Failing forward is its own concept, but it may also act as a synonym for entrepreneurship. Many successful entrepreneurs fail before they finally nail the right idea. And then they fail again. And succeed again. The key is that they don't give up.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, you're not the first to walk this path. You also won't be the last.
The most successful people in this world take time to help others on their way to the top. They understand that your success does not detract from their own. So, they are happy to share their sage advice.
We've collected 60 pieces of advice from some of the most successful entrepreneurs. Learn from their mistakes and observations. You may still make some of your own missteps, but then you can share your experiences to help a new generation of entrepreneurs.
The first set of advice is from a group of entrepreneurs who want to share the value of hard work. Here we learn not just that we need to work hard, but we also learn where to put our efforts.
1. There are no shortcuts.
“Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”
Billionaire investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban shares this piece of advice that his father gave him.
2. Get ready to wear all the hats
“As an entrepreneur, you'll typically start out as a ‘solopreneur,' meaning you will be on your own for a while. You may not have the luxury of hiring a support staff initially. Therefore, you will end up wearing several different hats, including secretary, bookkeeper and so on.”
3. Get in it for the long haul
“The media wants overnight successes (so they have someone to tear down). Ignore them. Ignore the early adopter critics that never have enough to play with. Ignore your investors that want proven tactics and predictable instant results. Listen instead to your real customers, to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that's how long it's going to take, guys.”
Author, entrepreneur, and marketer Seth Godin shared these wise words to help other entrepreneurs succeed.
4. Become your best salesperson
“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”
David Ogilvy, co-founder of Ogilvy & Mather, shared this quote about the importance of selling for yourself.
5. Make your ideas happen
“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”
Scott Belsky co-founded the online portfolio tool Behance and is clearly not afraid of rolling up his sleeves to make things happen.
6. See every detail of your business
“See every crack, every detail. I learned to really see and not just look at my business,”
In an interview with Business Insider, Jon Taffer, the host of the TV show “Bar Rescue” and a former business owner, shares the best advice he ever received.
Ask for help
Successful entrepreneurs are usually willing to mentor because they are thankful for the help they received in their humble beginnings. The following pieces of advice are focused on the importance of relying on others and building a team.
7. It's OK to ask for help.
“It took me a long time to understand it, but [the advice was] to ask for help and that I don't know it all. People love to help. I don't have to be insecure and know it all.”
Lulu Lemon founder Chip Wilson told Business Insider about this insight he got at Landmark Forum, a weekend workshop he attended in 1991.
8. Learn from others
“There is a misbegotten belief that action is the only way to learn. The combination of LinkedIn and Google mean that experts who can shed light on critical assumptions are no more than a mouse click away.”
9. You are who you associate with.
“The best advice I ever got is: You’re the average of the five people you associate with the most. I use it always, whether it’s choosing startups to invest in, choosing investors, sports teams to join, or people to have dinner with. Constantly, I think about this.”
Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” told Business Insider about a life lesson he learned from his high school wrestling coach.
10. My best advice was an insult.
“It's kind of weird. The best advice was the worst advice. It was from my boyfriend and partner in my first business when he told me I would never succeed without him. I was injured no doubt. But thank God he insulted me because I would not have built a big business without that. It kept me trying everything because I couldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing me fail. So the best advice was an insult.”
Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran knows that even negative feedback can fuel success. It’s all in how you receive it.
11. Hire A+ Players
“The most important thing is that you hire people who complement you and are better than you in specific areas. Good people hire people better than themselves. So A players hire A+ players.”
Guy Kawasaki, silicon-valley based author and entrepreneur, understands the importance of building a solid team.
The entrepreneurs who have shared the following advice want to help you overcome the perfectionist’s roadblock. Action is always greater than inaction.
12. Take action
“Taking action and even failure is better than continuing to talk about something “
Sujan Patel is a growth marketer and co-founder of the content marketing agency, Web Profits. His advice should motivate anyone to take action on that big idea they’ve been talking about for way too long.
13. Take the plunge
“You won’t know if it’ll work unless you start.”
Michelle Schroeder runs the highly-successful personal finance and lifestyle blog, Making Sense of Cents. Her advice touches on decisiveness. If you think it’ll work, there’s only one way to find out!
