Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey, everything can make sense. Events seem connected, chance encounters seem destined and you appear to glide through every day knowing where you were headed. In reality, it’s not like that at all.
Most entrepreneurs are scrambling around trying every path hoping that one leads somewhere good. The ones who reach that place look back and connect the dots, the others know they were only a few decisions away from the success they sought.
I asked entrepreneurs what advice they would give to their former selves and their answers split into three key categories.
Surround yourself with winners
Caroline Joynson, founder of Cheerleader PR, thinks you should, “Get really clear on who you want to work with and how you want to work with them.” This involves setting up your business processes properly from the start and includes, “Surrounding yourself with positive people who ‘get’ the entrepreneurial roller coaster.” Joynson says co-working is great for this.
As well as positive people, spend time with people who will help you grow. Hang out with “people who are different to you and better than you,” said SEO and PPC professional Peter Van Zelst, who wants you to, “Listen to others but believe in yourself and trust your instincts.” Trusting yourself more was also the advice of coach Suzannah Butcher, who knows, “It’s easy to get caught up in following the systems, strategies and blueprints of multiple gurus, but you have to define and honour your personal values and ethos.” Instead, she advised, “stick to one or two people to follow, whose values match yours.”
Coach and mentor Angela Ward’s advice was to be targeted about who she listened to. She’d tell her former self to, “Get a mentor that can help you stay focused, clear out any 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, whilst, “being persistent and building your network.” Finally, author and entrepreneur Lucy Werner says guard whose words you internalise very carefully. “If they are not living the life you want, don’t take their advice,” she said. “Success is one-size fits no one.”
Ask for help and feedback
It’s not enough to simply spend time with positive, helpful and experienced people, hoping that their effect will rub off on you. These entrepreneurs would tell their former selves to be intentional about asking for help and feedback. Dent Global founder Daniel Priestley advised to, “ask for brutal, hard-hitting feedback from customers and more experienced entrepreneurs,” in a bid to improve your concept. Once you do this, you’ll feel defensive and argue why they’re wrong, but Priestley said, “do everything you can to fight the urge to ignore what they say.”
Erin Moroney, founder of Nibble Simply, agrees, advising her former self to, “get product feedback from people outside your friend and family circle” because, “they’re less likely to tell you what you want to hear.” This honest input was vital when creating her range of low sugar, vegan treats. Moroney too warned against taking advice (and cash) from just anyone, adding, “never take investment from someone you wouldn’t want to have dinner with.”
Your network of fellow entrepreneurs will make your business go further. It will likely be the source of your ideas, investment and first few customers. Not only that, but the answer to your questions and the shoulder to cry on. And it’s needed. “Your friends won’t really get it,” said Tom Whitely, founder of BrewBix. “Share stories, issues and feedback with a group of entrepreneurs,” because “love to talk about small businesses but not many others do.” Asking the right people for help dissolves problems like nothing else.
Be hungry to learn then empower others
In the early days especially, learning quickly is vital. Understanding what makes your business grow and stagnate is a continuous cycle that has to be worked on. Podcaster Sam Floy said, “the best thing I did was to learn sales. Twelve to eighteen months doing it for another company, under a good manager, will set you up to generate revenue for yourself and not be reliant on outside investment.” Hone your skills; be learning from others.
Ellie English founder Ellie Caudwell Casey agreed that self-proficiency is important for self-starters, saying, “make sure you know how to do everything before you outsource everything.” After you know how to do something, work out if it can be done by someone else. Digital agency founder Javan Bramhall advised to, “build the system and then give responsibility and trust to team members to deliver.” On the theme of building together, founder of Virti Crest Communications Dr Alex Young understands the importance of, “reflection and sharing your experience with others,” adding that it’s easy to jump from project to project, but “unless you look back and evaluate what you’ve achieved then your progress will stall.”
Figure out how to do the stuff, do it, then train your team to deliver to your same high standards. Daniel Zemmour, founder of Molecule Health, said this is where to “learn more about people, including how to recruit talent and how to motivate them.” This means your business grows beyond what you know and can reach new heights with an exceptional team.
Surround yourself with winners and ask for help and feedback, while learning everything you can about building your business. When you have the knowledge, the power and the plan, teach others what you know so your empire can grow. The successful entrepreneurs of today know these moves set them up for success, emulate their first moves to access yours.