The 30 Most Important Lessons Learned About Developing New Business
In this article, we delve into the wisdom of thirty seasoned professionals, including Founders and CEOs, who share their most important lessons learned in developing a new business. From the importance of emphasizing resilience and empathy to the necessity of having realistic expectations and focusing on improvement, these insights offer a wealth of knowledge for anyone embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.
- Emphasizing Resilience and Empathy
- Prioritizing Progress Over Perfection
- Leveraging Emotional Intelligence
- Overcoming Initial Technical Challenges
- Aligning Offerings with Customer Needs
- The Power of Delegation
- Adapting to Change and Building Relationships
- Listening to Customer Feedback
- Understanding ‘Done’ Versus ‘Perfect’
- Exceeding Customer Expectations
- The Value of a Good Mentor
- Utilizing Supplementary Skills and Automation
- Resilience in the Face of Unplanned Events
- Learning the Basics and Seeking Guidance
- Collecting and Evaluating Feedback
- Aligning the Business with the Owner
- Preparation for Handling Failure
- Following the Data in Market Research
- Seeking Professional Guidance
- The Value of a Co-Founder
- Adapting Through Market Research
- Developing Strong Customer Relationships
- Setting Ambitious and Meticulous Goals
- Defining Success for Your Business
- Resilience and Learning from Setbacks
- Avoiding Rush and Moving at Own Speed
- Working with Enjoyable and Admirable People
- Creating a Community and Seeking Help
- Maintaining Meticulous Records and Organization
- Having Realistic Expectations and Focusing on Improvement
Emphasizing Resilience and Empathy
One vital lesson I’ve learned is the power of resilience. Starting a business in such a specialized and often challenging field taught me to persevere in the face of adversity. This industry demands not only technical expertise but also emotional strength. Dealing with sensitive situations and supporting our clients during their most difficult times taught me the importance of empathy and understanding.
I discovered that resilience is not just about overcoming obstacles; it’s about adapting, learning, and empathizing with our clients’ unique needs. This lesson has not only helped my business thrive but also shaped our company culture, emphasizing compassion and resilience as core values.
Kalina Nowak, Managing Director, Biohazard Cleaning Pro
Prioritizing Progress Over Perfection
After pursuing more than ten different business ideas and finally developing one that’s profitable, one of the most important lessons I learned along the way is that the cost of inaction is almost always substantially higher than the cost of error.
Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t an excuse to do a lousy job on everything just to check it off a list. However, it’s a reminder that not everything has to be perfect on the first go.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if you launch that new website and it’s not absolutely perfect?” In comparison, what if you spent months more perfecting it and eventually missed the opportunity or burned yourself out to the point of quitting?
It’s as simple as prioritizing progress over perfection. Try it, and you’ll likely be surprised at how quickly you progress.
Leveraging Emotional Intelligence
When my friend and I had the idea for Aetherium Gaming, we were unsure how we could do things, and whether we would succeed in taking the initial step. Obviously, as women, there are biased prejudices from society we must confront, but those prejudices are – at the very end – what make our company different and our product so special.
Sure, women can be more emotional than men, and sometimes not as level-headed or assertive. But so can men. No one is perfect. In our imperfection, we found that we are developing a product that strives to dissipate barriers while we use our empathy and EQ to bring a change to gaming. Sometimes, a business cannot strive just on IQ and hard skills…
Maria Coutinho, CEO of Aetherium Gaming Ltd and Smartpa Partner
Overcoming Initial Technical Challenges
It’s a tremendous amount of work to set up the infrastructure for a new business from the ground up. When we launched LongTermCareBrokers.com, a digital-first insurance brokerage, we had a number of technical challenges. Configuring our website and ensuring the numerous integrations we depended on were functional – analytics, advertising, SEO, CRM, social media, inbound phone systems – the list seemed endless.
As Peter Thiel says, it’s a matter of going from zero to one. Once you’ve summited that initial mountain of getting an initial version live, it’s much easier to iterate and improve on existing systems from that point forward.
Aligning Offerings with Customer Needs
The most important lesson I have learned in developing a new business is to have complete clarity on your offering. You need to know your core offering inside out and ensure it aligns with what customers genuinely want—and, most importantly, what they are willing to pay for.
