Often the most valuable tools you have as an entrepreneur are your network, relationships and mentors. Although starting and running a business is sure to be a learning process, finding out what has and what hasn’t for those who have been there and done that can save you a lot of time and hard lessons learned. Here, seven successful entrepreneurs share their best business advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
Dan Nainan is a successful comedian who has performed at the Democratic National Convention, three presidential inaugural events, and for Donald Trump. Nainan is also a former Intel senior engineer who traveled the country with Intel chairman Andy Grove doing technical demonstrations in front of huge groups. In other words, he wasn’t always a performer.
To get over his onstage anxiety, he took a comedy class. One thing led to another, and he found his career passion in an unlikely field. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to choose the company you keep wisely.
“Stay away from negative people. In their boring nine-to-five jobs, they don't have the guts to try something risky, so they try to bring you down to validate their poor decision to stay put."
“Be proud of everything that you put out. Don't corner yourself into a small business with a name that localizes you unless you are 100 percent sure that you won't want growth. Create systems for every part of your business so that things are consistent. You want your business to be carried out by others besides you.”
Donald J. Pliner, a renowned footwear designer, has been in the footwear industry his entire life and has had his own line for 20 years. He’s also got some major fans – Oprah and Cher among them. His tip is to use your power from within to inspire.
“It's about passion. I love what I do, but ultimately it's because I work hard and I have enough smart and talented people working with me and believing in me. My employees respect me and that's the main reason they stay. When they see my passion, it makes them want to work just as hard to bring the company even more success."
Vick Vaishnavi guided his company, BladeLogic from a small startup to an IPO and eventual acquisition by BMC Software for almost $1 billion. He then helped BMC Software achieve remarkable growth, hitting its all-time stock high during the recession. Now the CEO of Aveksa, a small Access Governance software company, he’s primed for start-up success once again. His tip goes back to the basics of marketing.
“It sounds simple but entrepreneurs really need to identify what the unique differentiator is for the product/service they are bringing to market. Most companies determine their value statement by looking at value statements from competitive products/services and assuming that should be their value statement as well. Doing so makes you just another copycat in a crowded marketplace. If an entrepreneur is bringing a new/existing product/service to market, that product/service needs to stand out among the competition or it will fail.”
Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of RightsFlow, a New York-based licensing and royalty service provider serving YouTube, Rhapsody, and Muzak, started the company in his apartment three years ago. Today, it is a multi-million dollar firm with more than two dozen employees on both coasts. His advice is to identify the “pain area” your customers have and provide them with a solution.
“When we launched RightsFlow we identified a pain point for companies: licensing, accounting and paying thousands of rights holders. By focusing on this labor and resource-intensive area of the music business, we were able to develop a streamlined approach and technology platform to benefit both sides of the equation."
Gurbaksh Chahal, founder and CEO of the ad network RadiumOne (his third startup), dropped out of high school to start Click Agents, which he eventually sold for $40 million. Next came Blue Lithium (Yahoo! bought it for $300 million, when Chahal was just 25). His tip is to hire smart.
“One of the key ways to put your company on the path to success is to hire creativity, hunger and passion. While most companies still look at the traditional ways of hiring (prior experience, education, etc.) the only two answers I look for are: Is this person an entrepreneur and what's their level of hunger? These two outweigh any other degree or experience and are sometimes the hardest two traits to find in people. While success has no guarantee, when smart people can work in unison, the odds accelerate in your favor.”
Dave Ramsey is a New York Times best-selling author and the nationally syndicated radio talk show host of "The Dave Ramsey Show." He is also the president and CEO of The Lampo Group, Inc., which offers money management expertise through Financial Peace University and a variety of other programs designed to help people get control over their financial lives. Ramsey says starting off on the right financial foot is important.
“Start and run your business debt free. You may have to grow the business slower but you will avoid a lot of risk and build your business on a more solid foundation."