If you had to start up again from the beginning, what’s the ONE thing you would do differently?
This was the question StartupNation asked of 13 successful entrepreneurs. The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Launch Earlier
If you’re not embarrassed about your product when you launch it, you’ve launched too late. We held back our paid launch for eight months and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to that mistake. We also tracked the wrong users (paid users act completely differently than free ones), and we only recognized that after they started paying us.
2. Continuously Listen to Customers
Listening to customers on a continuous basis allows you to predict what customers’ next move may be and whether your business is positioned to offer a new service that they really want. It helps you connect the dots to alter the vision and direction of the business if necessary, which could set you apart from your competitors.
– Derek Capo, Next Step China
3. Focus on an Existing Cash Transaction
No matter how much customers love your product or service, if they don’t have an existing budget to pay for it (in the B2B space) or they’ve never paid for it before (in B2C), you’re facing an uphill battle. If your goal is to make money, focus on where people spend it — not where they might one day spend it if the market catches up to your vision of the future.
– Alexander Gibson, Elevate
4. Stop Stressing
There’s no point thinking about what you’d do differently. You did what you did because, at that time, that’s what made the most sense to you. The only wrong answer is doing nothing, so anything you tried is good. It’s easy to get really upset and caught up in what’s not working. Remember that it’s a journey, and just relax.
5. Remove Your Ego
When you get success early on with a company, you start to think about how good you are as opposed to building upon your success by analyzing it and strategizing about the next innovation. Strategic planning should be a continual process and shouldn’t be placed on pause because you are growing fast. Don’t assume you are entitled to growth; life has a way of humbling you.
– Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group
6. Hire a Coach Earlier
My business really took off when I invested in my first high-end one-on-one business coach, and I only wish I had done that earlier. Working with a coach gave me such a level of clarity, direction and action-taking accountability that it more than paid for itself.
7. Remember to Enjoy Life
I started my first company right out of high school at 18 years old. I would work 24/7, including weekends. During classes in college, I’d be working, as well. Work was all I did. But now I look back wishing I took the time to enjoy college and my teens and early 20s a little more. Time flies so fast that you forget to hit the brakes and enjoy what you currently have. Work hard, but enjoy life.
8. Start Fast, Adapt Faster
Embrace the minimum viable product approach. Don’t worry so much about perfecting a service; put something out there to garner customer feedback, iterate and repeat.
9. Be More Confident in Myself
It took me way too long to learn that I should ignore everybody’s opinion if my gut told me to. I spent way too much time trying to keep more experienced people happy. I thought these people were important, when in fact they were outdated technology dinosaurs from a different technology wave and hadn’t jumped over to newer ways of doing things.
10. Invest in HR
I would definitely invest more heavily in the human resource area. We waited to have about 90 employees before bringing in our HR EVP. If I wered to do it again, I would definitely bring in some talent in the HR department around 25 employees. Recruiting, hiring, training, developing and mentoring your human capital cannot be overstated!
11. Have a Tech Co-Founder
Get a co-founder with a technology background. I think that would have helped me avoid some wrong turns over the years and move even faster. Plus, two buddies make it more fun!
12. Embrace Our Competitors
As one of a few players in a nascent market, you find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder poised to poach your existing or potential clients. However, competitors can play a vital role in helping you educate the market about a new technology or behavior and open the eyes of brands, businesses and advertisers. Cumulatively, we will grow a market and a new consumer behavior.
13. Pick a Different Name
I love everything about my company, but using “Bath Vanities” inside of the brand name limits the products we can sell on the website (or the types of products that a customer would expect to find on the website).