advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

What 15 entrepreneurs wish they’d done before starting a business

Knowing what others who have been in your shoes wish they’d done can save you time, money, and effort.

What 15 entrepreneurs wish they’d done before starting a business
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

As an entrepreneur first starting out, you may find yourself seeking out business podcasts, books, articles, and more in an effort to feel prepared. While there are plenty of great resources out there, experience is what’s likely to teach you the most. Still, you’re not the first person to walk this path, and knowing what your predecessors would change if they had it all to do again can be invaluable.

advertisement
advertisement

Your entrepreneurial journey is unique, and ultimately, you’ll write the story of your business’s birth and growth. But there can be a big benefit to weaving in the wisdom of others. Below, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members look back and reflect on what they wish they had done when they first began their entrepreneurial journeys.

1. EXPERIMENTED EVEN MORE

Nothing matches the power of experimentation. Test, learn, and refine on an ongoing basis to discover, learn, and optimize until you reach your maximum performance point. It is an always-on process; for example, the context of change in our business is mostly due to fast technological advances and changes in consumer behaviors. – Ivonne Kinser, Avocados From Mexico

2. BEGAN EARLIER

Start sooner. We always think that we need to learn “that one thing” or get better at something else before we are ready. The truth is, you’re never really ready to start, and you’ll learn more through the mistakes you make along the way than in a book. – Scott Burgess, Continu

advertisement

3. LEARNED FROM THOSE WITH DIRECT EXPERIENCE

Before starting my business, I wish I had engaged others who had direct experience. Being in the fight is the most valuable information you can have. Surrounding yourself with people who have stepped into the ring is a great way to understand the road ahead of you and to gain the insight that you won’t win every time—to get that, you need to learn from your failures and not let them define you. – Brad Burns, Wayne Contracting

4. STOPPED OVERTHINKING

Just start. You can read and digest all of the material in the world and listen to mentors, guides, and other helpful people as much as you would like, but nothing beats fast action and execution. If you aren’t prepared to do the work of building your business and failing fast and forward, then you’re not doing it right. If your first iteration isn’t perfect, you’ve started too late. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter

5. BUILT A TEAM OF ADVISERS

Hire yourself a coach, and begin to build a group of advisers who will guide you without wanting or needing anything from you. You need people who can hold a mirror up, and you need to be able to really hear what they are saying. They will encourage you, support you, and call you on things that you may not be aware of. Take the time to talk to people who have walked a path similar to your own. – Jennifer MacIver Edwards, Insightin | Health

advertisement

6. PARTICIPATED IN A PITCH CONTEST

I wish I had gone to a pitch contest (although I’m not even sure that they existed back in 2002 when I first started). I recently mentored a TechStars competition and was blown away by the fantastic free access to learning it provided. The understanding of the process and confidence-building available through the creativity and mentorship in that room is a leg up for any aspiring founder. – Tevis Trower, Balance Integration Corporation

7. STOPPED SEARCHING FOR FEEDBACK

I wish that I would have stopped researching and soliciting feedback from so many others and just plunged ahead. Balance your need to know with the fact that entrepreneurship entails embracing risk. Put enough controls in place to mitigate known and major risks, but deal with the rest as they come. Experience is the best teacher! – Krishna Kutty, Kuroshio Consulting Inc.

8. JOINED MASTERMIND GROUPS

I should have joined more mastermind groups early on; I could have met and learned from more mature entrepreneurs and avoided the mistakes I made when I was starting. Don’t get me wrong—I learned from my mistakes. It’s just better to be able to pick other entrepreneurs’ brains. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com

advertisement

9. FOUND THE RIGHT BUSINESS PARTNER(S)

Find business partners/shareholders who are excited about the business opportunity and bring expertise that you may not have. Starting a business on your own is very demanding on so many levels—time, finances, emotions, relationships, well-being. With the right partners, everyone has the same vested interest in making a positive contribution to growing the business that you collectively own. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

10. BUILT UP SAVINGS

I wish I had saved more money before starting my own business. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I underestimated the time it would take to fine-tune the business. You need the financial flexibility and runway to figure it out as you go. While you can’t anticipate every problem or mistake when starting your own business, you can set yourself up to weather the storm if you save up in advance. – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute

11. BROUGHT ON HELP EARLIER

Hire help ASAP! I waited three years to hire my first assistant (to be fair, my business was a side hustle for two years.) The very month I hired my first assistant, she paid for herself by freeing up my time, allowing me to create more business opportunities. By her second month, I was creating so much new content that Wiley reached out to me to author a book. By month three, she covered her annual salary. – Viveka Von Rosen, Vengreso

advertisement

12. SCOUTED THE COMPETITION

Observe your favorite organizations and understand what really drives success in their business. Once you understand what drives their success, work to understand why No. 1 is No. 1, why No. 2 is No. 2, and so on. As you do this, you’ll start to paint a picture of what success in your industry should look like. Use this knowledge to build the best business. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

13. LEANED ON EXPERIENCED ENTREPRENEURS

I wish I had surrounded myself with more experienced founders who are a couple of steps ahead of me. I opened my first company at 22, scaled it, and built a new category, but the first years could have been much more efficient if I had surrounded myself with experienced people. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut

14. WORKED FOR ANOTHER STARTUP

As the founder of a venture-backed company that scaled quickly, I wish I had gotten the opportunity to work at another startup before starting my own. I ran product and operations for my new business, but I initially came from more of an operational background. Having been able to learn from a top-tier product leader, even for a short while, would have accelerated my learning in those early years. – Alexandra Cavoulacos, The Muse

advertisement

15. DESIGNED AN EMPLOYEE ONBOARDING SYSTEM

I wish I had designed an induction program for new staff. Hiring people was always going to be the toughest challenge for a professional services organization, but I focused too much on acquiring them and not enough on teaching them what was special about our firm. Then we got too busy, and we have relied on teaching people through mentorship and example. If I had codified it on day one, my life would be easier! – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement