Entrepreneurship is a journey that no one is ever fully prepared to take. No matter how much time you spent researching and learning things before you started, there are always things you’ll wish you had done differently in hindsight.
While you can’t prepare for every possible scenario, you can arm yourself for some common challenges and circumstances by learning from others’ experiences. We asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council what they wished they knew before they launched their businesses and what difference they think it would have made. Ten of them shared their insights below.
1. Raising Capital Is Harder Than It Looks
Raising capital looks so easy, as big rounds of capital seem to flow to almost every startup company, right? Wrong. Knowing that Silicon Valley and global investment firms are painfully critical and difficult to work with would have been helpful. Most give you 20 minutes to pitch them with a junior associate. Some take your business model and share it with other holding companies they have previously invested in. So be careful who you share the details of your business with. A better option is to start slow and work to get to profitability as quickly as possible. It will decrease your stress and give you a larger valuation when you actually want to raise a round of funding to speed up growth. – Tom Finn, LeggUP Inc.
2. Long-Term Success Trumps Instant Results
I wish I had been more conscious of the fact that long-term success trumps instant results every time. Too many times in the beginning, I was looking for results quickly when I should have been more focused on brand building and laying down solid groundwork. Eventually, when the brand started seeing success, I was then able to see and credit almost all of it to the little things we did to lay down a solid foundation. Those little victories in the beginning eventually turned into big victories down the line. Too many entrepreneurs give up or shift focus when they don’t see the fruits of their labor instantly. – Ankit Patel, Obvi
3. Build Solid Systems And A Strong Team Early On
I wish I’d know before I launched my business how important it is to build solid systems and a strong team early on. As a motivated, type A solo founder, I thought I had to do it all myself. Many of the systems I built early on were not suitable for scaling the company. Honing in on your “special sauce” while creating systems others can follow is the key to creating a company that can grow and scale over time. – Rachel Lipson, Blue Balloon Songwriting for Small People
4. The Team Experience Matters
I wish someone had taken the time to sit down and really impress upon me the importance of building more meaningful relationships with the people on our team, and not cheaping out on the “team experience.” As it is, that doesn’t always come naturally to me—I’m more of a workhorse entrepreneur than a socialite. That personality trait amplified by the long hours and thin spread (in time and finances) in the early days of building a business can easily lead to very transactional-feeling relationships with a small team, whereas a boutique should be differentiated by tighter bonds. I wonder, in hindsight, if I might have retained a few more early star players had I put more effort and prioritization on those connections. – Jake Goldman, 10up Inc.
5. It’s Harder Than You Think To Juggle Family And Business
I wish someone would’ve told me how hard it would be starting a family while owning and running a business, especially as a woman. Everything at the time felt like an impossible burden—dealing with pregnancy side effects while trying to put in the same amount of hours, debating what kind and how long of maternity leave to take, feeling the pressure to return to work right away and figuring out which hours of the day to be CEO and which to be a mom. Thankfully women are a lot more open now about their experiences and sharing their struggles, but eight years ago it wasn’t something that was discussed. I now try to share my experiences with other women when I can to help better prepare them for that adjustment. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
6. You Don’t Have To Do Everything To Win Customers
I wish I knew that a business doesn’t have to do everything in order to win customers. When I first started out, I was so intimidated by the competition and what I thought businesses wanted that I assembled a team that could pretty much do all things. This ultimately led to problems as we were bloated with too much overhead and had talented people and skill sets that just weren’t good for the bottom line. A business doesn’t need to be, and oftentimes shouldn’t be, good at everything. It should focus on its core service or product. Large companies can often make these mistakes and then just return back to their core. As an entrepreneur starting out, you often don’t have the luxury to make these mistakes. Don’t expand your services or products too much in the beginning. Find a winner and double down. – Jason Khoo, Zupo
7. Get As Much Hands-On Training And Experience As You Can First
I wish I would have spent more time working in and learning about how a small business operated before launching my own in my late 20s. Observing and learning from other successful small business owners would have cut down my learning curve and I would not have made nearly as many mistakes in the beginning. Getting hands-on training from the beginning definitely lessens the learning. So, my suggestion to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to get as much relevant and real-world experience as you can before going out on your own. You’ll be much more equipped to handle uncertainty and not make silly mistakes that all new entrepreneurs make in the early days. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
8. You Get What You Pay For
When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to hire the cheapest freelancers you can find. It’s also tempting not to hire qualified lawyers or accountants to handle the crucial side of the business. The cost of trying to save money on people critical to the success of your business can be enormous. An essential cost to keep in mind even at the outset is opportunity cost. Say you’re an online business and you hire a cheap developer in an effort to save money upfront. Project how much money you’ll have lost when 18 months later you still don’t have a site that functions how you want it to. When you factor in opportunity cost, the expense of hiring a professional web development agency in the first place might seem like a bargain. – Matt Diggity, Diggity Marketing
9. Charge What You’re Worth
We undervalued our services by a lot in the early days because we were scared to charge what we truly thought we were worth. This had the effect of making us not profitable and making people question our credibility as a company because they wondered why we were so much cheaper than competitors. Now we are still priced under most of our competitors but we are charging enough to make a profit and be a good value for our customers. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
10. Just Start And Iterate As You Go
Speed is important in growing your business. But it’s not just speed in acquiring customers—it’s also adjusting quickly to market demands. Your idea or first product or service rarely ever is the final one. Look at it as a first draft—only in this case, be open to ending up with a totally different write-up when you’re done. You won’t get your break as an entrepreneur till you find product-market fit. And you can only find product-market fit when you start and iterate as you go. For me, when I find myself thinking about the beginning stages of my business, I realize my willingness to quickly create something and put it out there was vital to success. Let the market help you shape your product to their needs. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS