50 Leadership Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks

It has often been said that the best University is Adversity. We often learn more from the school of hard knocks, than we learn from Business school. But wouldn't it be great if we can learn from the School of Hard Knocks of others, without having to suffer through it ourselves?

I turned to some of senior leaders of the business world, for the lessons their learned the hard way.

1. Embrace The Ah Ha Moments

Rhonda Vetere, Chief Technology Officer of Estee Lauder, stated, " Two tag lines come to mind: " The Ah Ha Moment" or The "Ah Ha Moments we all have throughout our careers, don't ignore those moments, embrace them"

Along the way of one life's journey whether being in school or society generality/demands we all have an idea of our career path that we must do "A, B than C" in the same field to work our way up the Corporate ladder. In fact, these days I look for more mobile people who have taken chances and moved in and out of different Industries (and around the world) and grown, challenged themselves and gotten out of the comfort zone. Being in one company for 20-30 years is a turnoff in today's world. As a Leader, you need different perspectives and not soloed to one Industry or one Region. The world doesn't revolve around North America!

Example: After the world financial market collapsed moved over to London for several years to run a Division of a Financial firm, it couldn't have come at a worst time personally, however it pushed me to make me stronger and advanced my career being one of the youngest female Managing Directors to survive Wall Street. These opportunities come knocking and when you think it is the worst time, it is the best time because it pushes you to new heights. Don't ignore your gut- do it! In addition, I am a firm believer of pushing myself and not asking the Team to do anything I wouldn't do, personally and professionally. Treat people how you want to be treated.

On another note: As my career has grown, I have gotten into triathlons and running marathons. Have learned with global travel, you must take care of yourself to be able to lead a team. If you can't take care of yourself, how can you take care of a Team?

2.Don't give up on your dream

Vaclav Muchna, CEO Y Soft Corporation

I started my business in 2000, 15 years after the Velvet Revolution when everything previously owned by the government became privatized. I decided to start my own business even though being an entrepreneur was considered negatively; there was no venture funding.

I started an internet hosting company anyway with two partners. We were about to sell it to a large telecommunications company when one of the partners "disappeared" with all of our servers. We were left with nothing but a lot of debt. A few other ideas failed. I was ready to admit defeat.

Still we picked ourselves up and started something new, building a server based printing solution for a hospital. It required some hardware to interact with the printers which, in those days, did not have a smart interface. I personally took a loan of $50,000 at 40% annum to make it happen.

Today that solution is what we have built a $30 million annual business upon and have seventeen offices in six continents.

Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, you will be faced with many adversities, don't give up on your dream.

3. Set Expectations Appropriately

Elliot Schrock, a mobile app entrepreneur and founder of Thryv, Inc. relays this story:

"In my first startup, I was trying to quickly build a team to enter an entrepreneurship competition. I had no idea how equity worked at the time, nor how much was appropriate for what jobs. I had a conversation with a potential employee/co-founder to give him an idea of what kind of equity he might get. I started working out an example for him, and picked 10% to make the numbers easy. Knowing as little as I did, I had assumed that wouldn't be an unreasonable amount for a junior developer at a startup and while I certainly didn't commit to it, the number stuck with him anyway.

When I eventually formed the corporation, I spoke with my advisors about the cap table and they told me that, for a junior developer, 5% would be generous. On top of that I'd need to set up a vesting schedule that allowed him to grow into that over time. So when he heard that he would be receiving half of the number he'd come to assume he'd get, and that it wouldn't be all his for several years, he lost his temper. He quit, and stole his company-owned laptop on the way out."

4. Pick Your People Carefully

Paula Charming, CEO of the successful jewelry brand 7 Charming Sisters has successfully run several businesses over the past 20 years. 7 Charming Sisters has been featured in O Magazine, Redbook, Better Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and People Style Watch, just to name a few. Her business empire is now worth over 30 million dollars - All without an advanced business degree.

"I credit a relentless passion for growth as the key to my success. Of course formal education is important; but equally important is how you educate yourself on a daily basis through research and life experiences. My best school of hard knocks lesson is to pick your people carefully based on their core strengths and less so for their formal education. Surround yourself by talent that has the personality and aptitude for success. You don't want 'yes men' on your team. You want driven, smart, and passionate team members with 'grit' to carry out your vision. Give me a loyal and passionate employee with grit over someone with an MBA any day of the week."

