28 Successful Founders Share Their Advice
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. There are few journeys in the world that are as rewarding and interesting as that of an entrepreneur. Yet there is nothing more daunting than that first step. It’s the one where most people falter because for all the information out there on how […]

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

There are few journeys in the world that are as rewarding and interesting as that of an entrepreneur. Yet there is nothing more daunting than that first step.

It’s the one where most people falter because for all the information out there on how to do a successful product launch or how to grow your email list, there is strangely very little information out there on how to start a startup.

Even if you’re listening to the best “start a startup” podcasts, reading books written by successful startup entrepreneurs, and taking advice from the youngest self-made millionaires on Instagram, information overload can become a stumbling block to getting started.

One reason many people don’t become entrepreneurs is that they just don’t know where to begin, what that crucial first step is.

What we often forget is that the most successful entrepreneurs in the world all started out the same way. They didn’t know what the first step was or what they had to do, but they all managed to take it and become the amazing success stories they are today.

We asked these 28 successful founders from all types of industries and niches to give their advice on how to start a startup. We asked them these three questions:

  • How’d you come up with the idea for your startup?
  • What was the first step you took to build your company?
  • What advice would you give to the younger version of you?

We hope you thoroughly enjoy their inspiring responses and nuggets of wisdom as much as we did, as each person gives their unique take on this tricky subject.

Editor’s note: This article was originally written by Jonathan Chan but has since been updated by Perrie Kapernaros, our expert staff writer who is highly experienced in research and investigative academia.

READ MORE: How to Come Up with a Great Business Name for Your Company

EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING: Successful Founders Teach You How to Start and Grow an Online Business

Shaun Neff, Founder, and CEO of Neff

shaun neff

It started with passion. I grew up surfing, skating, and snowboarding. My dream was to have a lifestyle brand such as the ones I loved and wore in high school.

I started selling t-shirts but found a niche in headwear that allowed me to go around the apparel contracts and sponsor the biggest athletes in the world in a category that was being overlooked. That was the little opening I saw in a crowded market and I used that as a starting block to build a global brand.

The first thing I did was hustle. I knew my product was not better than what was out there. I just sold the dream and vision I saw in my head and convinced others to jump on the journey.

Dream Big and follow your dream every single day until you are living the dream every day.

READ MORE: The 3 Best Low-Cost Businesses to Start with $1,000 or Less (Even $0!)

Robin Chase, Co-Founder of Zipcar and Veniam, Author of Peers Inc

robin chase

Focus on building the smallest, lightest thing you can so that you can reach customers as quickly as possible, getting feedback (and revenue). We launched with four cars.

The reservation you made online had no real connection to the car. Anyone who owned an access card from our supplier could unlock the car door. The keys were dangling from the steering column. Anyone could have broken into the car and started the car. Members would fill out a paper log we left in the glove box: start and stop times; start and stop odometer readings.

These risks were actually minimal. Who would ever think about trying their office door proximity card to open these four cars? Who would ever look so closely to see car keys dangling? Within six months, our technology caught up and only the right person could open the right car at the right time.

Startups are really hard. Every successful one had terrible hurdles and setbacks that they had to overcome. These challenges are the norm and not unique to you and your startup.

Startups are really hard. Every successful one had terrible hurdles and setbacks that they had to overcome

Nathan Chan, Founder, and CEO of Foundr

Nathan chan

Foundr began because I saw a gap in the market. There wasn’t a digital magazine producing content for young aspiring and novice-stage entrepreneurs and startup founders, and I wanted to fill that.

My first step in starting Foundr was placing a financial wager on myself. To start Foundr Magazine, it required publishing software to produce the magazine and app. I placed $2,000 on the back of my personal card to start the app. This was money I didn’t have and also the money I definitely didn’t want to waste.

My advice to my younger self? Party more, travel more and stop worrying if things will work out or not.

My first step in starting Foundr was placing a financial wager on myself

Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Sama

leila janah

In 2005, I was working in India for an American management consulting firm at a large call center. One day, I met a young man who I learned commuted to the center from Dharavi, the infamous slum depicted in the film Slumdog Millionaire, and I was shocked. Here was someone capable of taking calls for British Airways who was living in a slum. I couldn’t help but wonder, how many more were like him?

At the time, I was reading Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat, and I had an epiphany: If outsourcing could generate billions of dollars for a few Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs, why couldn’t we use it to send a few dollars to the billions of poor people who need it most?

