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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

You Are The Problem With Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your company is a reflection of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

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

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

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

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


Change is a must.

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

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

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

Change you.

Not the business.

<<<>>>

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

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Startups

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

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startup success
Image Credit: Unsplash

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

How to Evaluate Success

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

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

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

The Numbers

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

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

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

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

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

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

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

2. Impact

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

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

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

3. Freedom

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

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

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

4. Time for Friends and Family

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

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

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

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Startups

The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Your clients tell you every day that you suck.

I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.

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

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

That wasn’t it.


You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.

I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A good business solves a problem.

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

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

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

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

Solving only your problem will make you poor.

The problem still wasn’t their website or product.


Creating more problems.

Everything this business owner sold created more problems.

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

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

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

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

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


The heart of the problem.

It’s the business owner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

<<<>>>

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

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Entrepreneurs

18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups

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business books

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

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