Background

My outlook on entrepreneurship has changed tremendously over the past three years. I’ve helped found three companies – two of which have since closed. I’ve received tons of advice. My current company has outperformed both of the previous. It was founded in September of 2017 and has been growing healthily since its start. I have not raised equity, I do not plan to.

I’ve put together a list of the top lessons I’ve learned along the way. A lot of this has been handed to me in the form of advice. I’ve had the idea for this list for a while, and hope it’s helpful for other entrepreneurs.

now… here – we – go

The 30 lessons I’ve Learned in Three Years as a Founder.

General Advice:

1. Don’t give up: Startups fail for two reasons: they run out of money and they give up. Usually a combination of both, in that order.

2. Never stop learning. When you think you know everything, you’ve already lost the game.

3. Have fun with it. You’re probably getting into business so you can live the life you want to live. Don’t let your business get in the way of that.

Starting Up

4. Start by finding a need. Move into potential solutions. Talk to people and find out if they would use the solution you have. Would they pay for it? How much? Repeat until you find a fit. Move onto building.

5. Speed is far more important than perfection. It’s okay to take the loss on the side of quality if it speeds things up.

6. Start with a purpose – it makes everything else easier. Ours is simple: to help those around us succeed. This includes our clients, our team, and our community.

7. Surround yourself with great people.

8. Stop talking, put your head down and get to work. Time is your biggest resource. You can never get more of it, and you can only spend it.

9. If you’re building something like an app, split your time evenly between product engineering and marketing.

 

Selling

10. Focus on creating value for your clients or customers. If you do this well, the money will follow.

11. Don’t build a business only to make money. You’ll find it’s too hard to do, and you probably won’t make any money.

12. Get that money! This is, after all, the reason you are a business.

13. Pay yourself whenever you have the luxury, you never know when the next chance will be.

14. Find out what works, and throw gas on the fire.

15. Whatever business you are in, cash flow is king (yes, it’s cliche, I know).

16. Expect to not get paid on time.

Commitment:

17. Your word is your reputation, and your reputation is everything.

18. If you can’t trust someone by the shake of their hand, there isn’t a contract in the world that can keep them to their word.

Learning:

19. Never assume you’ve mastered anything. The average skill of today has a shelf life of less than 5 years.

20. Question everything. Google everything. Something as simple as creating a cold email can be improved drastically by spending a few minutes reading about how other people have done it well.

21. Listen, understand, offer (seek first to understand)

22. Read books… business books. My top three: Traction, The Lean Startup, and Hooked.

23. Take online classes in your field. Lynda.com has some phenomenal online marketing classes. CodeAcademy and FreeCodeCamp are also great.

24. Listen to everyone. Don’t discredit anybody’s input unless you have a damn good reason. Weigh the advice of those you trust and respect more than the rest.

 

Your Team:

25. Don’t hire until you know you can support someone’s livelihood. Until then, contract.

26. Only hire for the job/task that already takes up the majority of your time.

27. Hire people you enjoy being around and be mindful of diversity. Too many likeminded individuals in a room creates groupthink.

28. Hire for the position, not the person.

29. Be very careful who you work with. Be even more careful who you partner with. A bad fit with a co-founder will crush you.

30. See lesson number one.

And now, for you?

What’s the best advice you’ve received as a founder or entrepreneur?