This article was updated on October 1, 2018.
When you're starting a new business, you have a lot to learn. Over time, you develop new skills and gain valuable insights from talking to mentors and studying successful ventures. So when you look back with business hindsight, it may be easy for you to identify some valuable tips you wish you had known up front.
Here five entrepreneurs share the important lessons they've learned through their experiences:
1. Outsource Early On
"I wanted to do everything myself," says Jesse Harrison, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Zeus Legal Funding, about starting his firm. "I did not believe in division of labor." Looking back, he realizes this may not have been the best approach. "Having this attitude slowed me down and made it harder to grow," he says. "If I could go back, I'd focus on managing the business, and I would outsource all the tedious tasks that [took] away from my productivity."
2. Don't Be Afraid to Fire Employees Who Don't Have the Necessary Qualifications
One of the advantages of a small-but-growing business is that employees tend to develop close relationships with one another. However, those bonds can also be detrimental, as Mario Almonte, managing partner of New York City-based Herman & Almonte Public Relations, now sees. Small business owners are often reluctant to fire employees, even when that's what's best for their company. Almonte now recognizes that. "Too often, I gave people who clearly were less-than-qualified too many chances, creating a great deal more work for their co-workers, who resented the situation," he admits.
3. Find What Works for You and Stick With It
Newer businesses often exert considerable energy and resources to fix what's not working. Clare Tattersall, designer at Primrose & Wilde fashion label in New York City, quickly realized that focusing on your weaknesses is not as effective as focusing on your strengths. "Don't look at what is going wrong," she advises. "Look at what is going right and run with that. Success is finding what works for you and doing it."
4. Don't Give Your Expertise Away for Free
In the beginning, Tami Belt, owner of Las Vegas-based Blue Cube Marketing Solutions, admits she was too willing to let people pick her brain because she wanted to demonstrate her marketing skills. Belt's prospects often took her great publicity ideas and implemented them, making the business owner wish that she'd required a consultation fee in the beginning.
5. Be Ready to Pivot
"Your first idea for your business might not be the right one," advises Paul Dillon, CMC and CEO of Dillon Consulting Services LLC in Chicago and Durham, North Carolina. "Be flexible." Dillon started his firm thinking that he was going to provide project management and business development services, but that didn't work out. A consulting engagement led him to shift gears, and he began helping veterans start their own businesses.
You can't go back and change the past, but business hindsight can help you learn from your mistakes and move past them.
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