a home business owner would mean I mean I’m in my house a
lot! I have to eat 3 times a day and there are very few delivery places where I live – so making a mess in the kitchen 3 times a day, and cleaning the office myself. – Maria Marsala

85. I wish I had known how demanding entrepreneurship is on the entire family. It took me months to realize that they were giving as much or more than me by picking up the slack around home and giving me space to pursue a dream. – Carrie Rocha

86. To be patient. When I first started, I expected results instantly. I’d get frustrated when things didn’t work the way I planned. Luckily, I didn’t have any hang-ups about failing, so I kept trying new things
and slowly built upon those things that worked. – Naveed Usman

87. How much money would I make in the first couple years of operation.  Obviously, this answer would of told me to find a steady job and do this on the side until I really got it going 3-4 years later. – Marc Anderson

88. I wish I knew that cash flow wasn’t the same as profits, that employees are not paid friends and that you should always trust but never let anyone open your bank statements. – Anne-Marie

89. The one thing I wish I had done differently is not spent money on advertising offers that don’t pay off. This is business people don’t often do things out of the goodness of their heart. I’ve learned to be a lot more skeptical of “opportunities” I get offered. – Adrien

90. One piece advice I would give to people just starting up that I wish knew is that success is less about the idea and more execution. Don’t wait until you have the great idea or have refined all the plans, just get something up and start iterating. – Ben Hatten

91. How important it is to network, instead of attempting to fly solo. Fortunately, my belated learning didn’t negatively impact my company for too long but the soaring would definitely have occurred sooner had I considered the value of self-promotion. – Marlene Caroselli

92. I wish I knew how much my time was really worth and the best way to set my rates. I made an early mistake by charging too little and booking myself so tightly that I didn’t have enough time to work on some projects the way I wanted to and I couldn’t hire anyone to help me because I didn’t allow for the added cost. – Susan Bender Phelps

93. I wish I knew the importance of networking when I first started my web design company. It took me a few months to realize that referrals and networking are the best types of leads. People want to do business with people they like! – Becky McKinnell

94. First, that being successful causes growing pains that are a major headache. A good headache to have, but difficult challenges nevertheless. Second, it would have been nice to know it can take a year or so for things to take off. Starting a business can be frustrating in the beginning and you really have to be determined to succeed. – Nick Veneris

95. Dont listen too closely your friends who might be good business people but who have never started a business.  They mean well, but their assumptions are way different as an employee of a company than they could ever be as a principal shareholder in a business. – Elizabeth Pitt

96. I wish that someone had told me that managing a business isn’t about numbers, but rather all about people skills. During my first management foray I fell face first in the dirt. People called me a micro-manager because I got too much into the nitty gritty of how to do the job rather than allowing them to find their own way. – Steve Richard

97. I wish I had known that starting a business requires you to ride an emotional roller coaster.  You can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in a matter of hours because a startup company always seems be on the verge of either collapsing or taking off like a rocket.  Now making my business grow is all the more exhilarating because I survived demoralizing low points to get it off the ground. – Alex Andon

98. That it is OK to trust your instincts — even when they are not necessarily backed up by years of finance/accounting or business school credentials – Jenn Benz

99. Less time spent on paid marketing/advertising efforts and more time screening and building strong partnerships with influential journalists, writers, editors and television producers. – Philip Farina

100. I now know that businesses are extremely organic & have a way of taking on a life of their own – now I know that though things don’t always work out as planned, there is always another opportunity around the corner…understanding this from the beginning would’ve saved me a lot of stress! – Rina Jakubowicz

 

SOURCE – under30CEO.com

I am the the Founder of Addicted2Success.com and I am so grateful you're here to be part of this awesome community. I love connecting with people who have a passion for Entrepreneurship, Self Development & Achieving Success. I started this website with the intention of educating and inspiring likeminded people to always strive for success no matter what their circumstances. I'm proud to say through my podcast and through this website we have impacted over 100 million lives in the last 6 and a half years.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Emmanuel

    Mar 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    This is a great list Joel, it is always a good idea to have many opinions on a particular issue.

    As was mentioned in the post, young people think they can handle everything alone. But if we would focus on what really matters and leave the rest to other people, we will experience quicker growth.

  2. mckybarf60

    Aug 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

    i simply love this page. hold many hidden treasures. up for the one who compiled this.

  3. Mary Lou Green

    Jul 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Great list! I would add I wish I knew that our business and relationship would be intertwined all the time. We didn’t stop talking about work after 6 PM. Once I understood how valuable it was to be ready to talk about the business at any time, I learned so much about my husband and partner—how he thinks, what he dreams, what his challenges are. Once I knew these things, I became a better partner because I could research, problem-solve and be ready to help or take over something to keep us moving forward.

