20 Start-up Lessons from Successful Founders (and How to Apply Them)

Picture yourself in 20 years’ time. Your start-up is now a long-established business. There were problems along the way, but you solved them and got your business stable – flourishing, even.

One day, a wild-haired time-traveler arrives in your executive suite and offers you the chance to travel back to today. Back to a moment when your small business could go either way. What would your Future You tell your Today You?

Of course, you don’t know the answer yet. The only way to find it is to live it. Or is it?

“Nothing can really prepare you for the real-life hurdles of owning a business,” says Kimberly Eberl, founder and CEO of Motion PR. But Eberl suggests an alternative way to get the insight you need before it’s too late: “Find a solid mentor to coach you, introduce you to people, and bounce ideas off of.”

It’s good business advice. A mentor can be your Future You. The more expertise, enthusiasm, and frankness they have, the better.

But while you search for a mentor with the chemistry to be your personal guru, there are lots of off-the-shelf mentorships available from the big-name founders and entrepreneurs who have already been there. Experts like Eberl, whose success story began with a major setback: getting fired from a PR agency.

The Rocky Road to Start-Up Success

“Instead of seeing my firing as a failure, I realized it was an opportunity to strike on my own,” says Eberl. “With seven years of agency work behind me, I could clearly identify what I didn’t like about agencies… I took great measures to ensure my focus was always imaginative and client-centric.” Clients dug Eberl’s approach. Motion PR made $100k in its first year. By 2019, annual revenue was in the millions.

Absorbing advice from successful founders like Eberl will help you model your business durably for the long-haul. You need to make your model your own, even if your starting point is Steve Jobs. The Apple founder, by the way, modeled his business on – um – The Beatles? “They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts,” said Jobs. His advice? “Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

Learning to Learn

There will never be a moment in your career when learning from the masters is inappropriate. But, while starting your start-up, it is essential to develop healthy patterns and habits. “Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally,” says B-School founder Marie Forleo. “It comes from what you do consistently.”

Learning to learn every day is the best way to stay vital. And while you’ll never run out of sources of learning, it can get pretty noisy with all the different wise old entrepreneurs out there. We’ve gathered 20 bite-size lessons from start-up founders to help you find what you need today. Explore this collection of annotated quotes so you can take the lessons learned by the most successful CEOs and make them your own, even as you develop the unique wisdom your Future You will share.

20 Startup Lessons from Successful Founders

 

Sources

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  4. Christoff, C. (2018). How to Decide Which Conferences to Attend (5 Pro Tips). business2community.com
  5. Paccione, C. (2019). Female Entrepreneurs Share Startup Advice For Women. motionpr.net
  6. Kalish, A. (2019). 7 Qualities That Make a Good Mentor (and How to Find Someone Who Has Them All). themuse.com
  7. Stanger, M. (2012). INSTANT MBA: Don’t Solicit Feedback On Your Business Just For Validation. businessinsider.com.au
  8. Close, K. (2015). 4 Things Airbnb’s Brian Chesky Thinks All Young Entrepreneurs Need to Know. inc.com
  9. Climer, A. (2015). How to use the Creative Problem Solving Process. climerconsulting.com
  10. Foggia, L. (2018). Usability testing: what is it and how to do it? uxdesign.cc
  11. Robinson, R. (2020). 60 Top Entrepreneurs Share Best Business Advice and Tips for Success. ryrob.com
  12. SmartDraw. (2020). SWOT Analysis. smartdraw.com
  13. Matousek, M. (2020). Elon Musk says you still don’t need a college degree to work at Tesla. Here’s what he looks for in job applicants instead. businessinsider.com
  14. Umoh, R. (2018). Elon Musk asks this tricky interview question that most people can’t answer. cnbc.com
  15. McKinnon, T. (2020). The Top 60 Jeff Bezos Quotes on Business, Innovation, Life and More. indigo9digital.com
  16. Salesforce. (2020). Build a Customer Service Dream Team. salesforce.com
  17. Farber, D. (2013). Tim Cook maintains Steve Jobs’ Beatles business model. cnet.com
  18. Elliott, E. (2016). The Essential Guide to Building Balanced Development Teams. medium.com
  19. Patel, S. (2015). 10 Essential Startup Expenses, and 10 You Should Avoid. entrepreneur.com
  20. Rhodes, I. (2017). Why tell a story? Allow 21 of the brightest minds in marketing to explain. ecommercegrowth.co.uk
  21. Patel, N. (2020). How to Create an Authentic Brand Story that Actually Improves Trust. neilpatel.com
  22. Morris, T., Tomasi, C. (2017). Podcasting for Dummies (3rd Edition). John Wiley & Sons
  23. Umoh, R. (2017). Arianna Huffington says she became successful after she started doing 4 simple things every day. cnbc.com
  24. Erts, N. (2016). Top 50 Team-Building Games that Your Employees Would Love to Play. cake.hr
  25. Leadem, R. (2017). 12 Quotes From Google’s Larry Page on Drive, Success, Creativity and Hard Work. entrepreneur.com
  26. Mann, A. (2017). 5 top tips for creating an effective PDP. natwestgroup.com
  27. Meah, A. (2018). 35 Inspirational Marie Forleo Quotes On Success. awakenthegreatnesswithin.com
  28. Lau, V. (2020). How I Chunk Tasks Together to Improve My Health, Time and Productivity. Medium.com
  29. Gregory, A. (2019). SMART Goal Setting Tips for Small Business Owners. thebalancesmb.com
  30. Dormon, C. (2019). Meet ClassPass Founder Payal Kadakia. whateveryourdose.com
  31. SmartSheet. (2020). 28 Free Time Management Templates. smartsheet.com
  32. TalkRoute. (2020). 12 Tips from Experts on How to Grow Your Home Business. talkroute.com

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Bonnie P

Bonnie is a Chicago transplant who's committed to seeing the world on a dime. As an avid news junkie with a fascination with finance, she loves to help others do more with less.

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