When you’re thinking about starting a company or first in the entrepreneurial trenches, any nugget of advice you can get from someone who’s been there before is like gold.
But as time goes on, you’ll realize that some of those tips are better—and more applicable to your business—than others.
So, to get you started on the right foot, no matter where you are in your startup journey, we asked 10 founders to weigh in on the absolute best advice they received as they built their companies. Take note of these (sometimes surprising) lessons for your own venture.
1. Get Comfortable With the Unknown
You will never know enough. You will always be forced to make a decision without fully understanding what is coming. As a founder, that is just something you have to get comfortable with.
—Aaron O’Hearn, Co-founder and CEO of Startup Institute
2. It’s Not Just About You
The best advice is to not give yourself too much credit when times are good and too much blame when times are bad. Once you realize that luck plays a necessary role in success, it makes you both more humble and more self-confident at the same time.
—Ethan Austin, Co-founder and President of Give Forward
3. Show, Don’t Tell
‘Show, don’t tell’ is a dynamic axiom, but it’s such a good one.
For startups, being evidentiary about your value proposition is huge. So many upstarts talk about being the Facebook Killer, or the X for Y, loftily and prematurely positioning them among megasuccesses. Talking instead about what your company does and has achieved sets the stage for your vision in a way that is authentic, believable, and much less highfalutin. Always be a producer of value, so you can highlight current and translatable proof of what you factually can do versus what you aspire to become.
—Shaun Johnson, Co-founder and COO of Startup Institute
4. Know When to Let Go
As a founder—or anyone who feels proud of and close to the product he or she creates—you struggle to have the right perspective about your business. It’s easy to get too close, and that can be distracting. Here’s the good and bad news: No one is looking at your work as closely as you are. So, remember that when you’re on hour four debating which shade of navy blue works best for your logo. Yes, details matter. But at a certain point, you have to let go and move on to the next thing.
—Pavia Rosati, Founder of Fathom