  4. Maxine

    Oct 20, 2012 at 4:17 am

    I really enjoy receiving your Tweets on Twitter and all of the articles are so informative. I am addicted to your website. Love, Love, Addicted2Success.

    • Curtis B. Lichfield

      Mar 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      This site is truely inspirational I love it because it is all about the real life that one experiences in being an Entrepreneur and starting a Successful business and career of being a self made person! CB. It isn’t about how many times that one fails, it is ALL about getting back up and never loosing site of your goals, dreams, and making it HAPPEN! God’s gift to us ALL, is the gift of Life, what we do with our lifes is our gift to God. Quitters never WIN, and WINNERS never QUIT! !, CB. Lichfield.

  5. iAN Macdonald

    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    In the beginning,I hired the best accounting firm even though I could not really afford it,they did extensive forecasts based on what I thought and what they had gathered from history of others.They established right from the offset a very smart company set up based on what we beleived would happen in the future ,this avoided a small fortune in corporate taxes . Bye the way I’m not talking big business. Ian

  6. Agnes Hertogs

    Jun 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Ewol

  7. angelique

    Jun 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I have been reading your website for months and follow you on twitter. Thank you..thank you…thank you.

    • Joel

      Joel

      Jun 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Angelique 🙂

  8. Jon Fanning

    Feb 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Hi, I do believe this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

Published

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Image Credit: Unsplash

In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

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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10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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Startups

10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

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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How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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Are Your SMART Goals Keeping You Stuck in Mediocrity?

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SMART Goals – they are often seen as the gospel in the personal and professional development industry for goal setting, but are they doing more harm than good? For the most part, I can appreciate the motivation behind setting SMART goals. Do we need goals that are specific, measurable, actionable and time based? Absolutely! My sticking point, however, comes to the “realistic” part. (more…)

Tiffany Toombs is a mindset coach, trainer, and presenter that specializes in helping people rewire their brains to overcome self-sabotage and limiting beliefs that stop them from finding success. Tiffany runs courses and workshops all over the world to empower people to take control of their lives and their minds so they can achieve their true potential in life. She believes that everyone has a message to share and helps her clients reconnect with themselves to find their passion and purpose. Tiffany has a range of valuable resources for people to understand their minds and how to access the power of their unconscious minds on YouTube or in her eBook “Unlocking The Secrets To The Unconscious Mind”.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Emmanuel

    Mar 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    This is a great list Joel, it is always a good idea to have many opinions on a particular issue.

    As was mentioned in the post, young people think they can handle everything alone. But if we would focus on what really matters and leave the rest to other people, we will experience quicker growth.

  2. mckybarf60

    Aug 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

    i simply love this page. hold many hidden treasures. up for the one who compiled this.

  3. Mary Lou Green

    Jul 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Great list! I would add I wish I knew that our business and relationship would be intertwined all the time. We didn’t stop talking about work after 6 PM. Once I understood how valuable it was to be ready to talk about the business at any time, I learned so much about my husband and partner—how he thinks, what he dreams, what his challenges are. Once I knew these things, I became a better partner because I could research, problem-solve and be ready to help or take over something to keep us moving forward.

  4. Maxine

    Oct 20, 2012 at 4:17 am

    I really enjoy receiving your Tweets on Twitter and all of the articles are so informative. I am addicted to your website. Love, Love, Addicted2Success.

    • Curtis B. Lichfield

      Mar 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      This site is truely inspirational I love it because it is all about the real life that one experiences in being an Entrepreneur and starting a Successful business and career of being a self made person! CB. It isn’t about how many times that one fails, it is ALL about getting back up and never loosing site of your goals, dreams, and making it HAPPEN! God’s gift to us ALL, is the gift of Life, what we do with our lifes is our gift to God. Quitters never WIN, and WINNERS never QUIT! !, CB. Lichfield.

  5. iAN Macdonald

    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    In the beginning,I hired the best accounting firm even though I could not really afford it,they did extensive forecasts based on what I thought and what they had gathered from history of others.They established right from the offset a very smart company set up based on what we beleived would happen in the future ,this avoided a small fortune in corporate taxes . Bye the way I’m not talking big business. Ian

  6. Agnes Hertogs

    Jun 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Ewol

  7. angelique

    Jun 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I have been reading your website for months and follow you on twitter. Thank you..thank you…thank you.

    • Joel

      Joel

      Jun 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Angelique 🙂

  8. Jon Fanning

    Feb 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Hi, I do believe this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit once again since I book-marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

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In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

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10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

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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How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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