5. Don't Underestimate Recruiting and Hiring

From Steven Benson, Founder and CEO of Badger Maps, a route planner for field salespeople:

As a leader, recruiting, hiring, and constantly training your employees is one of the most important parts of your job. Make their success your priority by investing proper time and effort into it. It's crucial to build and develop a team that works well together and provide an environment they can thrive in. If you neglect your job as recruiter, you will end up with bad hires who may cause problems that are far more difficult to fix.

Also, it's important to encourage diversity within your company from the beginning on. If a company fails to do so, and fails to do it early, the result is a weaker understanding of their (generally diverse) customers, an organization that is not a welcoming place for diverse people to be employed, and a company that becomes dominated by a particular personality type and culture.

6. Always be Raising - Don't be Surprised, Start Raising Before You Need More Capital

Gray Skinner, CEO, Droplr, Inc.

As the CEO of a startup, I have learned that raising money always takes longer than you think it will or should. Diligence, corralling investors, getting told "No" 100 times are prerequisites to closing a successful funding round, and most importantly, your pitch might not resonate as well as you think it will. Getting a group of investors together and bought into terms is no small feat. You don't want to have a proverbial gun to your head while going through the fund raising process. My advice for a new startup is to always be at minimum three, better six months ahead of your potential funding requirements and always have a pitch ready. With several months lead time, you can make much more strategic decisions about lower current burn rate to buy more time and have much more leverage in your negotiations. No investor wants to give money to a company that is about to run out of it. This could indicate either a weak business, or lack of preparedness or foresight of the management. Don't be irrationally optimistic about when the revenue and expense lines will converge and Start Early!

7. Leadership Lesson: Sometimes You Have to Break up to Grow

1-800-GOT-JUNK? CEO Brian Scudamore knows the value of letting go.

"In 1994 I nearly walked away from my own business. We had just reached our first million and I had dreams for massive growth, but my team kept telling me it was impossible. They didn't share my vision and I knew I needed to make a change — fast. The business would never reach its full potential unless my team believed in it the way that I did. With no back-up plan, I made the tough decision to fire everyone in one day. Then I started from scratch, vowing only to hire happy people who shared my vision for the company. Now, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is a network of of 400 corporate employees, and makes 223M in annual revenue. And, we all share the dream of building something bigger and better together. This experience taught me that, as hard as it may be, sometimes you need to let go to grow."

8. We Rise And Fall as a Team

March Kleczynski, CEO and Co-founder, Malwarebytes Taken from TEDxUIUC "There's No Rulebook to Being and Entrepreneur"

April 15, 2013 was the worst day of my life as a CEO. It was the day that my company accidentally destroyed 1 million of our customer's computers. I will always remember that day because it taught me something very important—the success of any company depends on the people you surround yourself with.

I was a shell of a human being that day, but my team and my employees didn't abandoned me. They rolled up their sleeves, picked me up and went to work fixing the problem--even the engineers were on the phones with customers to help resolve the issue.

Building a company from the ground up will always require hard work and sacrifice, but the most successful companies I've seen are those with cohesive teams that aren't just in it for a paycheck. They believe in the mission of the company and in the case of my company, they believed in me.

9. Launch Sooner, Find a Fit

Andrew Paradise, CEO and founder of mobile eSports leader Skillz (the fastest-growing private company in America), learned the value of rapid iteration early in his career.

"During my first venture, our product was in an invite-only alpha mode for two years before we took it to market. It was in open beta for just two months before we decided to sell the company due to the market crash in 2008. I've always wondered what would have happened if we'd opened the beta earlier. There's no substitute for organic user feedback."

That experience has aided Paradise in leading Skillz to become the first eSports company ever named to the CNBC Disruptor 50, and #1 on the Inc. 500 with a three-year growth rate of over 50,000%.

10. Never Pay (in full) Up Front

According to Remi Alli, head of Brāv Online Conflict Management,

even if proper vetting yields a solid reputation, never pay in full up front. In fact, try to get some work product specific to your company to assess whether a potential employee/ contractor is a good fit. If all seems great, then consider putting a percentage down, placing fees into an escrow account to be released through a third party, and/ or paying in intervals, after each milestone is completed to satisfaction. If they need certain resources to facilitate your work, be wary as that may show lack of preparedness. If you wish to go forward nonetheless, you can also consider paying for tools and licensing them out. Safeguard by creating an online agreement on Brāv and if a term is violated, manage the conflict directly on the site. Don't cheat the worker; if you like the work, pay and/ or keep them on the project.