It’s not just about having a product; it’s about having the right product for the market.
The Power of Delegation
It is important to delegate. I am not the best person to do all the jobs necessary to run a business. I needed to figure out what my strengths are, and to focus on doing the things that I do well. Then, I needed to delegate everything else to people that have strengths in those areas where I do not. In order to grow a business, you must be willing to let go of doing everything yourself. There is not enough time in the day, and I am not the best person to do every job.
Adapting to Change and Building Relationships
One of the most vital lessons I’ve learned in developing Carnivore Style is the importance of adapting to change. In the ever-evolving landscape of business, being flexible and open to new ideas is key. When we started Carnivore Style, we had a clear vision, but we also knew that the market and consumer preferences could shift rapidly. Staying attuned to these changes and being willing to pivot our strategies has been instrumental in our growth. Moreover, understanding the significance of building strong relationships has been a game-changer.
We prioritize open communication and genuinely value the feedback we receive. This not only helps us improve our services but also fosters a sense of community around our brand.
Every setback is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Listening to Customer Feedback
One of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned about developing a new business is the paramount importance of listening to your customers. Building a successful social-media management software startup requires a deep understanding of your users’ needs, pain points, and aspirations. Regularly engaging with customers, seeking their feedback, and actively incorporating their suggestions into product development is key.
By staying close to our user base, we’ve not only improved our software but also fostered strong customer loyalty and advocacy. This not only ensures that your product remains relevant and competitive but also helps you build lasting relationships and trust within your market. In the ever-evolving landscape of social media and technology, customer feedback increasingly becomes your compass, guiding you towards innovation and sustainable growth.
Understanding ‘Done’ Versus ‘Perfect’
“You can’t do everything, and not everything has to be perfect. Learning the difference between ‘done’ and ‘done how you might have done it’ is crucial. I think a lot of leaders are perfectionists and want things done to the highest standard.
Certainly, there are times and projects that require that, but there are also just as many projects that require a result or task to simply be complete. Knowing the difference and allowing ‘done’ to be ‘done enough,’ for the sake of the bigger picture (and perhaps your sanity), has been a huge part of my growth in starting companies.”
Exceeding Customer Expectations
One of the most crucial lessons in developing a new business is the importance of consistently going above and beyond for your customers.
In the early stages of my business, it was easy to recognize the significance of satisfying customers, and I put an emphasis on it. However, what truly differentiates successful businesses is their ability to maintain this commitment to going above and beyond.
By going the extra mile for customers, you not only increase the likelihood of repeat business but also foster brand loyalty. Customers who receive extraordinary care and attention are more likely to become enthusiastic advocates for your business, spreading the word and helping you acquire new clients through referrals and positive reviews.
The Value of a Good Mentor
One of the most important lessons I learned while developing a new business was to find a good coach or mentor. Having someone to bounce ideas off, ask questions about employees, accounting procedures, and everything else you can imagine was unbelievably important for me. It’s very lonely when you have no one else to talk things through with, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
A good mentor or coach will want you to succeed and will help answer tough questions for you and guide you through tough situations because they’ve been there before and know the answers. It’s like having a cheat code for your favorite game, except this game pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head.
Utilizing Supplementary Skills and Automation
The most important lesson I’ve learned from starting a new business is the requirement to have supplementary skills to grow your business. This has nothing to do with your expertise in your field, but everything to do with business systems. Lead generation, consulting on the phone, following up with emails within the same day—all of it matters.
Try using automation as much as possible to streamline your customer-acquisition process and constantly use articles to speak to your ideal customers via a blog. Through time and persistence, these articles will gain your business eyeballs, and you can enjoy a healthy stream of customers who found you on Google. Focus all your efforts on writing these articles, solving your clients’ problems, and customers will seek you out.
Resilience in the Face of Unplanned Events
The most important lesson I realized was that no matter how perfect your business plan is, you will deal with unplanned events. When starting my e-commerce business, I had to deal with online scams and a lot of chargebacks. It was definitely eye-opening and an expensive lesson. The one thing that stayed with me was that I never gave up, even though I wanted to at times.
