For many entrepreneurs, the cliché "hindsight is 20-20" often turns out to be true. If only they had known that micromanagement doesn't work, or that hiring your best friend could be disastrous, they might have done things differently and saved themselves a lot of trouble.
The one positive thing about making mistakes is learning from them — and being able to share those lessons learned with other first-time entrepreneurs. Ten business owners discussed the one thing they wish they'd known before starting their business.
Keep records from the beginning
"The accounting practices of a company are incredibly bootstrapped in the early stages. At inception Black Lotus was on a cash accounting system, performing the minimum amount of record keeping needed just to file taxes each year. As the company grew in size and needed outside funding, it became necessary to prepare quarterly compiled financials. Upon acquisition by Industry Capital, the company inherited a requirement to maintain audited financials. The record-keeping requirements of an audited company compared to one that only maintains internally compiled financials is night and day. If I had the foresight to establish proper record-keeping practices early on, the process of transitioning to institutional ownership would not be nearly as painful." – Jeffrey Lyon, founder of Black Lotus [For a side-by-side comparison of the best accounting software, visit our sister site Business.com.]
Learning to balance takes time
"We hear a lot about founders who invested too aggressively too early and failed, but the alternative, not investing aggressively enough, can also limit business growth over the long term. The ability to tell the difference between investing too aggressively and not aggressively enough often comes down to gut instinct, and that comes with experience. I wish I had that when I was starting out, but really, it's years' worth of learning that allows an entrepreneur to hear his own instincts and use them to triangulate on solutions and act with confidence." – John Joseph, president and co-founder of DataGravity
Perfectionism slows you down
"When I started my first business, I had a hard time keeping things moving due to a desire for perfection in every little detail. I was delaying making important decisions because I often felt the circumstances weren't optimal, and this ultimately stunted the growth of the company for some time. I learned that it is often more important to make a decision promptly than it is to get it perfectly right. Stagnancy is poisonous for a small company, and decisions are what will keep everything moving toward your goals."– Brij Patel, co-founder of Fetch Storage
You need to say 'no' sometimes
"I wish I had learned how to say 'no' more. Commit selectively so you can focus on your core business instead of getting distracted at every opportunity that comes by. The most successful entrepreneurs I know are laser-focused." – TJ Scimone, founder of Slice
You'll be handling things you've never faced in the corporate world
"There are a lot more complex challenges that arise when you are running your own business than when working for another company. I've always enjoyed wearing many hats and juggling multiple responsibilities; however, many of the functions I am now managing were owned by corporate: tax returns, balance sheets, bill payments, etc. All of these functions in the financial discipline, especially the money that pays for the programs to grow my business, would have been handled by another department. I knew that I was going to be taking on these responsibilities, but I didn't really grasp or think about what it entailed. It is definitely very eye-opening and has forced me to become much more disciplined." – Rachel Katz Galatt, CEO and founder of Maternal Science Inc./healthy mama
The ability to adapt is critical
"While it is important to have a carefully worked-out business plan, it is equally important to have one's ears to the marketplace. One must be able to shift and adapt constantly in reaction to feedback from the market. In other words, one needs to be both goal-oriented, and have the agility to adapt and change constantly on the path towards that goal." – Sabine Schoenberg, founder of Sabines Home
Separate your business from your personal life
"The one thing I wish I knew was to never take anything personally— any losses, business turndowns, failures, etc. [Similarly, I learned that I] should separate my business and my personal life. Both of those things that seem crystal clear to me now were hard lessons to learn when I started my limousine business at 16 years old." – Shlomo Ckkifati, co-founder and CEO of Luxor Limo
You'll always need more money than you think
"Too often entrepreneurs are overly optimistic in their sales projections. They don't accurately know their customer acquisition costs, and they usually underestimate the capital they need. My rule of thumb is that whatever amount of money you think you need, double it." – Wayne Connors, managing partner of 401kInvestor.com
"In the past, I was a notorious micro-manager. I had my hand in everything from graphic design to full production. Being this deep in the weeds gave me little time to get that 20,000 foot perspective. Some of my greatest contributions and creative pivots came when I allowed myself to pull back. But more than that, delegating responsibility empowers my team. By giving and expecting accountability, we're creating a team that rises to the occasion and, often, thinks of solutions I never would have considered had my hand been stirring the pot." – Adam Adelman, founder of Mighty Cast
Make employees feel like part of a winning team
"It is very important to provide opportunities where employees can grow in their position, while making sure they understand how their job contributes to the mission and goals of the organization. Once employees realize how important each position is to the overall makeup and success of the company, they will be more motivated and driven to succeed. While leading the SPLICE team for the past eight years, I realized that hiring "A Player" employees is crucial to the success of an organization, but making sure they are also surrounded by other great employees is equally important." – Tara Kelly, president and CEO of SPLICE Software
Originally published on Business News Daily.