11. Listen Before You Leap

Noelle Rose Andressen, Owner and Artistic Director of Rubans Rouges Dance®, author of DanceWarrior® book series, co-owner of DanceWarrior® dance studios and classes, creator of Red Ribbons outReach™

strongly encourages all of her employees to listen very carefully to the client's needs. "Listen Before You Leap. When you are fulfilling a service for a client, whether it's creative, administrative, or scientific, they must feel as though they are the most important person in the world. Let them know that you care about their goals and needs by listening intently. Keep direct eye contact when listening in person with your client; people love to know that you're present. If contact is over the phone, be sure to speak clearly but softly. Then display that you've heard them by getting clarity, giving charitably, and never forgetting they're investing in you and your services."

Fabian Geyrhalter, Principal of brand consultancy FINIEN and Author of 'How to Launch a Brand,'

learned to finally give in to the power of 'no:' "It is the hardest lesson I learned, and the best advice I can possibly give. I say no to projects that don't fit our direct business goals, no to projects that don't pay accordingly, no to potential clients that appear unprofessional or unorganized and last but not least I say no to meetings or calls that do not benefit my business.. Saying no is difficult, hence too many people get sucked into allowing 'Yes' to negatively change their business, their lifestyle and interfere with their vision and goals. I have said no to amazing brand collaborations, to a reality TV show, to hard-to-resist monetary opportunities. At first, I felt like I just did something wrong when I said no — then I felt pride in doing so and over time I realized how much 'no' has contributed to my company's success."

13. It's a Business - Always

Never forget that you are running a business, even when your friends are clients, says Yvonne Heimann - Business Efficiency Coach a AskYvi.com

We love our business and we love what we do, we want to help people. That's exactly the problem I ran into in the beginning, I wanted to help people and I wanted to help them fast. And forgot that I was running a business. I didn't get contracts in place, which means no expectations had been set for both parties. Not having a contract means you don't have timelines or deliverables set for your project, you also don't have a payment schedule.

All these little things included in a contract ensures your client or friend, knows exactly what they can expect but also what's expected from them. Without that kind of outline you are just asking for misunderstandings, false expectations and a mess of a project.

14. Use Live Events to Build Your Brand

Tracey Smith, President of Numerical Insights LLC., a boutique analytics company,

learned the benefits of using live events to build her business brand quickly.

"Five years ago, I left my job with a Fortune 500 brand and started my analytics firm. I knew that I needed to build my brand fast as the prestige of having been associated with a Fortune 500 fades quickly. Live events were the key to establishing my brand. Standing on a conference stage every month and holding live webcasts allowed me to reach that largest audience possible and establish the credibility of my company. My very first event led to a new client and subsequent events have yielded additional clients. Within a year, my brand was known globally within my field. Participating in live events will continue to be an integral part of my business marketing strategy."

15. Copy the Food Truck Movement

Chris Lim is the founder and CEO of Climb Real Estate, said,

After the big financial crisis, more and more brokerages were popping up than ever before –we needed to find a creative way to differentiate ourselves from the competition and get more eyes on the brand. Inspired by the food truck movement simultaneously happening in San Francisco where small brands could expand their footprint using a mobile truck, we put a whole new meaning to the "mobile agent" and unveiled the Climb Airstream. At 120 square feet, the Airstream is one of the smallest real estate storefronts to date, allowing us to interact in new and unexpected locations. A cost-effective way to grab the attention of potential new customers and agents, we parked the Airstream not only at local events and games, but also major music festivals like Outside Lands and Burning Man, garnering the interest of millennial buyers who hadn't even thought about real estate, thus expanding Climb's clientele. Ideas like the Airstream at live events puts us at the cutting edge of brokerage innovation – we are constantly searching for new, remarkable ways to tastefully capture attention and innovate."

16. Understanding Your Sales People

Joe Alexander, CEO/Founder of Nest Bedding, an all-natural bedding and mattress company, which is one of the only true factory direct bed-in-a-box brands says:

"One key leadership lesson I've learned in the trenches pertains specifically to salespeople. Having worked in sales my entire life, I thought I was uniquely equipped to understand them when I started Nest Bedding. With over 20 salespeople or "Nestologists" as we like to refer to them, I need to know what motivates each of them individually. Not all salespeople are like me: I was driven by a desire to achieve and prove myself. But not every salesperson thrives in an environment where they feel pitted against other salespeople. I've since learned that grouping my staff in teams and setting team goals and encouraging an atmosphere of cheering each other on and friendly communication between those teams is far more effective than the individual goal setting. It allows for the go getters and those less motivated by individual achievement to find motivation to succeed. Not everyone is motivated the same way I am and that's okay."