Soon after, in September 2008, I quit my New York consulting job and moved to Palo Alto to launch a social enterprise nonprofit called Samasource.

I love reflecting on the early days because there I was at 25 years old, sleeping on a friend’s futon, eating Top Ramen (a mentor of mine actually sent me $20 a month via PayPal for what he called a “Protein Fund”), trying to convince Silicon Valley investors to give me money for this bold idea I had of giving work to marginalized people as a means to solve global poverty.

Fast forward to today, Samasource has moved over 30,000 people over the poverty line in East Africa, India, and Haiti. We recently opened our first Samasource-owned work center in Nairobi and are already looking at expansion plans.

I love reflecting on the early days because there I was at 25 years old, sleeping on a friend’s futon, eating Top Ramen.

READ MORE: How to Start a Business for $127 (or less!)

Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit

alexiz ohanian

“Y Combinator” rejected our original idea and said they’d invest in us as long as we built for the browser (our first pitch was a mobile product, in 2005) and that every morning we solved a problem we had. Reddit was the result of that—not having one place to find out what was new and interesting about the things we cared about.

If I could go back into the past, I’d tell myself to keep on programming!

They said they’d invest in us as long as we built for the browser and solved a problem we had every morning

Darrell Wade, Co-Founder and CEO of Intrepid Travel

darell wade

It was a long time ago now, way before there was any method or science to startups. Essentially, I was a very keen traveler who couldn’t stand the idea of going back to a conventional job. The question was, could I make a business out of the way I loved to travel?

A friend and I saw a gap in the marketplace between organized tours (very boring, but efficient from a time perspective) and adventurous backpacking (fantastic fun but time-consuming). We hit on the idea of small groups, experienced leaders, and off-the-beaten-path itineraries. Intrepid was born and, I guess, the rest is history.

We did a paper-based MVP of what a trip would look like, rough costs, and what we thought we could charge. We ran it past a few people who understood the travel industry and should know if it would work. They all said we’d fail. Having never been one for market research anyway, we pressed ahead and launched anyway. We got a few sales, validated the model, invested every cent we could scrounge up, and then went hungry for a while. It certainly was not an overnight success, but we took 47 travelers to Thailand in our first year and that was just enough for us to have a second year.

This year we’ll carry over 250,000 travelers to about 120 countries. The secret to success is to have a good idea in the first place and then keep testing, iterating, and retesting EVERYTHING you do until you hit on the mix of marketing, distribution, product, pricing, technology, and so on that works.

They all said we’d fail. Having never been one for market research anyway, we pressed ahead and launched anyway.

Melanie Perkins, Co-Founder, and CEO of Canva

melanie perkins

The best piece of advice I can give is: just get started. If I realized how much I would need to know before I started, I probably would have been too terrified to get going. But I’m a big believer in just-in-time learning, and we’ve learned a lot as Canva grew, and we’ll continue to keep learning as we grow.

The best piece of advice I can give is: just get started.

Tan Hooi Ling, Co-Founder of Grab

tan hooi ling

I was never the type who grew up dreaming or striving to be an entrepreneur. Yet, somehow, I found myself passionately discussing potential ways to solve Malaysia’s taxi woes with my co-founder, Anthony Tan, a few years back. Idealistic beliefs and convictions led us to start MyTeksi in 2012. For those of you who are not familiar with the taxi situation in Malaysia, Googling “worst taxis in the world” can provide a glimpse.

I was personally often afraid to take taxis. I worried about getting into dingy beat-up cars with drivers who were often rude, unsafe, or would try to cheat you. Knowing this was a problem our families and friends struggled with too, we ended up developing the mobile application and technology-driven service that became MyTeksi, GrabTaxi, and now Grab. Our services help people book taxis, cars, bikes, and delivery services in a speedy, efficient, and safe way.

Eight in 10 women in developing Southeast Asian countries now find taking a taxi safer with Grab. Average taxi driver incomes have increased anywhere from 30 to 300 percent among our drivers across the region. I’ve also heard many personal stories from women, as well as drivers, who try to hold back their tears as they share how thankful they are for the impact Grab has brought to their lives.

It’s extremely rewarding to know that we’re able to fulfill the mission we started the company for. And even more so when we’re able to attract other talented and like-minded individuals who share this passion with us.

It’s extremely rewarding to know that we’re able to fulfill the mission we started the company for.

Eric Siu, CEO of Single Grain and Growth Everywhere

eric siu

I began by solving my own pain points. It’s always best to become an expert in an area, find a pain point, and go after it because you have a better idea of where to go.

