16 Lessons I have learned in 16 years of business

Lesson 1: you don't need a MBA to start a business. you do need persistence, motivation, the ability to never give up and to learn to live with ongoing uncertainty and risk

Lesson 2: if you don't have Sales (revenue) you aren't in business. no matter what else you do a focus on sales/customer acquisition is essential. sales = business. you need money to survive

HR is the single hardest role in business IMO

Lesson 3: as early as possible, hire people in roles you can't/don't want to do, to allow you to focus on running the business & generate money. free up your time to focus on bigger, more important things

Lesson 4: get used to having difficult conversations regularly: money, performance, expectations...unless you have someone to do this for you (or an HR department), these are your conversations to have

Lesson 5: always treat your employees & contractors like gold, especially if you like them. otherwise they will leave and your heart will break (literal heart breaking sound)

Lesson 6: be fiscally responsible to stay in business. Run a tight ship, don't make financial decisions based on your ego or need to impress people. maintain cashflow. you need this gig long term or until you can get an exit strategy in place

Be nice.

Lesson 7: don't operate your biz based on your ego. be humble, treat employees well. you're part of a team not the only one that matters

Lesson 8: take a break. decompress. the constant pressure is hard & can wear you down over time. don't forget acknowledge your successes and growth. and be kind to yourself; take care of you. the business needs you and more than likely you have others who need you too (spouse, kids, family ..)

Lesson 9: ALWAYS take the high road. It's not easy, but the world is small & 1 bad interaction can be hard to recover from. i'm not sure i've done this successfully, but i've tried. don't get petty or allow yourself to be drawn into being petty

Lesson 10: don't run your biz on emotion or ego. women typically do the first and men the 2nd. neither works in business. it's "business". try to stay objective and separate business from personal

Busy work = death. Do what moves the company forward.

Lesson 11: don't let setbacks throw you off course. business is all about setbacks, continually over time. get through them. i haven't met one business owner who has been completely successful 100% of the time. it's all about how you regroup and keep going. stay the path

Lesson 12: you have to be in biz to get biz. stay the course, run fiscally responsibly to stay in biz and you'll get there, even when things look bad. there is business up ahead, but you must be in business to benefit from it. be mindful of cashflow

Lesson 13: don't be afraid of change or the unknown. sometimes in business you are operating on both for long periods of time. you have to be adaptable to change and uncertainty you can't control "everything" but you can control your reaction  to it. some of my most trying times allowed me to make my most important business decisions

Lesson 14: hire people smarter than you. then tell them how smart they are and everyone else who will listen. you are investing in these people, so make build them up, give them confidence, help them shine. invest in good, smart, driven, loyal people. your business will benefit & they will make you proud

Lesson 15: take a vacation. every year. the constant pressure of biz ownership requires time for decompression. your employees (see above) will help you

Lesson 16: have fun. enjoy what you do. moderate success is still success. you don't need to make $1 billion to be successful. money isn't the only benefit to being a business owner. define it for yourself, don't compromise and be happy

Biggest lesson learned: that business is not linear; there are times when it's good and times when it's bad. And sometimes you have influence over neither of these things. To ride out the low points you have to run fiscally responsibly through the high points. Cashflow is king.

If cash is king, then cashflow is queen

Equal to the above is investing in great employees. Unless you are a sole proprietor you will need employees to run your business properly. Finding the right talent can make or break your business. HR is the single hardest role in business IMO. Finding and retaining talent is a full time job. 

Bonus tip: give back. share the lessons you have learned and the tips for your own success, wealth, happiness, development, networking, goal setting and so on. Help others grow into their business ownership and overcome the struggles they encounter along the way. And if someone has done this for you, thank them.