17. Contracts Will Not Magically Solve All Your Business Problems

Ian Wright, founder of British Business Energy, a business energy comparison site:

"The main lesson I've learned the hard way is that bad business partners/customers/associates will always find a way not to pay you, no matter what you have written into any contract or agreement.

Obviously, you should always have a contract in place when working with another business, but don't expect contracts will magically solve all your problems. At the end of the day businesses are run by people and there are good ones and not so good ones."

18. Success is an Interplay of Satisfying Market Needs While Educating Consumers

"Our company believes that the market will tell you what it needs, and the key to success is to be ready to change. Having said so, creating the demand for your distinctive product by educating your clients is equally important." said Danni Lin, Founder and CEO of GREAT WINE, Inc.,

Lin explained, "GREAT WINE, Inc., for example, is under the challenge of promoting a new idea about wine in relation to people's palate, not necessarily food.. Although vinotype theories are supported by scientific research, there are clients who are not convinced that technology can help understand people's taste profiles. By adopting omni-channel marketing as a tool to communicate with customers, our company provides a seamless, consistent, and convenient knowledge-sharing channel between the company and among customers. Omni-channel marketing also creates 1:1 experience online and offline. Now, GREAT WINE, Inc. is a huge success in wine education and new drinking trend promotion in the USA and China, with two tasting rooms running in the two countries." Lin believes that education is a two-way street, and entrepreneurs need to remain open-minded.

19. Your Business Partner Can't be Trusted, Even Friends or Family

Noah Miller, 18-year-old CEO of Panoramic Inc. and Colour Medium LLC says,

Choosing a business partner is one of the most important parts of building your company, this could make or break your entire operation. Make sure to test your candidates beforehand and analyze their strengths and weaknesses to save any surprises when you give up a percentage. It's crucial to understand that a business partner is not meant to always say "yes" or agree with you; you must be able to learn and grow from them. If your partner cannot make you Another important attribute for a business partner to have is work ethic, therefore responsibilities can be properly split or shared. No matter if your business partner is your friend or family, the trials and tribulations can change the relationship at any time. Trust me when I say, I learned this the hard way. The mountain is coldest at the top, don't expect any of your potential candidates to make it there.

20. Stay Focus on What Made You Successful.

Michael Tidwell, Owner of OnlyTowelWarmers.com, specializing in electric towel warmers and other luxurious bath products

The greatest lesson that I have learned is to stay focus on what has made us successful and that is old fashion customer care.

21. Get Up, Move On and Learn from Failure

Lenny Verkhoglaz, CEO of Executive Care, one of the leading home healthcare franchises, says:

"The difference between being a success or a failure is the ability to get up and move on, time and time again. I know because I've had a lot of practice.. You've just got to fight through the pain and the negative thoughts. Every CEO, without exception, failed at least one time and least at some point in their career. The successful CEOs shrug off the failure and keep moving."

22. Connect With Your Employees

Alexis Courtney, COO of Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids, one of the first and most unique children's haircutting franchises, says:

"People just want a safe place to land. Whether a hairstylist or a manger they want to be contribute, grow, and be valued. I learned I would get much more out of my employees if I provided an environment where they could connect. In our industry the turnover is high. After a few months of struggling with turnover, I asked all my stylists the top 3 things they look for in a job and everyone's #1 was a job where they got along with the other employees. I then started providing opportunities outside of work where they could get to know each other better and I made it a goal to always ask about them and their lives when I was in the salon."

Andrew Pudalov, President of Rush Bowls, a fast-casual specializing in crafting meals-on-the-go from the finest fruit, topped with organic granola and honey, says:

"I left a Wall Street job to start my own business. I've learned a lot through the experience and I continue to learn. I've figured out that my opinion is less relevant than the wants and needs of the customer. Don't obsess about risks or issues; focus on solutions and outcomes. Always innovate."

Fred Vicario, President/CEO of Cherry Blow Dry Bar, an expanding franchise that provides premium express services including hair blowouts, hair extensions, makeup services and treatments for a perfectly finished look, all at affordable prices through a unique membership model.

"Never ask an employee to do something that you wouldn't do. Everyone must be treated with the same level of respect."

