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Starting a business can be an intimidating undertaking, especially when it’s your first one. You’re often feeling imposter syndrome in full force, and no matter how much planning and research you do ahead of time, rarely does any aspect of business go how you’d expect.
Because of this fact, for many entrepreneurs, hindsight is 20/20. Now with established careers and businesses, they can better reflect on what may have gone wrong or what they could have done better when they first started out. Below, a panel of 14 Rolling Stone Culture Council members share the lessons they wish they had known when starting their businesses and how that knowledge may have helped them grow along the way.
You Know More Than You Think You Do
I wish I had known that I know more than I think I do. Just because I have never started a business before doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. I just had to believe in myself and my intelligence, which can be a hard thing to do! I wish I had more confidence at the beginning, instead of feeling like everyone else was the expert. – Amanda Reiman, Personal Plants
Not All Sales Have to Work Out
You don’t have to accept every customer or force every sale to happen. Some things not working out are simply blessings in disguise. Trying to force something to happen can ultimately end up blowing up and hurting both parties far more than if the transaction had never occurred in the first place. – Lisa Song Sutton, Elite Homes Christie’s International Real Estate
You Need a Good Team as Soon as Possible
Hire the right people as soon as humanly possible. While going at it alone with lower overhead is great and sustainable in the early days, to do something great you need the right folks around you. – Russel Wilenkin, Old Pal
It’s OK to Build Your Company Publicly
I think a lot of times when you’re starting a new business, you keep it a secret and “under wraps” until you’re ready to launch or present what you’ve been building to the world. I’ve learned that building in public, and sharing as you’re building, is important because the best audiences develop an affinity for your brand and they help you improve your product along the way. – Milan Kordestani, Guin Records
You Should Trust Your Instincts
I wish I would have had more confidence in my own abilities. I do now, but I didn’t trust my decisions for my personal growth early on launching into new business endeavors. It took time for me to see that my guidance for others was working and I needed to follow my own advice. So trust your instincts and plow ahead. – Michael Newman, The Bureau of Small Projects
Goals Are Important, Even if They Might Change
I wish I understood how important it was to outline goals and expectations before starting a business, even if you suspect those goals might change. Without giving yourself something to shoot for, it can be hard to know where you are going.This can result in spending all your time running around without any set direction and relying more on luck than planning, which is not sustainable in the long run. – Tyler Kowalske, Outpost Brands
Wearing Many Hats Isn’t Sustainable Long Term
Being CEO of a startup means wearing many different hats in the short term, but it is not a plan for long-term growth. Trying to do it all as CEO could eventually inhibit the company’s overall growth. Hire the right people to help with the things that aren’t your strength. To reach maximum scalability, a business needs the right team, so put a focus on building that team from the outset. – Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery
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Starting Out Means Being Conservative With Your Spending
Limit overhead and spend only on what you must have to grow your business. I over-invested in people and office space and, when the recession crept up on me, the pain was much worse than it should have been. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to rebuild and relaunch my company and weathered the pandemic storm as a result of my prior gaffes and learning. – Nancy A Shenker, theONswitch & nunu ventures
You Can’t Do It Alone
Launching and running a business is lonely. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for literally everything, and as your success scales, so do issues. I joined YPO, a business leader peer group, in 2017, and having the support and sounding board of other business leaders helped me to make better decisions. I wish I had joined a peer group and leveraged that valuable resource from the beginning. – Jessica Billingsley, Akerna
You Should Hire Slow and Fire Fast
Hire slow and fire fast. Team trust with teammates who play to win and who are also good people is critical to success through group flow. Group flow is the most powerful form of flow state and is what allows special forces and elite athletic teams to win like superheroes. Bad actors impact the entire unit and the faster you get them out, the better. A team who operates in flow will win. – Will Kleidon, Ojai Energetics PBC
Garnering Brand Attention Early On Is Key
I wish I knew how valuable attention was online early on so I would have immediately made it a top priority. The attention creates the need so that the service or product can then adapt to the audience. This has been instrumental in our success in the last few years; however, we spent a decade focusing on other things that were down the list of importance. A personal brand has been massive. – Justin Brock, Medicare Gurus
It’s OK to Ask Questions
I wish I felt comfortable being vulnerable and asking questions sooner. I now absorb information like a sponge and relish in opportunities to learn from and grow alongside my colleagues who have been in business longer than myself. I believe in the value of collaboration over competition and value sharing experiences with like-minded individuals so we can all elevate together. – Emily Blair, Emily Blair Media
Every Action Is Meaningful
Every action produces a reaction, whether that reaction comes days, months or even years later. The concepts you work on now will help you separate from your competition. It could be a person you connected with who came back down the line or even a product or service that you launched that wasn’t big initially. Always keep your eyes on the prize and keep working toward your goals no matter what. – Logan Forbes, Untitledexport MGMT
You Need a Lot of Grit and Determination to Succeed
Having tons of grit and determination is the key to success, especially when you are starting a new business. Dealing with the uncertainties and challenges that come your way requires a lot of determination and confidence in your abilities to overcome them. I believe that it’s important to understand how to deal with different situations and use this knowledge throughout your entrepreneurial journey. – Victoria Kennedy, Victorious PR