Tim is the head of marketing at Ahrefs and he runs a cozy little personal blog called BloggerJet, where he’s also covered tons of blogging topics related to doing smart blogger outreach, the best cheap hosting plans on the market, how much it costs to blog and more. Here’s Tim’s best business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “The most painful mistake that first-time entrepreneurs make is they rely on their business idea too much.” “They’re convinced that success in business is pre-determined by the awesomeness of their business idea alone. And they couldn’t be more wrong. Execution is equally (if not more) important than the actual idea. Ideation is the easy and fun part and execution is the hard and tedious one.” “That’s why people would rather put faith in their ideas than invest countless hours of work towards making it happen. Like the character of Mark Zuckerberg famously said in “The Social Network” movie: “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”
Caroline is a writer and entrepreneur helping millennials uncover their professional purpose with stories, statistics and heart. You can find her at carolinebeaton.com, on Forbes and right here on my blog where she shares her incredible story of going from secretary to self-employed. Now, here’s her best business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business the right way: “The most painful mistake I see entrepreneurs make is launching before learning. For example, you may decide you want to launch a marketing consulting company, so you hastily make a website, content and reach out to people, but you haven’t yet figured out who your target clientele is. What people actually need help with or what you’re specifically good at. So no one bites.” “Or you could launch a new app, but you don’t know what sells well in the app store or how to promote it. So even though you have a great product, no one sees it. Or you decide to write a book but haven’t really spent time with the key concept—researching, talking to people—so your book proposal falls flat and feels generic. Publishers ignore it.” “This common mistake could also be framed as an inspiration/perspiration problem. We’re so inspired by the end result that we forego the process — a lot of which is hard, un-fun work. In turn, we sacrifice the best possible outcome. And this is painful because the solution is retrospectively so obvious: patience. Take time with each new idea; flesh it out; design it fully; have a plan and not just hope.”
Bobby is the CEO of Loka, a mobile app development company located in Silicon Valley. He previously started and sold two other companies in the technology space. He knows a thing or two about what it takes to build and sell a profitable business, and here’s his best business advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “The biggest mistake first-time entrepreneurs make is being deathly afraid that someone will steal their secret idea. Spoiler alert: Ideas are worthless.” “It’s the execution beyond the idea that really brings home the gold. So focus on getting out there and meeting as many folks as possible to join your team, give you feedback and point you in the right direction. Any successful entrepreneurial journey is the sum total of a rather large (and under-appreciated) team that came together in a magical way. Get cracking on building yours.”
Lauren is a full-stack marketer who’s been featured on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, The Muse and more. You can find her on Twitter, Medium, or you can subscribe to her email newsletter. Here’s her business advice for millennials who want to start a business for the first time: “The biggest mistake new entrepreneurs make is banking on an idea that isn’t valuable to anyone with actual, real-world problems.” “You read about this new social media tool or this new game or social app. And it’s like: What happened to solving REAL, big, hairy problems as opposed to helping privileged kids send pictures that explode in a day (sorry, Snapchat – first example I thought of)?” “My advice is to spend time with people who are different than you. This will open up your mind to different people and different problems, allowing you to connect the dots faster and make a real contribution to the world, as opposed to just being the next Mark Zuck.”
Cody is the founder of MarketDoc where he helps marketers, business owners, solopreneurs and bloggers get more customers from smarter content marketing. He’s also a co-host of the Content Promotion Summit. Here’s his business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Many first-time entrepreneurs don’t follow the Customer Development Model (the Steve Blank school of thought). They won’t presell their product. They avoid surveying their market, meeting or calling people from their target audience before they pony up substantial money and time building a product.” “In other words, too often first-timers build a product behind closed doors and don’t get the feedback necessary to ensure they get buy in for their idea. As a result, they don’t reach product-market fit and end up building a product that fails or succeeds by mere chance, not by calculated steps.” “I recommend that first-time entrepreneurs take this as a real wake up call to avoid making excuses for not getting meaningful product validation before spending resources on development. You need at least 95% confidence that the thing you’re working on will be predisposed to some initial success. There are too many other factors out there working against you when you’re first starting out and are tight on resources that make the road of entrepreneurship hard enough as-is. Don’t make it more difficult for yourself by building a bunch of features no one really wants to pay for.” “Avoid the common mistake of aiming to be the next Facebook. Achieve product-market fit by focusing on building one core feature better than the competition and make sure that feature solves a big pain point for your audience. Don’t get lost in creating a bunch of features off-the-bat.” “Keep your first product extremely barebones. Get clear product validation from your target customer before you spend any time or money building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Start small. Invest more resources in product development as you generate enough operating income to cover your ongoing research and development expenses. Hold off on executing your product roadmap before you have enough consistent sales revenue to support that vision.” As a fellow freelance content marketer myself who’s spent years building out content marketing strategies for my clients, I highly recommend Cody’s epic new online course and educational platform, Content Marketing School.