Learning the Basics and Seeking Guidance
Learn the basics first. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you seek guidance in advance on how to properly start a business in your preferred industry. Never stop asking questions of those who have successfully done it before. Use the internet, and even seek a mentor to walk you through it if possible.
Collecting and Evaluating Feedback
I would say one of the most important things I’ve learned starting my business is to collect and evaluate feedback early and frequently. When we finished our initial minimum viable product for Mass Texting Service, we offered free one-month trials to a handful of individuals and asked for feedback after the trial.
We received suggestions for features we hadn’t considered that weren’t anywhere on our roadmap. Getting feedback from our first users helped us shape the app into something more useful, and we continue to collect feedback with quarterly emails we send to our users, as well as reviewing support requests and lead feedback.
Aligning the Business with the Owner
You are your business’s most precious asset. Your energy, your focus, your enthusiasm, your strengths, and even your weaknesses are what make your business unique. But so many businesses aren’t built to consider the actual living human who owns and operates them. Often when starting out, we work excessive hours, take on clients we know will treat us badly, bend our boundaries to make money, and it takes a toll.
So, after the initial period of getting started, it’s critical to realign the business to better suit and accommodate you. Work during the hours you perform best, sell the offers you enjoy delivering, and use systems that work for your brain. Basically, once the fear of making it work dies down, it’s time to become a better boss for yourself.
Preparation for Handling Failure
An incredibly important lesson I learned when I helped develop a new business in the past is to prepare myself to handle failure at any moment. When anyone starts up their new business, they’re dreaming of the perfect opening day, constant sales, gaining a massive consumer fan base, and all of their business ideas blossoming into the perfect fit for their target audience. However, the business world can twist and turn at any moment, and your grand plan could come crashing down.
I learned this the hard way when starting Hunter Super Techs, and while the company is thriving as of now, I definitely had my share of failed marketing ideas when first growing the company. It’s all about keeping your cool and analyzing what’s the worst-case scenario if a new business plan fails. Then you can bounce back even stronger!
Following the Data in Market Research
Look into data and confirm your idea has profit potential.
The more people are looking for your product (or the pain point your product or offer resolves), the more likely it will find its audience.
Follow the data’s location: focus on where those people are and start strategizing your production and launch.
Seeking Professional Guidance
I cringe thinking of how naive I was when I started my company 26 years ago. However, I knew enough to admit what I didn’t know. For me, that meant constantly seeking out professional guidance by investing in consultants early on.
My best advice is to actively surround yourself with people who have more experience and knowledge than you. If you don’t have the money to invest in a coach, attend networking groups and seek out mentors. Aim high. You may be surprised at the caliber of entrepreneurs who are willing to help. I find that successful people want to lift others and enjoy sharing their experience. Find a seat at the table and maintain your humility. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Emily Dills, Founder, National Nanny Network and Seattle Nanny Network, Inc.
The Value of a Co-Founder
I started Spivo around four years ago, and over the course of time, one lesson has remained prominent: the value of having a co-founder. My co-founder, Andre, and I share a passion for adventure and the great outdoors, which acts as the glue that enriches our partnership and benefits our video-editing company. Together, we’ve discovered the importance of teamwork, innovation, and trust, all of which are crucial in business.
My journey is far less daunting with a reliable partner who complements my skills and shares my enthusiasm. The best part is how our partnership extends beyond the office, fostering a strong bond and making the entrepreneurial adventure all the more rewarding.
Adapting Through Market Research
One crucial lesson in developing a new business is the significance of market research. Understanding your target audience and their needs is key to success. Another critical lesson in developing a new business is the importance of adaptability.
The business landscape is ever-evolving, and the ability to pivot and adjust your strategies in response to changing market conditions or unforeseen challenges is paramount. Flexibility enables you to seize new opportunities and overcome obstacles, ultimately leading to long-term success. This adaptability should extend to your products or services, operational processes, and even your overall business model.
Being open to change and continuously learning from your experiences will help your business stay relevant and competitive in a dynamic and unpredictable marketplace.
Developing Strong Customer Relationships
Starting a new business is both an exciting and daunting challenge. From my experience in starting a streaming-technologies business, I learned that the most important lesson when beginning a venture is to have realistic expectations and focus on developing strong customer relationships.