The first step to my journey was a little different. I ended up taking over a company and then used the profits to cash flow my new startup.

My advice to all young entrepreneurs out there, not just me, would be: Start earlier. It’s never too early.

Start earlier. It’s never too early

READ MORE: 4 Online Business Ideas for Absolute Beginners

David Cancel, CEO of Drift

david cancel

There’s one thing that my co-founder Elias and I would keep coming back to: sales and marketing are changing. Customers aren’t sold to anymore—they buy.

Information is free now, so businesses are no longer in control of the selling process. As a result, selling has become much more about truly understanding a customer’s problems and needs. So we wanted to build tools that make it easier for businesses to talk to their customers. We want to help businesses stop treating people like leads and start treating them like people.

Selling has become much more about truly understanding a customer’s problems and needs

Janine Allis, Founder of Boost Juice, Executive Director of Retail Zoo

how to start a startup janine allis

Like most good ideas, they normally start with “wouldn’t it be good if.” For me, the end of that sentence said, “there was a business out there that made being healthy easy.” You need a curious mind to keep your eyes and ears open for ideas.

The first step is always the Want, then comes the Idea, then the plan (with numbers), then the deep breath as you jump off the entrepreneurial cliff and finally you hang on and go for the ride. The ride is like a rollercoaster. Seriously scary with huge ups and equally scary downs. But who doesn’t want the rollercoaster ride?

So, what would I tell my younger self?

The first thing is to have fun and lots of it in your 20s! You have a sense of adventure and risk-taking that seems to reduce as the years go on. It’s in your 20s and 30s when you have the biggest appetite for risk, so use it! You are also young enough to fix it if you mess up.

I would tell the young Janine to sharpen her “bullshit person” radar, and that not all people who seem to be nice are always so. Always plan for the worst-case scenario. Drop the plan in the bottom drawer hoping you never have to see it again but feel confident knowing it’s there. Avoid doing business with friends if you want to keep them as friends. When things go well, remember to celebrate success and recognize the people who helped you achieve it. Don’t take money from your parents because spending money you have earned is so much sweeter.

In business, you need to be courageous. Don’t be that person who was too afraid to jump off the entrepreneurial cliff. If you are not scared, then your goals are not big enough. Reach for the sky and whenever you reach your goal, set another one bigger and bolder.

In business you need to be courageous, don’t be that person who was too afraid to jump off the entrepreneurial cliff

James Beshara, Co-Founder, and CEO of Tilt

james beshara

I saw a way to effect massive, important change in the world with simple software that puts the power of collective action and shared resources in the palm of your hand, and I have pursued that idea relentlessly for the last 6+ years.

In 2012, I built the Tilt platform to give people an easy and highly social way to organize and collaborate financially, whether it’s renting a boat with friends, a tailgate for a big game, bringing the Chainsmokers to your campus, or protecting a community from rising crime, Tilt was built to power it all.

To do anything of consequence, you’ve got to have both trust and a network. Everything else can come from that. Investment, refinement of an idea, co-founders, first recruits, all can come from building trust and a network. And one is useless without the other. So, even at a young age, start proactively investing in both.

To do anything of consequence, you’ve got to have both trust and a network. Everything else can come from that

Dan Norris, Founder of 7 Day Startup, Author of Content Machine

dan norris

For me, I just thought about what problems I knew I could solve for people and pitched it in a way that addressed as many objections as I could think of (fixed price, 24/7 delivery, unlimited jobs).

Starting was easy, all I did was email my list and pointed them to the payment button. From there it just grew.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind as an entrepreneur is that if it’s not working, be honest with yourself and try something different.

If it’s not working, be honest with yourself and try something different

READ MORE: 4 Online Business Ideas to Consider During a Pandemic

Morgan Hermand-Waiche, Founder & CEO of Adore Me

morgan hermand-waiche

Like in every good story—there’s a girl. My girlfriend’s birthday was coming up, and I wanted to get her something nice. As a French guy, I immediately thought of lingerie. I looked online and in stores and quickly found that fashionable lingerie was way outside my budget! The bras alone were expensive, so there was no way I could afford a full set. Anything that I could actually afford was outdated, of poor quality, and in a limited size range. I couldn’t picture my girlfriend wearing any of it.