Vasil is a super connector for entrepreneurs. He’s the CEO of Startup Socials, a global community of entrepreneurs that connects and empowers professionals working in the startup ecosystem. He’s also the founder of Growth Marketing Conference, Silicon Valley’s largest digital and growth marketing event. Here’s his best business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business: “We have an exciting tradition at Startup Socials. Every Friday we meet with entrepreneurs one-on-one and help them solve startup related challenges.” “One of the most costly and painful mistakes that I see over and over again is hiring in marketing and sales too early. Things tend to go VERY wrong when a founder brings on board a senior sales or marketing person who is lacking entrepreneurial spirit and/or experience working in startups. Instead of hiring full-time, founders should seek out and consult with experienced marketers and sales veterans who work with startups on a daily basis for a fixed fee or company stock based on specific goals.” “Ultimately, your need to become your startup’s best sales person and best marketer before hiring.” And remember, the fact that you can recite all the business slang, blogging terms or industry jargon that’s pervasive within your niche, doesn’t automatically make you a good salesperson. Connect with your target customers and learn how to truly help them.
Sol is an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience, 6 companies and 8 figures generated from his businesses, including Examine.com, the original authority featuring independent analysis on supplements and nutrition. He now writes about entrepreneurship on SJO.com. Here’s Sol’s best business advice for first-time entrepreneurs: “I have to go with: inaction. New entrepreneurs tend to overthink things that don’t really matter (logo, copy, etc.), but instead of validating their idea, they get lost in the weeds.” “The advice is simple – just do it. Do a minimum version, talk to some friends, and see if they would be interested in it. If so, make a quick version, and go from there.”
Jen Kessler is the CEO and cofounder of Bizzy, a state-of-the-art marketing platform for eEommerce businesses. Jen studied business at Stanford and math at University of Pennsylvania. She’s worked at the forefront of bringing inventive predictive modeling to portfolio management across multiple industries, and is excited to be bringing that innovation to the marketing industry. Here’s her business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business: “Stay balanced. As an entrepreneur, you need to be constantly processing new information, adjusting your plan, and making decisions.” “If you are exhausted and 100% monopolized by work, you won’t have the perspective and insight that you need to guide your venture in the right direction. Sleeping, exercising, and having a life outside of work is critical for your endurance as a human information processor and decision maker.”
An engineer turned-marketer, Guillaume, the Co-Founder and CEO of Scoop.it, has experimented a lot with content marketing and developed the lean content marketing methodology as a way to help marketers generate ROI with content. Here’s the business advice he shares with new entrepreneurs who want to start a business: “In 15 years as an entrepreneur, I’ve made many mistakes and I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs do them too. My answer is two-part since these are equally as important.” “Falling blindly in love with an idea. Entrepreneurship needs passion, but love can be blinding. Many entrepreneurs believe in their idea so much that they fail to validate it. They tend to dismiss negative feedback on their products or neglect collecting some. And they end up missing product/market fit. Overcoming that requires taking some distance with the idea and applying intellectual honesty. My advice is to talk to potential customers or users from day 1 and for every day after that: never stop collecting feedback. We’re now 25 people on the team at Scoop.it, but I still answer support tickets and take sales calls because there’s nothing as real and valuable than a direct conversation with a customer.” “Thinking that ideas are more important than teams. I hear a lot of first-time entrepreneurs tell me ‘I have a great idea for an app; I just need to find a technical co-founder to code it.’ But successful startups iterate their original idea constantly based on market feedback. Sometimes they even radically pivot like Paypal or Slack. Only great teams can do that, so the execution is much more important than the original concept. And it’s easier to change the idea than it is to change the team.” Note from Ryan—if you’re a developer or engineer, one of the best ways to pick up some side income (to allocate toward your future business goals) is to find some well-paid WordPress developer jobs that can pad your savings a bit.
William is the founder of Elumynt, a growth marketing agency and a contributor for Entrepreneur, FastCompany and TNW. For first-time entrepreneurs, here’s William’s best business advice: “The most painful mistake I see most inexperienced entrepreneurs make is not delegating tasks effectively. I actually came from a nursing background where bad delegation meant someone could lose a limb–or worse, their life. The nurses that didn’t delegate would be busier, risking careless errors from trying to make up time by cutting corners. Business owners try to do the same thing.” “I advise entrepreneurs who struggle with this problem to first get their tasks organized and written down. I like Asana for this. The tasks that they find themselves adding repeatedly are tasks that they should think about delegating. At the end of the month you need to send out invoices, add numbers to your analytics spreadsheet, etc. Find someone else to do that. The hours you save by outsourcing these types of tasks will help you focus on the things that only you can do–like plan the strategy and direction of the business.”