1. Advice for Young Entrepreneurs

    Over the past eight years, I’ve learned many great lessons, and truths that I will take on with me throughout my personal and professional life.

    You are only as good as your team

    This is extremely important in the startup phase of your company. If you don’t have the right people in place to help push the company through all the obstacles, you will not succeed, or, even if you do, it will be as a scarred and stressed person. Collect people that inspire you, that collaborate well, and that are smarter, and work harder than you. These people will help sustain your will to continue on those really hard days.

    Employees and customers first

    My dad has a saying scratched out on a post-it note somewhere that says, “Leaders in support”. If it weren’t for the fact that he lives and breaths this mentality on a day-to-day basis I’d dismiss it as a cheesy one-liner from one of those inspirational posters that people hang in their offices. All my Dad’s employees have healthcare, amazing benefits, and know that they are each cared for. He takes a great interest in their personal lives, making sure that they are happy in what they do.

    By being a “leader in support”, my dad puts his staff before himself, often making sacrifices to make sure that they are happy and well cared for. In return, he has an exuberant team that is very loyal, hard-working and which performs like no other business in his industry.

    Too often, businesses wait for their employees complain, ask, or threaten to leave before they respond to their needs. This is a mistake that shortens the life-span of your employees and translates into stress which reduces productivity.

    Friends with benefits does not apply to business

    Often there is a certain amount of discomfort experienced when two people who consider themselves friends decide to work together. Do not allow this to dictate your actions. Ignore this discomfort, get past it quick. Sure, the good-vibes you might experience in a working relationship with a friend can be fun for awhile, however when it gets down to it, a situation will arise that will put a strain on that relationship.

    Sign contracts, make written, legal agreements whenever appropriate and never leave an aspect of your professional life up to the “good will” of a friend.

    Misguided loyalty is a mistake

    I spent years of my professional life following a misguided sense of loyalty. Don’t let this happen to you. Place value in yourself, your time, and your skills and never compromise. If you are not being rewarded for hard work, you need to establish a cut-off for that relationship and move on.

    Set milestones

    At the start of a year, write out 2-3 goals for each quarter of the coming year. This should be simple milestones that you can look back at through the year to make sure that you are on-track with your expectations for yourself. You can throw yourself passionately into your work, but if it’s not getting you further along in your life, you must reconsider your situation and correct your course.

    Know your limits, there Superman

    Often small business leaders wear many hats in their company. Some become very attached to those hats and have difficulties letting one or two of them go, despite complaining about them all-the-time. Often, holding onto all those responsibilities and not finding people who specialize in those particular rolls can limit your companies ability to survive.

    Join a service based group

    Many people view organizations like Rotary, or the Lions Club to be a chance for business networking, participating only when necessary, looking for an opportunity to make a buck. This is stupid.

    Joining an organization like Rotary (I’m a member) and participating with the intent to serve and help someone else is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business. Instead of throwing around business cards and pushing other people for leads, throw yourself into helping others with their work. Don’t worry, the leads and partnerships with other businesses will come as other businesses see your willingness to give and work for others.

    Get a puppy

    As a young leader, you have the qualities of a warrior, as you mature and grow in your roll as a leader, you must develop the skills to nurture and sustain others. I consider most successful entrapraneurs to have A-type personalities. You rely on yourself, and demand just as much from others. However, to grow and succeed at business you must learn how to have compassion and patience.

    When I was 25, I went out and bought a Great Dane puppy. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The little guy would not sit when I said sit, would not pee on the carefully arranged newspapers and cried for attention at any given moment… It took constant resolve to continue taking care of the puppy, even getting past moments where I absolutely hated the little guy.

    I stuck with it for 4 months straight, fighting him, trying to train him. Finally, I gave in and stopped being such a controlling jackass; letting the puppy be a puppy, and just continuing to train him through patience and firmness.

    Because of that experience, I now have an awesome seven-month-old monster that likes nothing better than to sit by my side, sleep in my office and who desperately wants to be my best friend. All great things…exactly what you want from a good dog.

    More valuable than that, is the knowledge that I’ve taken away some lessons in patience that are helping me become a better leader.

    Do you have advice that you’d like to offer to young entrepreneurs? Maybe you’ve got a blog post or a comment that you’d like to add to this conversation, hit me up on Twitter.