I realized that if I was facing this problem during one shopping session, others must be facing this problem all the time. That’s when I decided to look deeper into the US lingerie market: 40% of the market was dominated by a single player that was rolling over the costs of hundreds of prime retail locations to its customers, with even more costs online with high shipping and return fees. New collections were launched only four times a year and the newest, sexiest, most fashionable items were available only to women at a very limited size range.

I decided then and there to start Adore Me, a company that makes lingerie, sleepwear, etc. accessible to every woman: at any size, any style, and any wallet.

I realized that if I was facing this problem during one shopping session, others must be facing this problem all the time

Rob Walling, Co-Founder of Drip

rob walling

My first step was to find 10 people willing to pay my asking price (at the time it was $99/month). Once I had verbal commitments from 10 people who wanted Drip, we put up a landing page and started building an interest list, and broke ground on the code.

My first step was to find 10 people willing to pay my asking price

READ MORE: 5 Low-Cost Startup Business Ideas You Can Implement with Less Than $100

James Crawford, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Beanhunter

james crawford

One of our co-founders used to travel a lot with work and was frustrated that he could never find good coffee in new cities or areas. He would often spend his evenings crawling online forums and local papers for the best places to drink great coffee for the next day.

He came back from one of his trips and said, “There just needs to be an app that shows me where great coffee is and allows people to share these destinations.” There wasn’t, so we decided to build it.

When we started building Beanhunter, we had no real plan to turn into a business, rather we were just wanting to solve a problem. We had some ads on the site to cover our server costs but other than that the goal at the time was to build a useful product.

Validate the idea as quickly as possible and “just do it.” Do your planning and testing upfront before spending much, if any, money.

Validate the idea as quick as possible and ‘just do it’. Do your planning and testing up front before spending much, if any, money

Rand Fishkin, Founder Sparktoro, Former Co-Founder Moz

rand fishkin

We had built some tools for our consulting business and decided to make them available via a Paypal subscription wall. It took off far more than we were expecting, and we decided to keep pursuing it. Moz was really an unplanned startup in nearly every way.

In the very early days, when we were consultants, we meandered through finding clients and projects and ways to attract them. For all startups starting out, it’s a lot of experimentation, unsophistication, and credit card debt.

For all startups starting out, it’s a lot of experimentation, unsophistication, and credit card debt

Benny Hsu, Blogger, Podcaster, & Online Entrepreneur at “Get Busy Living”

benny hsu

The very first thing I did was purchase a basic online course to learn how to get started.

Sure I could have gone to Google and looked for free info, but I wanted to learn from someone who was already successful. It was less than $50, so it was a no brainer for me to pay to have all the info I needed in one place. It helped because I had no idea how to sell t-shirts nor how to use Facebook advertising. I just wanted to learn enough to get started.

If I could give any advice to my younger self I’d tell him to stop wasting time searching for that perfect business idea in your mind. Instead of reading books, taking online tests, and pondering ideas to see which one is the perfect idea for me, go and try it out. It doesn’t need to be a full commitment. Just try it out for yourself in the simplest way possible so you have an idea if you like it or not. It is better than doing nothing and hoping that the perfect business idea will suddenly come to you.

I would tell my younger self to stop wasting time searching for that perfect business idea in your mind

Eugene Woo, Founder, and CEO of Venngage

eugene woo

My previous startup was in the same space (infographics) and we had some customers ask us for an infographic tool that was more flexible and simple.

We got a contract to do custom development for a big client who wanted it. So we got paid for the first version of Venngage.

Don’t listen to so-called experts and believe in your gut.

Don’t listen to so called experts and believe in your gut

Vishen Lakhiani, Founder and CEO of Mindvalley

vishen lakhiani

Nelson Mandela had said that one of the best ways to change the world is to change education and so I thought, “Well, if I could start any company, a great company to start would be a company in education, specifically in meditation.” And that’s how Mindvalley started.

The first thing I did was to hire a web developer in Bangsa. I was in New York at that time and this was a friend I had known from college and from high school in Malaysia. Paid him 2,000 Ringgit to build our first website. For 2,000 ringgit we started. I managed to become profitable after month three and Mindvalley has been taking off ever since then.

Be very careful with whom you share equity. Your equity is your future wealth. Do not give it away too freely. Do not underestimate your own abilities.

Be very careful with whom you share equity with. Your equity is your future wealth. Do not give it away too freely

Chris Strode, Founder and Chief Product Officer of Invoice2go

chris strode

The idea for Invoice2go came about 10 years ago when I was working as a freelance software developer for a large investment bank. The first thing I needed to do to get paid was to send an invoice, but when I looked for a simple way to do this, all I found was complicated accounting software.

