10 Surprisingly Useful Pearls of Wisdom for Startup Founders

startup founders

When starting your own company, no one is short on advice. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort through all those opinions to focus on what really matters — and your success occasionally depends on knowing which advice to tune out, too.

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of successful young startup founders, what piece of advice they found to be most helpful (even if they didn’t know it at the time).

“What is one unexpected piece of advice you received that ended up being extremely helpful when starting your business?”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Proliferate Positives, Don’t Fix Negatives

“When starting to work with other people, I figured we would find out what people did not do well, fix it and make people well-rounded and good at everything. I was wrong. It is important, almost necessary, that you find what people excel at and have them do that day in and day out. If everyone is “good” at everything, you will never be an industry leader and disrupt the status quo.”~ Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

2. Be Conservative in Financial Modeling

“One of our early mentors was my business partner’s dad. An entrepreneur himself, he always used to say “growth eats cash” to us. Working in his basement, it felt irrelevant.
Now, with 20 employees, I see his warning was about cash flow and the need to be extremely conservative in your financial modeling. Our conservative financial approach has lead to six years of secure, stable growth.” ~ Brennan White, Watchtower

3. Know Your Vices and How to Use Them

“Entrepreneurship is hard, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Rudy Karsan, the CEO of Kenexa, recently said entrepreneurship is often about ego because you can’t take an idea no one believes in and make it successful. Having an ego is a vice, but if you can accept that you have an ego, you can harness it and make it work for you.” ~ Benish Shah, Vicaire NY

4. Work Smarter, Not Harder

“So many entrepreneurs think they’ll become successful by working 100 hours per week. Instead, business owners should focus on time management and eliminating what is unnecessary, as well as keeping a keen eye out for burnout. If any signs of burning out start to present themselves, take a break or step away for a half day or so.” ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

5. Don’t Try to Please Everyone

“Some people, by nature, will never be happy. They complain about everything and demand endless attention. These types of clients are poisonous to your business because they zap time, resources and employee morale. No amount of money is worth dealing with a problem client who makes your life, and the lives of your staff, miserable. Cut these clients loose to preserve your sanity and happiness.” ~ Brittany Hodak, ‘ZinePak

6. Exit Your Comfort Zone

“I was told that if I only did the things I was comfortable doing, I’d never grow. And while there are still certain situations that “scare” me, I’ve learned that it’s only by doing that I can develop key entrepreneurial skills. Best of all, the more of these situations I confront, the fewer “scary” ones materialize. ” ~ Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.com

7. Ignore the “Right” Way to Do Things

“During business school, one professor harped on the fact that as a startup, you should do “risky” things. He advised us not to incorporate immediately, but rather, use that time to work on the business until we knew the form it should take. He also advised selling from day one while we worried about gaining permission. Figure out if you have a good business and “standardize” it later.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

8. Fail and Adapt Fast

“Fail fast. Accept failure — whether it is as small as a product feature or as large as a pricing model. Turn those failures into success by truly responding to what the market wants and not what you think it needs.” ~ Ryan Frankel, VerbalizeIt

9. Say “No”

“I thought it was crazy, but turns out, saying “no” is great advice. When I started my business, I got a ton of offers — partnerships, prizes, ideas, the list goes on. Accepting any of the offers would have been a distraction to my main goal of running a company. It was best to focus on the company and what it needed to accomplish rather than jumping on ideas. Companies can thrive on a simple “no.”” ~ Manpreet Singh, Seva Call

10. Schedule Your Personal Time

“I wish this advice wasn’t necessary, but it most certainly is. As your company grows, your time becomes increasingly precious. If you don’t schedule time to work out and see friends and family, it won’t happen. Along with your meetings and project goals, you need to put personal time in your calendar. Stick to the schedule no matter what. Personal time needs to be sacrosanct!” ~ Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas

Pearl of Wisdom Photo via Shutterstock


The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

6 Reactions
  1. Great tips. I noticed that lot them lead to other points. For example, deciding to work smart instead of hard might lead you to scheduling your personal time and be conservative in financial modeling. Not trying to please everything will lead you to saying “no” to some people. All-around good advice.

  2. Great advice! It is quite important to go a couple of steps out of your comfort to succeed.

  3. The ideas really had me look on a new perspective. Mistakes are not a symbol of weakness. It’s to show your limitations to have a clear view of your abilities. To embrace one’s shortcomings, you will be more responsive to the challenges your business will face.

  4. Number 10 is a great tip. Just like the amount of our stuff grows until it fill up our homes entrepreneurs’ things to do will grow to fill up the time they give to the business. Scheduling personal time puts a limit on it and makes entrepreneurs more efficient. You’ll also be surprised how many great ideas you get about the business when you’re away from the company. It gives your brain time to percolate.