What makes a successful entrepreneur? At a recent event hosted by Deals and Divas, CEOs discussed their experiences building their businesses and the lessons they learned in the process.
1. Marry instinct and analysis.
Especially in the early days, entrepreneurs are forced to make challenging decisions with imperfect information. Moving quickly is important, but so is taking the time to research a decision fully.
For example, it’s critical to choose the right kind of legal business entity as it can affect taxes, earnings, and management in the long term. “Choosing between creating a C-Corp or an LLC was difficult,” says Julie dePontbriand of ShopVenture, a platform for online shopping reviews.. “I wanted to grow as quickly as possible but that was an important question I knew we couldn’t skip.”
2. Think ahead.
Another top concern for business owners is identifying a substantial customer base and ensuring major change to the marketplace won’t occur in the short- to mid-term. Kari Saitowitz, founder of boutique fitness studio Fhitting Room, took a long, hard look at the industry she was entering before setting out. She had a feeling that her business would meet a need, but she knew she needed to quantify that instinct with data. “I wanted to know if there was a real demand for our offer,” says Saitowitz. “And how quickly could the landscape change?”
3. See mistakes as opportunities for growth.
“You’re going to waste time and money somewhere — it’s a rite of passage,” says Samira Salman, founder of advisory and consulting firm Salman Solutions. While the success of any business relies heavily on the success of the CEO and management team, small setbacks and mistakes are no match for a truly inspired business owner. Errors are an opportunity to learn and improve.
It’s only natural that some mistakes will be expensive. “Fixing a problem can feel like ripping off a Band-Aid,” says Salman. “It hurts, but it’s always worth the money.”
4. Take surprises in stride.
Entrepreneurs wear many hats in the early stages of a business, from HR to marketing to accounting and more. In starting ShopVenture, dePontbriand says it was a shock to realize that her day-to-day was much less about building a brand and much more about “establishing a business structure and getting financials in order.” Especially in the early stages, it’s key to be flexible and willing to step outside your comfort zone or areas of expertise.
Ask any entrepreneur and you will learn that expectations about building a business rarely match reality. “I thought the most expensive aspect of my business would be the real estate, but it’s actually the people,” says Saitowitz.
Don’t try to go it alone. Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs, a CEO coach, your board of advisors, and even your own employees can help you anticipate potential roadblocks before they arise.