Coming from a family of small business owners, I knew I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to wrap my head around a full accounting package just to send an invoice. That’s when I set out to build Invoice2Go. The tool that I wanted to use, and that I knew every other small business owner would want to use.

What I’d tell myself, and every other early entrepreneur out there is to bootstrap your startup for as long as possible. Founders are often eager to raise funding and take their businesses to the next level, but if you can build a profitable business on your own, you’ll be better positioned to have a favorable conversation with VCs when the time is right. Focus on getting your product right where you want it for your users, and grow it from there.

Focus on getting your product right where you want it for your users, and grow it from there

Kate Morris, CEO, and Founder of Adore Beauty

kate morris

I started Adore Beauty out of a garage in Melbourne in 1999 when I was just 21 years old. While I was in college I was working a job on the cosmetics counters at my local department store. I came to realize that access to the best beauty brands was only available in major cities, and many of the women I met found shopping for beauty products unpleasant, often feeling pressured into purchasing by the classically pushy saleswoman.

Despite this being a time when people were suspicious of purchasing such personal products online, and there is no such thing as broadband internet, I was inspired to form an online store that would solve both of these problems simultaneously, and so I founded Australia’s first beauty e-commerce site.

My next step was to work out what the MVP needed to look like, and what was the smallest amount of money I needed to spend to get it off the ground. Once I had this framework and the numbers on paper, the next step was to source the money (which was generously loaned by my boyfriend’s dad). The rest is history!

I’m happy with all of the mistakes I made when I was younger as they led me to where I am now. Mistakes are a learning experience and in some ways, I wouldn’t want to prevent them. However, I would tell my younger self to think a little bit bigger and be a bit more confident. There were some key parts in the growth of my business where I thought I maybe left it a little too long before taking a big, aggressive step. If I had my time again I would have gone a lot harder a lot sooner. But hindsight is a beautiful thing!

Mistakes are a learning experience and in some ways I wouldn’t want to prevent them

Georgina Nelson, Founder, and CEO of truRating

georgina nelson

I kept seeing the same problem coming up from several different sides—companies were desperate to hear from their customers but on average heard from under 1%, and consumers wanted to have their voices heard but didn’t want to answer a 20-question survey about their salary, lifestyle choices, etc., just to have a say. Consumers were also shouting out for online reviews and ratings, but couldn’t really trust what they read, as the sites were either unrepresentative or could be easily gamed.

I had the idea that if a quick and easy survey question was available on the payment terminal, then businesses would gather information from paying customers and customers would be reassured of the validity of that feedback on a new comparison website … and truRating was born!

I had no idea at the beginning whether my dream could actually become a reality, or would make any money, so the very first thing I did was walk the streets and speak to those people who might buy the truRating product. At the time, I had my baby daughter, who was just a few months old, and my dad would push her around in her stroller on the streets outside while I went into local restaurants and shops to see if they had five minutes to chat.

After we had proven that it was technically possible, I reached out for investment.

The very first thing I did was walk the streets and speak to those people who might buy the TruRating product

Nick Molnar, Co-Founder, and CEO of Afterpay

nick molnar

It’s often said that the best entrepreneurial ideas are simply about solving a problem. The Afterpay model was built around helping my online jewelry business sell more jewelry. Fine jewelry is a tough category, especially for online-only, and customers were saying they would like a bit of time to pay for their purchases but didn’t want to wait to get their pieces. I saw some online jewelers doing this in the US and thought, if this solution doesn’t exist in Australia, I’ll build it myself. And that’s how Afterpay started.

I would say to “young Nick” a few simple things. Work hard, seek contribution, play hard for success, but don’t forget the big things that matter. So, while I have made mistakes—we all do—I have a beautiful wife and amazing parents and that makes me happy and proud. The young Nick might not have always listened to the older Nick, but in most cases he has, and he is loving the journey.

Work hard, seek contribution, play hard for success but don’t forget the big things that matter

Roland Tam, Co-Founder of Spacer

roland tam

I started Spacer after a recent trip to Silicon Valley and New York with Investors Org, where I sat through a number of sharing economy presentations across a range of verticals. Having become addicted to Uber and Airbnb, I could really see the value of collaborative consumption and this is how Spacer concept was formed.

