Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go back in time and tell your beginner self all of the things you know today? You’d save yourself a lot of stress and wasted time.
But, we all live and learn from our experiences — both good and bad. It’s part of the process of growing into a well-rounded entrepreneur.
I asked around to see what several successful entrepreneurs wish they knew when they started. Maybe this wisdom will give you some valuable foresight.
I Wish I Knew...
To Surround Myself with Fellow Entrepreneurs
Allen Walton of SpyGuySecurity was able to grow his online store to seven figures as a one-man team. But what he wished he’d known when he started was to build up a network of fellow entrepreneurs.
He said, “I wish I had surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs. Starting a business by yourself can be incredibly lonely and depressing. Nobody knows what you're going through. I wish I had been around other entrepreneurs that could keep me inspired and working hard.”
Lesson Learned: It’s important to have a group of like-minded entrepreneurs you can call on to bounce ideas off, to share your worries and concerns with, and lean on as support during the days big challenges feel overwhelming.
Success Doesn’t Come Overnight
Lori Cheek of Cheekd started a business that the New York Times called “the next generation of online dating.” And while she thought that meant she’d be a billionaire by the end of the year, she learned that success as an entrepreneur doesn’t happen quickly.
She said, “Five years into the entrepreneurial hustle, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you'd hoped, cost exceedingly more than you'd ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you'll ever try, but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime.”
Lesson Learned: Be brave and follow your instincts, but prepare yourself for a lot of hard work. Success comes to those who truly strive for it.
Not to Mix Family and Friends with Business
When Lizanne Falsetto founded thinkThin Products, she thought bringing in friends and family to her business was a great way to work with the people she most cared about. But over time, she realized that these relationships aren’t always best served within a business setting.
She said, “Loved ones are convenient because they can be trusted; however, the relationship can easily become damaged in the long run due to personal opinions. You have passion, they have passion. Keep your personal relationships separate from business decisions and everybody wins.”
Lesson Learned: Keep a divide between loved ones and business. Don’t put valuable relationships at risk.
The Importance of a Great Website
Mark Aselstine of Uncorked Ventures quickly realized that a strong web presence can make or break a business. And while DIY web design is affordable, it’s not always the right choice.
He said, “Not just anyone can design a website, and not every website that looks good will cause people to buy your product. There's a whole industry of professionals in conversion industry. Hire one of them to design your site, and then A/B test the hell out of it.”
Lesson Learned: Design is important for making a strong online impression. Some things just require a professional, even when there are easier and cheaper options available.
Online Advertising Isn’t Always the Answer
Nellie Akalp successfully sold her first business for $20 million to Intuit, but she still had plenty to learn when she moved on to her current business, CorpNet. She thought that pouring money into PPC ads would help her get a leg up over her competitors. She was wrong.
She said, “I wish I knew I didn't have to try and stand up to our big-name competitors by pouring tons of money into online advertising. I thought it was the only way we would survive against them. Little did I know, we brought in traffic organically via our own marketing efforts, which stood us apart from those big companies. I was able to take that crazy advertising budget and invest in growing my sales team which has taken our business to the next level.”
Lesson Learned: Spend your money on the methods that actually grow your business by studying the numbers — don’t just go with what you assume is right.
Wisdom Comes from Experience
All of these lessons are powerful—and I’m sure you have your own insight that’s shaped your entrepreneurial journey. All kids of entrepreneurs wish they knew the things they know now, but have benefited from the learning experience.
The thing to remember is this: As long as you learn from your mistakes and experiences, you can only improve. Don’t let obstacles and errors ruin your business—just learn from them, and let them make you stronger.