It’s critical to invest in building quality customer relationships right from the start. Developing loyal customers does not happen overnight. It will take time and effort to get to know them through regular communication such as newsletters, survey questionnaires, etc.
Setting Ambitious and Meticulous Goals
Set ambitious and meticulously planned goals. Prior to devising an action plan, engage in a comprehensive decision-making process to determine your desired destination. This approach will not only save you valuable time, resources, and costs, but also prevent missed deadlines, potential opportunities, and customer attrition. To establish achievable and well-thought-out goals, incorporate various methods and tools into your strategy.
The decision-making process revolves around critical thinking regarding both personal and professional development goals. Subsequently, create a comprehensive action plan to propel yourself forward.
Defining Success for Your Business
Be honest with yourself about what success should look like for your business. Too often, once new business owners become emotionally involved with their companies, they start to make excuses and continuously look to the next month to ‘turn things around.’ We’ve all seen the statistics of almost 50% of all new businesses not surviving the first five years, but few of us want to believe that our companies could be one of them.
As soon as you see the signs of your startup failing, consider pivoting to a different service, or starting a new business altogether. Don’t see a business closure as a failure, but rather a lesson learned, and a stepping-stone to a better business.
Resilience and Learning from Setbacks
One of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned in the dance of entrepreneurship is that every setback is a setup for a comeback. Developing a new business is a symphony of trials, tribulations, and triumphs. It teaches us resilience in the face of adversity, creativity in problem-solving, and the power of unwavering determination.
Through the highs and lows, we discover that success is not a destination but a continuous evolution. The seeds of our dreams, when watered with passion and perseverance, have the potential to blossom into magnificent forests of accomplishment. Thus, in every challenge lies an opportunity and, in every endeavor, a chance to craft a legacy that resonates through time.
Avoiding Rush and Moving at Own Speed
One of the key lessons for me has been slowing down and doing things pragmatically, even when competitors seem to be flying by with their progress. When you’re growing a new business, you feel immense pressure to play the catch-up game with your competitors, especially if others have been on the market way longer. This pressure can turn into rushing, which inevitably brings negative results since you start cutting corners to develop the project faster.
I’ve had to remind myself of our core mission and values whenever I feel the pressure to “catch up” to others. Whenever I come back to our core values, everything goes back to balance. But keeping an eye on your own behavior and reactions is crucial, especially catching yourself from the FOMO situation and avoiding any rushing. Move at your own speed, and things will still turn out exactly as they’re supposed to.
Working with Enjoyable and Admirable People
It may sound too simple to be useful; however, the most important lesson is to only work with people you truly enjoy and admire. For about the first 10 hires in your business, you will not only spend more time with them than you do with your spouse, but they will inevitably put their DNA into the company. Of course, they need to have the requisite skills and abilities; however, building a company is extremely difficult, and you need to do it with people that don’t add to that stress and difficulty but help alleviate it.
Creating a Community and Seeking Help
Create a community, ask for help, and pay it forward! Developing a new business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. There are more resources out there than you can imagine! Check the websites for your local small-business resources and reach out. There is no gold star for developing a business in isolation – ask for help and accept it graciously. Then, when you’re in a position to pay it forward to someone developing a business, do it!
Maintaining Meticulous Records and Organization
One of the most important lessons I learned about developing a new business is the paramount importance of keeping meticulous records and maintaining a high level of organization when it comes to crucial files and information. This lesson underscores the significance of having a structured system in place for documenting financial transactions, customer interactions, and essential business data.
Without a well-organized approach to record-keeping, it becomes increasingly challenging to make informed decisions, track progress, or respond effectively to unforeseen challenges. Being organized with vital information not only fosters operational efficiency but also ensures the long-term sustainability and growth of the business.
Having Realistic Expectations and Focusing on Improvement
You don’t know what you don’t know! Launching a new business venture can be exciting and terrifying, all at the same time.
Each product or service your business offers can be better than the last. Take the time to listen, think critically, and implement changes when needed. Prioritize what matters to your clients or customers, and don’t waste time and energy on what doesn’t matter.