I am fortunate in that I had a successful business that I had sold previously and a network of angel investors who were happy to back me in my new venture. We developed an MVP product via a SaaS provider in Silicon Valley, and it all grew from there.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because this is the only way you learn. Most mistakes are not terminal in the grand scheme of your business, and so long as you don’t make the same mistake twice, the business will be better for it.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because this is the only way you learn

John Bush, Co-Founder of Easyshare

john bush

Like most millennials, I spent a portion of my 20s living in a shared house. I was often frustrated about chasing my housemates for rent and bills, and this was the seed for the idea behind Easyshare. I thought an easier way to manage to split and paying household expenses would exist, however when I went searching I couldn’t find one. This prompted me to embark on the journey of creating one.

The advice I’d give to my younger self would be to spend some time in your chosen career to develop some core skills and more importantly, some self-awareness. The self-awareness will give you a really good understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and the type of people you will need to surround yourself with to fill the holes in your weaknesses and complement your strengths.

Spend some time in your chosen career to develop some core skills and more importantly, some self awareness

Nancy Lublin, Founder, and CEO of Crisis Text Line

nancy lublin

The first thing I did when building the Crisis Text Line was to hire a CTO and Chief Data Scientist.

Advice to my younger self: Don’t go to law school (or grad school). You’ll learn everything you need to know by doing it.

READ MORE: 100 of the Best Side Hustle Ideas and Jobs

Polina Raygorodskaya, Co-Founder and CEO of Wanderu

polina raygorodskaya

The idea for Wanderu was born out of my own frustration of not having one specific place online where I could find and compare all available bus and train options for traveling between any two points in the US. There are more bus companies than airlines traveling between major cities and, only a couple of years ago, I had to visit every carrier’s own website and manually compare options to find the one that best fits my schedule. I realized I shouldn’t have to do all that every time I needed to go somewhere.

The first thing that my co-founder and I did when we set out on creating Wanderu was familiarizing ourselves with the ground travel industry. We realized that to create a truly innovative and efficient product, we had to be very well versed in the ins and outs of the bus and train business.

We bootstrapped the business for over a year. After all, to get investors to consider your venture, you have to prove to them that the business is something enough people would be interested in using, that you can get the right partners on board, and that it can be scaled.

If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to not be afraid of failure. Not everything you put your hands on is going to work right away. In fact, if you don’t make mistakes, there is no way for you to learn, improve, and grow, and become a better entrepreneur.

If you don’t make mistakes, there is no way for you to learn, improve and grow and become a better entrepreneur

EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING: Successful Founders Teach You How to Start and Grow an Online Business

Ready To Start Your Startup?

“How do I get started?”

It’s one of the most common questions we get here at Foundr, and for good reason. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to start a SaaS startup, come up with a few winning digital startup ideas or create the next great ecommerce brand, taking that first step can be so intimidating. For me, one of the most gratifying things about gathering up this advice—aside from the wide-ranging gold nuggets of wisdom they offered—was hearing from so many that they just had to do it—just take the leap.

More than a few of them acknowledged it was a little scary, or that they wished they’d started earlier. But they ultimately stepped into the fray, and their passions for their projects and willingness to take the risks should be an inspiration to all of us!

What about you all? Any words of wisdom about getting the ball rolling? Are you in a position where you’re just about to start a startup? Let us know below!


The biggest problem founders and small business owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a business. That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.

Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about , starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.

Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is running out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).

The problem is probably you. When I was a young manager, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.

Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a vedette employee is enormous, yet leaders rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?

Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.

It boggles my mind how little most entrepreneurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat is the easiest to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The second is how you don’t run an organization – by playing préférés and being biased.

Know when and when not to be transparent. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.

Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.

Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.

Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in . The more effective your agreements are, the better your relationships will be.

Far too many fondateurs run their like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big dysfonctionnement.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for leaders, and that goes for new owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent précurseurs. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.

For every success you have in growing your market share, another business or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.

Of course, we all want to spark growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content marketing, paired with optimized website forms and éclairé email automation follow-up is critical to success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an professionnel in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.

Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?

Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a premium brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a premium brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your site and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.

Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing équipe will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.

Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among staff, solve this venant by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and équipe people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer sérieux hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !

Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than mail or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your digitale page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.

Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.

Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair mobilier or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and journey to date.

Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, évidemment. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too hard to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !

Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a single product or service. So what should you specialize in ? to state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.

Don’t ever get too satisfied with your business. You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market leaders that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired business model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other fondateurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.

There are lots of ways in which you can improve your , and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above business tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS stable of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.

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