Robert Flanagan, President of Wag N' Wash, a full-line specialty retail destination for cats and dogs that has created a community for pet enthusiasts to come and be pet people.

"Have a "beginners mind". Look at everything through fresh/unbiased eyes just as you did the first time you saw it. This mindset also means, you are never done learning. Always be willing to learn new things and listen to suggestions from employees. Have a diligent focus on always being a student."

26. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

William (Bill) DiPaola, COO of Dat Dog, a New Orleans-based restaurant chain that specializes in gourmet hot dogs and sausages that can be dressed in a selection of over 30 different toppings.

"Some of the greatest ideas are not your own. This company is a marriage between millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers and it's formed into a successful business. It took collaboration. I had to learn to humble myself and take advice from my teammates. This truly empowered the brand and helped us all move forward.. Our young millennial staff has wonderful ideas and with this we continue to break into new avenues of success. Also, we can always depend on guidance from our Founder, Constantine Georges, which helps us all see the bigger picture and move the company forward."

Brandon Grysko, Workplace Dispute Resolution, LLC says:

Don't just show up—Show up the right way. In the world of providing professional services, most business owners are technicians: doctors, lawyers, accountants. They're all good at doctoring, or lawyer, or accounting. But not all of them know anything about being in business.

As a conflict management consultant, that's what I do. It's my technical skill. But, like many professional service providers, I hadn't the slightest idea about being in business. The best idea I had was "network." So I showed up to networking events, business card in hand, and elevator pitch at the tip of my tongue. Then what? Then nothing. I reevaluated and discovered that showing up is only part of the equation. I had to get curious about other people, see where they were struggling, what they needed help with. At first I didn't notice, but I was demonstrating my value to the world simply by being valuable to others—and charging nothing for it. So don't just show up—show up the right way, the "hard" way, with a service mindset.

28. Never Assume Your Company is Too Small

Nicolas Beique, the Founder and CEO of Helcim Inc., a fintech company, says:

"In our second year, we were approached by an international enterprise that was looking for a payment processor. We thought we were too small to help, and even assumed the company had made a mistake in contacting us, thinking we were a much bigger company than we were. We turned them down only to find out that the company had chosen another small payment processor – one that was the same size as us. It turned out that they were looking for a small company that was nimble and willing to customize a payment solution. I've always regretted that decision. This taught me not to be intimidated by brand size. Behind the big brand name are people who think you can help them solve a problem – and you can."

29. Remember You Work For Them

David Evans, CTO of Uncorked Studios, a product design and development studio in Portland, OR. says,

"In my career, I learned very early that people leave jobs not just for more money or because they're angry at something that happened. They leave if they feel isolated or if they feel like the company is drifting away from them. Their fulfillment comes from a mix of pay (which only goes so far) and a feeling of belonging and forward progress. Things may not always be the best moment to moment. Ambition takes many forms, and for some if not all of us, that ambition manifests not as a competitive upward motion in position or title, but a drive for success and belonging and fulfillment. If you starve people of these, they will leave no matter how much you pay them. They fuel your company, your job is to fuel them."

30. Follow Your Passion & Think Big

Angie Cardona Nelson, Owner, eWaste Direct

Identify your passion and let it sink in. Think about it, envision it, do research on it, ask if this is something you are willing to make sacrifices for – of your time, energy and resources. If the answer is clear even after all that, then they are ready to make the first step which is typically the hardest.

We also wish we knew that the market for buyers went far beyond borders, and that online retail was destined to explode into what we know it as today. eBay, the platform we build our business on, has 171 million buyers and the journey has been amazing nevertheless, but if we looked deeper into the glass ball we would have been a little more aggressive at first.

31. The Customer is Always Right

Schad VanLeeuwen, Owner, Speed Addicts

Customer service is becoming even more difficult and important. Customers expect more and more – they want the item to be right, arrive quickly and to be as seamless of a transaction as possible. One of the lessons I had to learn is that it's not about being right – the customer is always right. Sometimes you need to take a hit to keep your customers happy and keep them coming back to your store. When I'm selling on eBay, I am always willing to accept returns, I'll pay for return shipping and I'll even throw in a small gift sometimes. A little truly goes a long way.

