Five founders share wisdom that has guided them on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It takes motivation, resilience, adaptability and a little bit of luck. One of the most important attributes for entrepreneurs is their ability to take direction; understanding that they don’t have all the answers. Accepting guidance from those who’ve already navigated the challenging path of scaling a business can pay off tremendously in the long run.
It’s been proven; among startups, those who work closely with helpful, experienced mentors raise an average of seven times more capital and experience 3.5 times greater growth. After all, the best teacher is experience.
Here’s some of the best advice entrepreneurs from successful Ohio startups received as they built their businesses.
It’s Going to Be Hard
I think the best advice I received was very simple, straightforward and honest: it’s extremely hard. If entrepreneurship was easy, we’d all do it and we’d all succeed. But that’s simply not the case. It’s important to confront this fact before diving in and understand that it’s going to be a constant challenge every day. That’s also what makes it extremely rewarding. Seeing your hard work pay off and knowing that your success is ultimately the culmination of your efforts is very gratifying and fulfilling.
It’s going to be tough and it will constantly test you. It takes informed passion, persistence, patience and resilience to navigate your journey, but it’s achievable and amazing when you do.
- Ryan Eder, Founder & CEO of Include Fitness
Competition is For Losers
I was reading the Wall Street Journal one day in September 2014 and I come across this article, ‘Competition is For Losers,’ a headline that certainly gets your attention.
The book explains that the best way to eliminate the competition is to create a monopoly. To do this you need technical assets like proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale and branding. But perhaps most importantly, you really need to focus on a niche and truly own it.
Facebook didn’t create a social network for everyone at first. Instead, it targeted Harvard students and made sure to appeal to those students, not everyone on the planet. Focus on dominating one market segment, and grow outwards from there.
- Steve White, Founder & CEO of Clarivoy
Pruning is Necessary for the Good of the Whole Tree
One of the most challenging parts of being “the boss” is letting people go.
My mentor told me that my role as a leader was like that of an arborist cultivating an orchard. It’s my responsibility to keep my trees healthy and thriving. You must cut branches for the health of the tree. Cutting the weakest branches or strategically cutting those that are holding back the long-term growth of the tree is a task that arborists do every year.
The takeaway for me was that while it can be very difficult for that one employee to lose their job, it’s the boss’s responsibility to the rest of the employees to do this pruning when necessary. Otherwise the tree can’t thrive, or even worse, it goes down altogether. This didn’t take all the sting out of letting somebody go, especially in a small company where we are like family, but remembering our duty and responsibility to the entire organization certainly helps when you must take on this inevitable task.
- Geoff Greenfield, Founder & President of Third Sun Solar
Everybody Takes a Different Path
No founder’s story is the same. Between location, background, profession—everybody’s unique. Your pathway to success will differ from others, so don’t go searching for an exact blueprint to follow. What’s constant among successful founders is their ability to grow, learn, differentiate and add value. You must be willing to take risks, be bold, and be you.
Along your path in entrepreneurship, things change often. You need to remain self-aware of your intangibles and abilities and work to develop them as needed, or recognize you’re lacking and go hire the right people to get the job done. There will be things you can’t do, but if you surround yourself with capable people, you will find success.
- Rodney Williams, Co-Founder & CEO of LISNR
Be Nice to People
The best business advice I’ve ever received was from my band’s sound engineer, and it applies to everything business:
“Be nice to people on your way up and they’ll be nice to you on your way down.”
Taking that one-step further—treat everyone with respect regardless of their title. You never know what position someone may rise to or what company they may move to in the future. An admin one day could be the head of business development the next. Respecting people is first and foremost a decent thing to do, and it also pays dividends.
- Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, Founder & CEO of Soundstr