14. Don’t get caught up in perfection
“Consider this a reminder, both for myself and you – don’t get too sucked into only putting out perfect things. There’s a lot of learning and creation in just ensuring you have consistent output.”
Sol Orwell founded Examine.com and now teaches and blogs about entrepreneurship at SJO.com.
15. Start NOW
“The key to success is to start before you’re ready.”
Marie Forleo is the founder of B-School and a business and life coach who knows that there’s no better step than the one you actually take.
16. Do it now
“To any entrepreneur: if you want to do it, do it now. If you don’t, you’re going to regret it.”
Catherine Cook, co-founder of MyYearbook, shares her advice on procrastination.
17. Don’t wait for funding
“If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1% of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started, while others are waiting for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.”
Derek Sivers, writer and successful entrepreneur, shares his advice on reaching the finish line in a post on his blog Sivers.org.
The entrepreneurs who share the following advice want to help you stand out and find success in your business. Oftentimes, specializing is the best way to get ahead.
18. Get into a business where you can be a big fish
“The best advice I ever got was from Lee Iaccoca, who was very influential in my career. It was very simple. It was get into a business where you can be a big fish, not the little fish. Get into a business where you can be a change agent, where you can make a difference. It's worked well for me.”
Marcus Lemonis, entrepreneur, investor and television personality, told Business Insider about the advice that fueled his successful career.
19. Simplicity is everything.
“Simplicity is really important. It's got to be simple, and sometimes to make something simple you have to really, really study everything about it. It might turn out to be complex, but you have to present it simply, particularly when it comes to people: when people buy something, they don't want a lecture.”
5 Acre Farms CEO Dan Horan understands the importance of simplifying your product line.
20. Be different, not better
“Try to be different, not better. If you love it so much that you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, that’s where the competition begins to fall away.”
Chase Jarvis is a creative entrepreneur, photographer and founder of the blog CreativeLive.
21. Be Yourself
“Confidently put all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself into everything you do.”
Sarah Robb O’Hagan wrote these words of advice in her book “Extreme You.”
22. Be unconventional
“People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional.”
Warren Buffett encouraged people to be unconventional in an interview with TIME Magazine.
When you achieve some success, always remember the people who got you there. These people are your customers. The following advice focuses on the importance of helping your customers solve their problems.
23. Use feedback
“We're fastidious about tagging all incoming messages across channels, collating, entering and retaining the data people share or send to us,” said Steward Butterfield of Slack.
Butterfield stresses the importance of collecting data and feedback to use for product development.
24. Grow with existing customers
“People are always looking for the next marketing channel or tactic to grow their business and get in front of new customers. What very few entrepreneurs realize, though, is that it's much easier to grow your business through your current customers than it is to go out and find a whole bunch of new customers.”
Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo, shared advice on how to grow your business on his blog OKDork.
25. Solve people’s frustrations
“The best businesses come from people’s bad personal experiences. If you just keep your eyes open, you’re going to find something that frustrates you, and then you think, ‘well I could maybe do it better than it’s being done,’ and there you have a business.”
26. Get feedback
“Startups often go out of business because they rely on the product development methodology to measure all their sales and marketing efforts.”
“The product development methodology starts with building a product first and later engaging a sales and marketing team to push the product into the hands of the target customer, as opposed to building and iterating a product solution based on your target audience’s needs.”
27. Solve other people’s problems
“Today, the world thrives on ambitious, smart risk-takers who know how to make things happen for themselves and, most importantly, solve problems for other people.”
Daniel Dipiazza wrote about making things happen for yourself by helping others in her book “Rich20Something.”
Entrepreneurs know that failing is part of the game. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Follow the advice in this section to help you through the difficult times.
28. Expect all the “Nos.”
“Multiple people have told me this, and I don't know if I can credit it to a single person, but one thing that I think about is if you're not getting told ‘no' enough times a day, you're probably not doing it right or you're probably not pushing yourself hard enough.”
“I think that's a good piece of advice for anybody building a company because you hear ‘no' so many times. And I think that's normal, that's a good thing, that you're trying to try to do something that's disruptive, that's groundbreaking, that there's going to be naysayers.”
NewsCred CEO Shafqat Islam shares the best advice he ever got about rejection.
