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7 Lessons Learned Over 15 Years Working With Startups

Being a female entrepreneur isn’t easy, but I enjoy the challenges and rewards it brings. Here are seven lessons I learned along the way.

My passion for PR began in high school. Connection and communication have always fascinated me, so I was thrilled when I graduated from my journalism program and was offered an internship at London’s Metia Group. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies like eBay and Microsoft and some of the brightest minds in entrepreneurship and venture capital.

Dina Mostovaya is a business consultant and the founder of Mindset Consulting.
Photo: Dina Mostovaya, founder of Mindset Consulting | Courtesy Photo

I’ve spent almost two decades learning from the best experts in the industry and honing my PR skills through observation, hands-on experience, and trial and error. My goal has always been mastery, so I’m constantly seeking ways to improve in all aspects of life. I’ve always made time for development with coaches and mentors while building a business from the ground up. During my career, I’ve learned the following important lessons I believe anyone can benefit from.


1. You’re never too busy.

Over the years, I’ve learned that “I don’t have time” is code for “I don’t want to do it.”

In my work with entrepreneurs, I’ve realized that I can do anything if I prioritize effectively. Our ability to move forward and accomplish goals depends on prioritizing what we wish to put genuine effort into.

For example, if I want to participate in a marathon, I’ll make time to train every day. Whether that means getting up earlier, prioritizing a weekend run, or rearranging my evening routine, I’ll find the time if it’s something I care about doing. The same goes for other areas of my life.

Priorities should serve as a “guiding star” to help you stay the course. However, remember that if everything is a priority, then nothing is. There’s a quote that says, “You can do anything, but not everything,” which resonates here. If I make marathon training as important as everything I do, then nothing is a true priority, and I’m back to where I started. Determine what matters most; set your priorities and start acting.


2. Hiring is the most critical skill when building your business.

You must hone your hiring skills above all when founding a company. In the U.S., it takes about six weeks to fill a position and another 12 weeks before the new hire is competent and productive. Recruiting and keeping talented people is a full-time job, and there are no shortcuts.

In my personal experience, there have been many cases where hiring the right person solved at least a third of all business challenges. The key idea is, if you hire the right people, you should trust them to try their ideas and let them know they’re valued. New employees may have new, better ways of doing their job, so it’s important not to micromanage or be inflexible.


3. Resilience is vital.

In my 15 years of working with entrepreneurs, I’ve seen them solve a near-endless stream of problems daily. The one thing they all had in common was the ability to face failures with the knowledge that they’re sometimes unavoidable. You’re going to fail sometimes. It’s inevitable, but it’s okay.


4. Done is better than perfect.

This is one of the best pieces of advice from my coach. Perfection is the enemy of progress. The best thing you can do is “just do it.” The business world is fast-paced, and nothing is perfect on the first try. However, waiting until it’s perfect means that, at best, you’re behind, and at worst, the idea will fail.


5. Focus on quality over quantity in relationships.

When I first started, I worked a lot. I thought I would set a world record for the number of meetings I held, and I did my best not to waste a second of time on “unimportant” things.

During the pandemic lockdowns, my focus shifted to the quality and depth of my relationships. Now, I devote more time to casual conversations or shared morning runs because I realize it’s important to understand how others think and feel.

This lesson carried over to my agency, too. Clients and partners are more like friends than professional acquaintances, making our work more effective. I’ve also changed my communication style with clients and team members from consulting to coaching. I don’t tell them what to do; I help them find the right solution on their own. This approach elevates everyone.


6. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Diversification is critical. Things change with lightning speed (the pandemic hammered that home!), and you need to stay a step ahead, so you don’t lose everything when a crisis inevitably happens. For example, as a global PR consultant and founder, I need to understand both communications and the client’s industry.

Sector expertise is essential, so my team and I shouldn’t focus exclusively on media relations. It’s better to develop a skill set in other related business areas as well. For me, diversification is about constantly learning. When the world is changing and demanding new approaches, it helps you stay afloat and maintain your efficiency. Long-term success requires being a lifelong student.


7. Mental health is the foundation of success and happiness.

I’m a crazy workaholic. Some people mistakenly say that with pride, but when the pandemic hit and we were stuck at home, I learned that mental health is more important than work ambitions. During quarantine, I could easily work 14 hours without breaks.

Eventually, I started feeling exhausted, even though my physical health checks were fine. Later, I had a serious conversation with my therapist about the importance of rest time, no matter how busy I think I am (which, as I mentioned above, isn’t about being too busy). I now share this approach with my team and clients. As a leader, it’s my job to set an example and encourage everyone to take their mental health seriously.


Dina Mostovaya is a business consultant and the founder of Mindset Consulting. For 15 years, she has been helping technology companies and startups develop and implement strategic communications in the U.S. and across Europe. Dina is a member of the Global Women in PR Association and the TEDxWaterStreet’s Advisory Board, and a Judge of The International Business Awards 2022 by Stevie Awards. She was named the Best Woman in PR by the international Davos Communications Awards 2022. In 2020, she was shortlisted for the Impact Award by GWPR.


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