Like most big things in life worth doing, growing a business takes a village. I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who got to where they are without advice, guidance and tough love from others—usually other entrepreneurs who have walked the path before.
What’s special about this particular fraternity is that those same successful entrepreneurs, no matter how far they’ve come, also jump at the chance to pay it forward themselves, imparting lessons from their own respective schools of hard knocks. I have experienced this first-hand—when I made my own entrepreneurial leap years ago, I had the benefit of countless entrepreneurs on speed dial, from my days interviewing and profiling them throughout my media career. And you can be sure I called early and often.
This concept is at the core of the Leader Board—pooling advice on an ongoing basis and sharing it with the wider world. (In fact, members of this insightful group were many of the same people I reached out to in my early days, so it’s a thrill to now play maestro of this conversation.)
With that in mind, I asked our go-to experts to flash back and share some of the best advice they got at the beginning of their own journeys.
Co-Founder, Hella Cocktail Co.
“Success is best when it's shared. Every entrepreneur is, in one way or another, on an individual journey. But those who we have come to admire most are the ones who attribute victory to the team. In doing so, they build stronger, longer-lasting organizations and leave legacies that far outlast their tenure.”
Founder and CEO, Shoptiques
"‘If you got a good phone call, don't pick up the next one. It is going to be bad news!’ My mentor Stephen Messer shared this with me when I was just starting Shoptiques.com. It prepared me for what entrepreneurship really is—a rollercoaster of emotions. Exciting news is inevitably followed by disappointing news, and over time, you learn how to celebrate the highs and manage the lows. But learning this insight early on helped prepare me for the road ahead and understand that what I was going through was par for the course, and others are experiencing a similar rollercoaster.”
Host, MSNBC's Your Business
“You will make mistakes. Everyone does. It's how you deal with them that matters.”
Co-Founder, Hella Cocktail Co.
“Never, ever be afraid to ask questions, especially if you don't know something. We all have egos, and for a lot of us, letting others know we may not know the answer feels like we're exposing weakness. To the contrary, asking questions demonstrates confidence—knowing what you don't know is a benefit—and asking questions makes it clear you're eager to keep learning and growing professionally.”
Founder and CEO, TerraCycle
“I got some great advice from one of the people who helped get TerraCycle off the ground. He said, ‘Make a friend, make a sale.’ People want to work with people they like. You can do presentations and talk until you lose your voice, but if people don’t feel a connection with you and they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you and they won’t stay with you. This advice (and persistence) helped me land our first sales and has stayed with me to this day.”
“One piece of advice that always stuck with me was from the founders of Lucky Jeans, Gene Montesano and Barry Perlman. While sitting at a [basketball] game, they explained the secret to executing consumer trends was to follow the hour hand, not the minute hand. Their point was that brands often change too fast while chasing trends and the consumer adoption curve is frequently slower than we realize.”