32. Choose The Right Sales Channel

Growing up, my father owned and operated a successful local automotive shop for more than 30 years based in rural Colorado. After 34 years of doing business locally in Colorado, we jumped at the chance to sell online. In retail, it's crucial to choose the right sales channel and platform to expand your business. For me, the decision to use eBay was easy. eBay provides me with a platform for my business that is easy to use, affordable and had almost no risk. Listing an item on eBay instantly puts my product in front of over 171 million active users, without having to advertise or acquire customers – and it provides a great system of protections for both buyers and sellers. With the help of eBay, we have expanded our local presence and transformed into a global online business.

33. Be Meaningful… And Disruptive

Chris Costello, CEO and Co-founder of blooom, said,

If you plan to pour your heart into a start-up – make it something meaningful, not solely financially driven," says Chris Costello, CEO and Co-founder of blooom.

I was previously a co-founder of a wealth management firm that catered to people with $1 million in their portfolio. The sad irony about account minimums required by financial firms (like my own) was my Mom and Dad wouldn't have qualified to be my clients!

This statement adorns blooom's office: "Wall Street has made a habit of running in the opposite direction of investors with small accounts. Maybe we should build something and run towards them."

"Building a business hell-bent on disrupting Wall Street is full of frustrations, mistakes, and miscalculations," says Costello. "If we didn't believe so intensely in bringing financial services to underserved American savers, it would've been damn easy to quit. Monetary gain alone can't keep you motivated to build. It's about making a positive difference in people's lives."

34. Don't Suffer From a False Sense of Security

Greg Miller, PhD, CEO of CrossCom, said,

Believing you will learn how to run a business by attending business school is the equivalent of believing you can become a novelist just because you took an English class. What business school does well is teach a language for communicating with others outside of your business (e.g., investors and customers).

Little of what is learned in business school really matters in actually running a successful business. I think this largely stems from three core problems: 1) Most classes are taught by people who have never been in business—they've never sweated payroll, raised money, or built a management team; 2) Market conditions change so rapidly that the nuts and bolts of what you learned often no longer matters (outside of, perhaps, accounting); and 3) Ninety percent of running a business is about successfully dealing with people, both inside and outside of your business. I don't recall this even being discussed in business school.

35. Solve Massive, World-Changing Problems

John Crestani, Co-Founder of WeLearn.

Entrepreneurs are a dime-a-dozen nowadays, and there are enough people that are focused on creating incremental changes in markets; by focusing on solving BIG problems in the world, you will attract the highest caliber of customers, investors, and (most importantly) employees to your cause.

We have the brainpower and resources available to us today to radically change healthcare, education, employment, and logistics related problems that are the root cause of many of the largest problems: hunger, terrorism, disease, etc. Pursuing world-changing solutions to age-old problems is not only possible, but it's the most fulfilling approach to business. If you are leading people based on the premise of essentially making money, it's an uphill battle to motivate people to your side. However, if you are focused on changing the world, the wind will be at your back, and you'll reap whatever benefits you wish in the long-run.

36. Always Choose Optimism

Apartment List CEO and Co-founder, John Kobs says:

"I don't think of optimism as magical thinking — it's not a cure-all, and you can't will yourself to be an optimist. However, as a founder and CEO, I've learned how optimism can be both a powerful agent for change and my Achilles heel. Optimism can give leaders a sense of invincibility and prevent him or her from evaluating pros and cons in a business decision. But, optimism can also help leaders embrace risk, stay positive during a growth-stage or learning curve, and build trust within teams. If you are someone who leans optimistic, you need to have a team by your side to challenge you and come at issues from a different point of view. Listen to them and don't move forward blindly because you don't always see what they do. By having a team by my side, I still choose optimism, every time."

37. Choose The Right Platform to Stand On

From Brian Lim, Founder and CEO of iHeartRaves

We are Shopify experts and our three combined stores are grossing $20M a year currently. But we didn't start out that way. We were originally using Magento for our ecommerce store, and that proved to be a near fatal error. A few years ago, I appeared on ABC's Shark Tank, as you can imagine, being featured on a highly viewed television show can attract quite a bit of website traffic. In the year leading up to the episode's air date, we purchased thirty servers, simulated load tests, and invested over $200,000 to make sure the site could handle the massive influx of traffic. But when the episode aired, the site went down. All this to say - in the world of ecommerce, uptime means everything! A lot of money was lost that day, and it made what should have been one of the happiest days, one of the worst. Since we've switched over to Shopify, our lives have been made immeasurably easier. We likely would never have had this issue if we had been with Shopify from the beginning. Fortunately, we bounced back and are stronger than ever.

