Founder Q&A: If You Knew Then What You Know Now

Founders reveal what they’d say to their younger entrepreneurial selves if they could turn back time.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20.” It refers to that familiar notion that, when we look back on past decisions or actions, circumstances surrounding them are seen with perfect clarity.  While we unfortunately don’t have the luxury of going back in time to alter the course of our paths as entrepreneurs, learning from others’ past mistakes and experiences can be extremely beneficial.

We spoke to several successful Ohio entrepreneurs from around the state who shared with us what they wish they could have told themselves in their earliest days of starting a company.

Surround Yourself with Genuine People

Make sure you surround yourself with genuine, quality people who are unselfishly interested in your success. Watch out for the people and organizations who may falsely support you just to advance themselves personally or professionally. There are a lot of good people who want to help you achieve your dreams, but just as many who only act like they do and will use you to get ahead.

Pay Attention to your Customers

Customers might not always know what they want, but they always know what’s giving them grief — pain-points, headaches, worries. In early-stage startups, seek out decision-makers, evaluate their problems, and if your product isn’t a perfect solution, work to modify it.

Value Yourself and Your Product

When you’re starting out, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the initial success, but don’t be fooled. There will be greater success down the line, and how you conduct yourself and brand yourself is very important in these earliest stages. You need to believe in your product—it’s the real deal. Don’t settle for being mentioned alongside big brand names in outerwear you grew up wearing or be wowed by the fact they’re setting meetings with you. They are your competition and someday you will be taking them head-on.

 Make Sure It Works

Focus on the most critical aspects of your company that will drive success and prioritize them. Make sure your product effectively does what it says it’ll do and worry about the bells and whistles later. Oh, and find a good therapist!

  • Brian Zuercher, Founder & CEO of SEEN

Be Open to Growth

Scale early and scale fast: Be a good listener and find an advisor or mentor that has founded a startup and can guide the process of creating a viable, wanted and profitable product.

Skip templates: Be authentic and make it the most memorable pitch. It’s not only about selling your startup but yourself as a founder.

Remember that “no” sometimes means “not now.”  Work hard on building strong relations with potential clients, partners and investors. Use rejection to fuel your success.

 Think Big

Entrepreneurship is about thinking big. Having that mindset in the earliest stages will help down the line when you face the challenges of rapid growth and market expansion. Keep up the hustle because in the end, hard work always pays off.

  • Oliver Convertini, COO of Refill

Enjoy the Ride!

It’s probably best that you don’t know exactly what lies ahead. What you do need to know, though, is that this is going to be hard. You are going to do things that test your limits. You are going to be stretched thin, challenged and feel like you’re not going to make it. But there will also be so much joy and accomplishment along the way. While you are going to have whiplash from the ups and downs of the roller coaster, it’s an awesome ride and worth it. So buckle up, put your hands in the air, let go of the doubt, and enjoy the experience.

  • Audrey Wallace, co-founder & CEO of Komae

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