When you look back on your entrepreneurial journey, it can all make sense. Events seem connected, chance encounters seem preordained, and you seem to glide through each day knowing where you’re going. In reality it is not at all like that.
Most entrepreneurs try every avenue and hope one leads to something good. Those who have reached this place look back and connect the dots, knowing that they were just a few decisions away from the success they aspired to.
I asked entrepreneurs what advice they would give their former selves and their answers were broken down into three main categories.
Surround yourself with winners
Caroline Joynson, founder of Cheerleader PR, believes that you “need to be really clear about who you want to work with and how you want to work with them.” Surround people who ‘get’ the entrepreneurial rollercoaster”. Joynson says co-working is great for that.
In addition to spending time with positive people, spend time with people who help you grow. Hang out with “people who are different and better than you,” said SEO and PPC expert Peter Van Zelst, who wants you to “listen to others but believe in yourself and trust your instincts.” Self-confidence was also the advice from coach Suzannah Butcher, who knows, “It’s easy to get caught up in following the systems, strategies and blueprints of multiple gurus, but you need to define and honor your personal values and ethos Instead, she advised, “Stick to one or two people you can follow whose values align with yours.”
Coach and mentor Angela Ward’s advice was to be careful who she’s listening to. She would tell her former self, “Find a mentor who can help you stay focused, eliminate all self-limiting beliefs, and any other nonsense we tell ourselves about why we can’t do something or why we don’t deserve it.” Cerub PR founder Ceri-Jane Hackling also wants to be around people who challenge her while they “stay persistent and build their network.” Finally, says author and entrepreneur Lucy Werner Wächter, whose words you internalize very well. “If they’re not living the life you want, don’t take their advice,” she said. “Success is a one size fits all.”
Please help and feedback
It’s not enough to simply spend time with positive, supportive, and experienced people in hopes that their impact will rub off on you. These entrepreneurs would tell their former selves to intentionally ask for help and feedback. Dent Global founder Daniel Priestley advised “ask for brutal, hard-hitting feedback from customers and more experienced entrepreneurs” to improve your concept. Once you do, you’ll feel defensive and argue why they’re wrong, but Priestley said, “Do whatever you can to fight the urge to ignore what they’re saying.”
Erin Moroney, founder of Nibble Simply, agrees, advising her former self to “get product feedback from people outside of your circle of friends and family” because “they’re less likely to say what you want to hear.” That honest input was crucial as she created her range of low-sugar, vegan treats. Moroney also warned against taking advice (and cash) from anyone, adding, “Never take investments from someone you don’t want to have dinner with.”
Your network of fellow entrepreneurs drives your business forward. It will likely be the source of your ideas, investments, and first few clients. Not only that, but the answer to your questions and a shoulder to cry on. And it is needed. “Your friends aren’t really going to get it,” said Tom Whitely, founder of BrewBix. “Share stories, problems, and feedback with a group of entrepreneurs” because “it likes to talk about small businesses, but not many others.” Asking the right people for help solves problems like nothing else.
Be hungry to learn, then empower others
Fast learning is particularly important in the early days. Understanding what drives your business to grow and stagnate is a continuous cycle that needs to be worked on. Podcaster Sam Floy said: “The best thing I’ve done was learn to sell. Twelve to eighteen months working for another company under a good manager will enable you to generate your own income and not depend on outside investment.” Improve your skills; learn from others.
Ellie English founder Ellie Caudwell Casey agreed that self-skills are important for self-starters, saying, “Before you outsource everything, make sure you know how to do anything.” After you know how to do something do is find out if someone else can do it. The digital agency’s founder, Javan Bramhall, advised that “build the system and then give team members the responsibility and trust to deliver.” Alex Young, founder of Virti Crest Communications, emphasizes the importance of “reflection and sharing experiences with others,” adding that it’s easy to jump from project to project, but “unless you look back and evaluate what you’ve accomplished , then your progress will falter.”
Find out how to get things done, do it, then train your team to meet the same high standards. Daniel Zemmour, founder of Molecule Health, said here you can “learn more about people, including how to recruit talent and how to motivate them.” That means your business can grow beyond what you know and reach new heights with an exceptional team.
Surround yourself with winners and ask for help and feedback as you learn all about building your business. When you have the knowledge, the power, and the plan, teach others what you know so your empire can grow. Today’s successful entrepreneurs know these steps will lead them to success, mimic their first steps to gain access to yours.