38. Live Events Make Your Brand Human

Alon Alroy, Co-Founder and CMO of Bizzabo:

"Events can create a closer human connection with attendees, thus cultivating a stronger tie to the brand, and turning attendees into brand ambassadors and advocates. We worked with The Lean Startup Co to build their series of events, which helped build the Lean Startup brand from a book to a well-known and respected business methodology and brand. It was clear to Lean Startup's organizers that the key to selling more tickets was to find a way to turn their attendees into event advocates, so by creating events and emphasizing social sharing, the Lean Startup was able to grow a loyal group of advocates who not only boosted the Lean Startup's revenue but spread the word of the company and their methodology.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, it will only become that much more important for brands to cultivate in-person relationships with prospects and customers at live events.

39. Realize That Your Product or Service Will Never Be Perfect.

Kristin Marquet, Founder and publisher -- TheHauteRebel.com

Try not to get caught up in perfectionism. When you're trying to perfect all of the small things with your product or service, you'll never complete it. Try to get something launched (try launching in beta if you need to) even if it's not 100 percent.

Before we launched The Haute Rebel, I spent months trying to make sure the content, UX, design, images, video, etc., looked perfect which ultimately led to a six month delay. But since we in August, my team and I learned to make modifications to every aspect of the website based on our analytics and what our readers and customers want.

40. Kicking Fear to The Curb

"I can't scream it enough…. I had to overcome FEAR - the fear of failure and the FEAR of success. It's all about fighting the demon of self-doubt", says CEO of Bubblepopbeauty.com

"Realize that you are powerful individuals that have the power to be and do anything you want in life. Here are the steps I took to get my business up and profitable within six months - I crafted my skills, I strategized, I planned, I budgeted, I became crafty / innovative in raising funds, I came up with a business/ strategy document, I followed through and I executed. It is a learning experience, be flexible and know that not everything is going to be perfect."

41. Always Have a Canvas on Your Easel

Berny Brownstein, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Brownstein Group

I started Brownstein Group amid the Creative Revolution in the early 1960s when I had three young mouths to feed, a house and a mortgage, but most importantly I had one thing – confidence – stupid, blind confidence. This confidence led me to establish my company and turn it into a one man, one human being shop, where I was everything from head chef to dishwasher, relying on myself 100 percent. I put my passion into my work and knew that if I produced good work it would define my reputation and my phone would ring. While this was an exciting time, it also left little time for anything else.. All of my creative energies were tied into the client work and building the reputation of the company; however, in order to continue to grow and evolve as a creative motivator, I believe it's vital to make time for your passion and to be able to practice your craft both inside and outside of the office.

42. Tap Into Your Staff's Strengths to Fix Your Own Shortcomings

"Before I started my own company I had never been a boss" remembers Robert Brandl of ToolTester.net.

There are actually a lot of entrepreneurs who are extremely good at a certain skill and realize that they need to build a team around them in order to grow. But if you've never been a boss before you'll find out soon enough that you might have shortcomings in terms of processes and company organization. "Fortunately, some of my employees came from corporate environments and knew really well how to set up and document standard operating procedures. That also led to an organizational chart and clearly defined responsibilities". So even if you are the founder and CEO, always recognize that your staff may be the missing piece of the puzzle to make you an accomplished leader.

43. Just Start, it Doesn't Have to be Perfect…

Quit playing around and get started on your business, says Troy Glancy - Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO) troyglancy.com

When I started my first business I wanted everything to be perfect. I soon realized that I was wasting a lot of time and hundreds of dollars getting my logo, website, marketing material, etc all in order. When it comes down to it if you don't have sales none of that matters.

You have to build your clientele to grow your business not your branding. No one is going to buy from you because you have great marketing material or a fancy logo. People buy from you because they trust you. They trust the service you're providing them is exactly what they need. Your branding doesn't solve their problems, it only tells them who you are. Quickly put something together and adjust it as you grow. Start today!

44. Build Yourself Up in Every Way

As one of the most educated men in the world, Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer, Consultant at Brāv Online Conflict Management,

states that one should not simply be a 'one trick pony.'

Owning two businesses (mediation and his current business in facilitation), running for state senate, authoring several books, lecturing at universities, travels abroad and acting as the CFO of a multinational organization provides various perspectives and skill set necessary to accomplish various initiatives in a shorter span of time.

Dr. Smithmyer credits growing up digging ditches and never wanting to work in that capacity again as for the reason he learned the importance of building oneself in every way.

