“What You Wish You Knew When You First Started: 8 Founders Spill the Beans

Published on April 24, 2019

Entrepreneurship is always filled with challenges. Yet, as a founder and CEO, the key is to rise above those challenges and not let them impact your ability to reach your goals. Throughout our entrepreneurial journey, we are constantly learning and evolving from our mistakes.

I asked eight founders to imagine if they could go back in time, what would be one thing that they have learned along the way, that would be powerful to know when they first got started as an entrepreneur.

Dominic Nguyen of Yumaroo

“Entrepreneurship is an addiction and time management is the cure. Because of my drive to make my business succeed, I was willing to give up things I would never think of giving up. I stopped attending social events and began drifting from my family and friends. Time-boxing allowed me to become more productive and find more time for friends & family. Motivation & commitment are necessities to succeed in any startup but it is also important to have clear boundaries on what you’re willing to sacrifice and set aside time for other commitments in your life.”

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James Sowers of GreaterGood Society

“While a select few startups will have access to deep pockets, such as SoftBank’s VisionFund and other mega funds raised by the likes of Sequoia, the majority of startups will not, causing many early-stage companies To fight for limited available capital as LP and Venture dollars move toward the growth stage.”

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Linda Farquhar of entreDonovan

“You will have to do EVERYTHING…including things you currently know nothing about…and you will only have 24 hours each day and you will be on a limited budget. I completely underestimated things like choosing a provider for our point-of-sale system, then choosing a credit card processor for it, and learning that sales from our website would not easily be linked to sales in our store or our accounting system. We could have some special coding done at a cost of around $8k to bridge the systems. And even for someone with an understanding of business accounting, I far underestimated the challenge of setting up our own books and figuring out all these interfaces so that we could have reliable and accurate reporting.”

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Bailey Paxton of AgileCare Solutions

“What might seem to you like an innocent comment or question has the potential to have a massive impact on your organization. People depend on you for information and when building a new business, it is critical to be aware of this. Even when spitballing ideas, it is important to frame the conversation in a way that gets everyone on the same page. This is always easier said than done, but we could have saved a ton of time, stress and money if I was more aware of this fact early on. When mistakes inevitably come up, admit that you’re a human, take ownership, and move on.”

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Shahin Arefzadeh of Ziotis

“The patience game of entrepreneurship requires a solid mental strength for a marathon, not a sprint.”

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Marlo Reveley of ZeroTouchDigital, Inc.

“The messaging of a new category of AI-driven technology (i.e. Smart Edge Transactions) is more challenging that I expected. If I had known this earlier, I would have engaged a broader set of advisors up front to include blockchain, Edge and AI experts rather than exclusively advisors with expertise with our target audiences.”

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Bryan Banfield of Artibeus

“Hire the right, qualified person for the job. Don’t try cut corners on the right staff from day one. Even if cash is tight. Having the wrong employees is one of the reasons businesses do not make the 5 year mark.”

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Sarah Wasserman of Riverr

“The life of an entrepreneur is an intriguing journey. Vacillating between states of genius, and a sense of complete insanity. I often describe it as walking a tight rope, knowing that the slightest movement may send you tumbling into oblivion. Or cliff-hanging well past the time your muscles were depleted. Yet, as an entrepreneur, you keep holding on. You must be willing to fall, knowing that it may be the exact lesson you need to learn for your future success. All while remaining wildly optimistic, even when it seems as if the world is crashing around you. Making sure to close your eyes or plug your ears when criticism or doubts arise. Continually renewing your vision to keep momentum and energy towards your dream. Creating a team of support for yourself, so you learn and grow through the challenges. Seeking out mentors, advisors, entrepreneurs, colleagues, books, videos, trainings and conferences as you evolve. But, before you do all that take care of yourself. You are no good to the business, your team, your customers, etc. if you are not taking care of you. You are the most important element of your business. If you start breaking down physically, mentally or emotionally take a ‘time out’ to regroup and ask for help. Sometimes pushing will not get you any further. Your business will thank you.”

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Gene is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He is a serial entrepreneur who has been responsible for successful ventures in the manufacturing, technology, fashion, real estate & education verticals.
Gene is a co-founder and Managing Director at Propellant Labs, an online incubator for startups. As the Managing Director, Gene lead the charge to scale the portfolio of companies to 60 outstanding startups, with a combined valuation of over $100 million. Prior to his work as an entrepreneur, Gene spent 15 years as a software engineer in the high-tech industry where he led projects in aerospace,  telecommunications and is recognized as an early pioneer of WiMAX technology.

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