29. Don't give up
“I asked advice of a professional cartoonist, Jack Cassady, who had a TV show called ‘Funny Business' years ago on PBS. I wrote to him, and he gave me this advice: ‘It’s a competitive business, but don’t give up.'”
“That sounds very non-profound, but let me fast forward the story. I put some comics together and sent them to magazines The New Yorker and Playboy, but they rejected them. So I said, ‘Oh well, I tried.' A year later, I get a second letter from Cassady. He'd been cleaning his office and came across my original samples. He said he was just writing to me to make sure that I hadn't given up. And I had. So I took out my art supplies, and I decided to raise my sights.”
Dilbert cartoon creator shares the best advice he ever got before becoming a syndicated cartoonist.
30. Pick your battles
“Choose what to bomb.”
This advice comes from Jon Acuff in his book “Finish.” The advice is to put everything you have into one goal, even if it’s at the expense of nearly all else. You may bomb at some things, but you’ve chosen to bomb at them in order to succeed at something else.
31. Don’t get caught in the comparison trap
“Instead, stay focused on your tasks, be patient with yourself and learn from every single experience. That's the only way to improve.”
Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing Mentor, blogs about the importance of focusing on yourself over getting stuck in the comparison trap.
32. Learn from your mistakes
“Learn from your mistakes. The number one reason I see entrepreneurs failing isn’t because they make mistakes, but they keep on making the same ones over and over again. Learn from them and avoid making the same ones over again.”
If you listen to this advice from internet marketing guru and Crazy Egg founder Neil Patel, you may never make the same mistake twice. Or maybe you just won’t make it thrice.
33. Don't be afraid of mistakes
Research from the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development backs up the theory of failing forward, noting that it is a key characteristic of successful business owners.
Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and others failed several times before finding immense success.
34. Learn to say ‘no' and focus on what you do best
“One thing that I've slowly come to realize is that focus is so critically important. Saying ‘no' to great ideas is necessary to get to the brilliant ones. At every step of the way you have to cut towards one path. It's such a hard thing to do as an entrepreneur because you don't really have the confidence in where you're going yourself.”
“You see these little companies building out service brands because they want to have account executives who work with customers,” Atkinson adds, “so they try to spin their products into serving three different groups in the first couple of years, and that's a very adverse situation to get into. We all expect services to do one thing right, allow you to search the world or enter 140 characters or post pictures of your friends. It's a very simple formula that you just repeat and rinse all the way to success.”
SumAll CEO Dane Atkinson reflected on the power of no in an interview with Business Insider.
35. Be agile
“Finding growth solutions fast is crucial in today's ever-more-competitive and rapidly changing business landscape.”
This piece of advice is actually an excerpt from the book “Hacking Growth” by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown.
36. Focus on what’s in your control
“You have to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.”
Tony Robbins gives this advice in his book “Unshakeable.” If you try to solve every problem, you may worry unnecessarily and spread yourself too thin.
37. Learn how to embrace plan B
“Tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive, or permanent, but resilience can be.”
Take this advice given by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in the book “Option B,” and you won’t let tragedy define you.
38. Accept the dark side of reality
“The best route to success, in my opinion, is to view the dark side of reality not as something to be overcome or feared, but to accept and apply.”
Robert Herjavec, billionaire and television personality, has mentored many budding entrepreneurs. Th advice he’s given above comes from his book “You Don’t Have to Be a Shark.”
39. Focus on what’s most important
“What you focus on determines your reality. For instance, if you are focused on generating income, you will naturally find ways to create more income. But if you focus on your loneliness, you will only remain lonely.”
40. Don’t dwell on failure
“I have a very short memory for failure.”
This very succinct piece of advice was Ankur Nagpal’s answer when asked about a personal habit that contributes to his success. Ankur is the founder and CEO of Teachable, an online course-building platform.
41. Always measure success
“My advice on advice: trust but verify. After trying and measuring, the things that do grow our business profitably are word of mouth, blogging, and newsletters.”
42. Stick to your guns
“Focus on your product, does it provide value to your users. Be very clear about the problem you are solving. Don’t be distracted by shiny new things, focus on how you can solve that problem better.”
Read more from Steve Rayson about how BuzzSumo achieved $2.5 million in their first year here.
43. Become a boss in all areas of your life
“I became a Boss Bitch by embracing being a “boss” in all aspects of the word: first as the boss of my own life and career, then as the boss at work, and ultimately as the boss of my own company.”