45. Be Frugal With Your Cash and Delegate

Jewel H. Ward, Founder, Impact Zone Consultancy, LLC says

Watch your pennies, not just your dollars. When you bootstrap a company from scratch, you will find you have unexpected expenses and no matter how much you have in savings, you will burn through it quickly. Be careful about every expense, whether it is paperclips or monthly recurring software fees. Also, value your time. Just because you can do something or enjoy doing it, doesn't mean you should. Hire a VA, outsource your website development, pay an accountant, get a housecleaning service, and never do free work. Barter, yes, but never do free work. Finally, no matter how little cash you have, tithe 10% to charity. Service matters, and it sets the tone for your business, brand, and company culture.

46. Build Your Mental Character

Jharna Jagtiani, Adv Mediator and Attorney

All businesses go through tough cycles; your mental ability to run the business in a viable way will be tested at every stage. As a business person, you will be tested for what is a viable option for business and what is not? Build that mental character.

Maximum people around you right at the inception of your idea will either reject or find lunacy in your idea. One has to learn how to deal with such rejection. The test of your faith in yourself and your idea will be [the key to your success].

Your company will have very few faithful employees who will stay with you for a very long time. Don't [worry] about it. Instead make an eco-system within your company such that employees don't leave.

47. People Are Emotionally Driven , Rather Than Rationally

Rick Girard, CEO of Stride Search, an executive recruiting firm that works exclusively with disruptive startups says,

"Nothing in business school prepares you for the real world. Business school teaches you about EBITDA, and creating profit and loss statements, but the truth about running a business is understanding the psychology of your employees and your clients.. We are driven by emotion and our reptilian brain." Girard adds, "Business schools seem to either not understand this or ignore it. You only need to look at Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk who all understand that humans are led by emotions. I love the quote from Elon Musk where he says, "I wouldn't recommend an MBA. I'd say no MBA needed. An MBA is a bad idea. [...] They don't teach people to think in MBA schools. And the top MBA schools are the worst. Because they actually teach people that you must be special, and it causes people to close down their feedback loop and not rigorously examine when they are wrong. [...] I hire people in spite of an MBA, not because of one. If you look at the senior managers of my companies, you'll see very few MBAs there."

48. Leadership Lessons From The Military

Paul A. Dillon of Dillon Consulting Services LLC and a former Army Officer and Vietnam Veteran:

The best leadership training in the world is the training that is taught to commissioned officers in the Armed Forces of the United States. As young Army officers, we were taught to take care of our troops first, if you want them to follow you. An officer has to convince the people under his or her command that they have their best interests in mind, while they are accomplishing the mission. An officer doesn't eat until all of his or her troops have eaten. An officer is the last to sleep, and walks the perimeter of the camp to ensure that their troops are safe and sound. An officer doesn't change into a dry pair of socks, until he or she is satisfied that their troops are dry and warm. Otherwise, the troops just aren't going to follow you to places where they wouldn't go by themselves.

Elizabeth Edwards, Founder & CEO, Volume PR (www.volumepr.com)

With many brands, it's important to show social responsibility. There is a psychological principle called "Noble Edge Effect," and it basically states that people spend more money with companies that do social good. When putting on events as a company, think about events that win the hearts and minds of your customers. One example was a beer brand that we worked with (Cerveza Imperial) that has social responsibility as a crux of its brand. Knowing that they have little awareness in the US, we decided not to put on a huge beer event but instead create a relationship with the Mayor's office in the city where they have the highest US sales. We supported one of the Mayor's initiatives around bringing communities together, block parties, and service projects called "Denver Days." We kicked off Denver Days with the largest service project of the entire event—a river cleanup in the heart of the city, including a happy hour celebration afterward. This project led to a deeper relationship with the Mayor and we ended up hosting a party with his office.

50. 90 Day Trial Everyone And Everything

Janett Liriano CEO LOOMIA, said

From new hires to potential advisors investors, "date" before you "marry" your organization to any one employee, advisor or supplier, as every relationship is an asset or a risk, and only time and experience will reveal which is which. For new hires, scope out a very clear set of deliverables and workflow that reflect the sort of work they will be performing everyday, and plug them into the teams they will interface with as soon as possible. Sometimes a person with a perfect resume just doesn't gel with your team, and sometimes the nicest person in the world cannot get the job done well or on time. As a contractor, if the relationship doesn't work out, there is an expected and clear review point to move forward or go separate ways. If you hire blind, and it doesn't work out, it can't be a huge headache to separate.

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