7 Things I Would Tell My Former ‘Startup’ Self

Here are seven practical lessons every entrepreneur needs to know.

Entrepreneurship is a journey. Your experience as a small business owner will constantly evolve. Change is inevitable.

When I started my first company, in my early twenties, I had a youthful mixture of bravado and blissful ignorance. Business moved fast. Money came quickly. I rested on my well-deserved laurels. Entrepreneurship came somewhat easy … I hadn’t yet attended hard knocks university. Everything seemed so important. Time moved so fast.

Looking back, there are things about starting a business, I didn’t carefully consider at the time. However, as time passed I learned invaluable business lessons that were pivotal to my growth as a person and an entrepreneur. These realizations are also important for your road ahead.

What would I tell my startup-self … as I was just getting started and learning the ropes of being my own boss? Here are seven practical lessons every entrepreneur needs to know.


1. Cozy up to rejection.

[pullquote align=”right”]“When someone tells me “no,” it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.” ― Karen E. Quinones Miller[/pullquote]Who, honestly, wants to hear the word “no”? It is a tough pill for your ego to swallow. Yet as an entrepreneur, it’s the first thing you’ll need to cozy up to. Why? Because you’ll have to push through quite a few “no’s” to get to the all important “yes.”

Many entrepreneurs don’t take vital steps in their businesses because they’d rather not hear someone say “no.” But it is essential to change your perception. If you let it, rejection can fortify you and raise your business to new heights as you learn from every “no” and capitalize on every “yes!” Think differently about the word. It doesn’t mean your business idea is not good. Nor does it mean you should give up. It simply means, it’s the wrong target, wrong timing or your offering needs refinement. Either way, a “no” is a win-win because it will put you one step closer to your “yes.”


2. Cheer up! Failure is good for you.

[pullquote align=”right”]“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” ― Paulo Coelho[/pullquote]Never run from failure. In fact, welcome it as early as possible. Failure is a teacher that will keep handing you the test until you pass. Failure knows the role it plays in your long-term success. It’s time you understood why it keeps showing up.

Failure is important because, if you are teachable, it guides you, saves time, and toughens your skin. Sure it hurts, often it is painful and you’d rather drop the class, but I’ve learned that it’s best to make small mistakes in comparison to much larger ones. You would rather get your business handed to you before you break six figures … even more so before you pull in your first million.


3. Control freaks don’t build empires.

Can I tell you a secret? I used to vehemently say, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” Wrong answer. As they say in the South, “Bless her heart.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“The greatest step towards a life of simplicity is to learn to let go.” ― Steve Maraboli[/pullquote]Most entrepreneurs are inherently, ahem, controlling. But the business reality is this: If you don’t let go and get over yourself you will build a business eventually, but it will never live up to its full potential.

As a startup, your first goal is not to hoard all of the business hats you’ll inevitably wear. In fact, the sooner you can work your way out of a job — the better. Letting go is scary, but it is necessary. Loosen the reigns and empower others to help build your vision. Rome wasn’t built in a day or by one person.


4. Don’t get easily distracted.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” ― Zig Ziglar[/pullquote]Discover your why early on. When you know why being your own boss is important to you, you won’t be so easily distracted. And believe me, life will always be there to distract you from your goals. Whether you encounter positive life changes or struggles, soon you will come to a crossroads. The sign will read, “Do you really want this?”

If you aren’t completely sold out to your dream you’ll easily find excuses on why you should stop. Figure out what type of life you want to live and resolve yourself to do what it takes to succeed. Remain focused — “No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets.”


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