As you might have guessed, this advice came from the boss herself, Nicole Lapin in her book “Boss Bitch.”
Many of the mistakes new business owners make are in the financial realm. The advice in this section may help you avoid some financial missteps that may cost you big.
44. Build a financial runway
“Before you take the leap, you have to have figured out what your actual expenses are and build a financial runway. If you’re not at a comfortable state yet, take on a paying job that helps you to build transferable skills.”
45. Being comfortable is the enemy
“The best advice I ever received was from my first accountant when I was discussing the launch of my company. We were speaking about my business plan and how much money to borrow to launch. She wisely said, ‘Only have enough cash on hand to barely survive; never so much that you are comfortable. It's important to stay scared in the beginning.'”
“While I prefer to describe that feeling as staying hungry rather than scared, I thought it was indeed great advice, I have found this hunger to be an incredibly important motivator during my entire career. Being comfortable is the enemy. Staying hungry forces you to push yourself to continue to survive, grow, and evolve.”
46. Don’t worry about money
“Don’t worry about funding if you don’t need it. Today it’s cheaper to start a business than ever.”
Noah Everett, founder Twitpic, gave this great advice on starting a business without accumulating debt.
47. Conserve cash, especially in the early stages
“We’ve made cash conservation a pillar of our company philosophy and have been careful about expenses every step of the way.
We’ve found that getting from conception to launch takes determination and sacrifice – with a little bit of creativity thrown in.“
The difference between success and failure is often a lack of trying. Even in your darkest moments, it’s important to find motivation. When you’re feeling like you need an extra boost, read the advice in this section.
48. Look to the future
“Entrepreneurs can inspire new movements, create new jobs and stimulate economies. They can encourage people to be more entrepreneurial and sow the seeds for the next generation of job creators and innovators.”
Sir Richard Branson is known for many things, and great advice is quickly becoming one of them. The above quote comes from his blog for Virgin Group.
49. Why not?
“I revered Bobby Kennedy. His eloquent speech in Indianapolis on the day of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 might have been what saved that city from the kind of fiery rebellions that engulfed so many other urban centers. His saying, Some people ask why… I ask why not, has carried me forward many times in my career.”
How different would your career be if you asked the question, “why not?” as Robert O’Carr, the founder and CEO of Beyond, often asks himself.
50. Commit fully
“I do not believe a man can ever leave his business. He ought to think of it by day and dream of it by night.”
Henry Ford famously wrote these motivational words in McClure’s Magazine.
51. Stay motivated
“I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
Are you familiar with these words that the late Apple founder Steve Jobs spoke in an interview with the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program? Stick with it.
52. Be adventurous
“In a world that's changing so quickly, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risk.”
This advice comes from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg from an interview with Y Combinator president Sam Altman.
53. Think big. Stay small.
“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.”
No one is better qualified to give this piece of advice than 37Signals founder Jason Fried.
Love your business
This last set of advice focuses on the reason we’re all here – or the reason we should all be here – love for our businesses. If you don’t love what you do, it’s going to become a chore. It’s rare that those types of businesses ever exceed mediocre.
54. Follow your heart
“If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.”
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.
55. Love your business
“If you're going to start a business, you need to really love it, because not everybody is going to love it. When The Huffington Post was first launched in 2005, there were so many detractors. I remember a critic who wrote that The Huffington Post was an unsurvivable failure.”
“When you get reviews like that and detractors like that, you have to really believe in your product. When you really believe in your product, you are willing to deal with all the naysayers and persevere.”
To hear more, watch the full interview from Arianna Huffington on Inc.
56. Strive for change
“There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” – Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote.
57. Never compromise your integrity
“Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.” – Anthony Volodkin, founder of HypeMachine
58. Be optimistic
“I hate how many people think, “glass half-empty” when their glass is really four-fifths full. I’m grateful when I have one drop in the glass because I know exactly what to do with it.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.
59. Always represent your company
“Be careful with what you say or do online. And the more eyes are looking at you – the more careful you have to be.”
60. Your time is a precious commodity.
“When I was growing up my father would always tell me, ‘We all only have 24 hours a day. It's what we choose to do with that time that defines us. It's the one thing you can never get back.” – Hello Design CEO David Lai told Business Insider.