Originally published in Verge.
It’s like building a bridge as you barrel across while blindfolded. But at least you’ve found some bridge designers to show you what to do (and almost as importantly, what not to do).
You can find startup mentor advice is all over the internet. However, the best guidance are the field-tested, entrepreneur-approved strategies from the trenches. These 13 industry leaders share below their very best career insights from applying their coaches’ hardest-hitting startup mentor advice.
The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
What is the absolute BEST piece of advice a mentor has ever given you—the kind that sticks, time and again?
1. Sell Once, Sell Again and Scale
A few years ago, I saw Mike Evans from GrubHub speak, and the way he described business stuck with me to this day. He said, 1) sell the first dollar, 2) get the customer to buy again and 3) hire the right people to scale. When you think about it, that’s all you need. Of course, easier said than done!
– Tim Jahn, matchist
2. Hire People You Trust
The best advice I have been given is to only hire people you would trust to hire other people for you. When building a team, you can easily bring the wrong people in, which can do a lot of damage to the company. To be sure you bring in only the best, make sure you would trust everyone you hire to bring another person into the company.
– Ben Lang, Mapped In Israel
3. Work out Every Day
My dad has always told me “healthy body, healthy mind,” but this didn’t really set in until my company acquired funding from Sir Richard Branson. I was sending emails back and forth with him one day and asked how he kept his mind straight and clear enough to think on a day-to-day basis. He responded that a lot of it comes from taking a little time every day for yourself—get a quick workout in!
– Scott Ferreira, MySocialCloud
4. Invest in Your Future
Everything you do is an investment in your future. Understanding that the time I spend, the skills I master and the network I build is an investment in my future gave me the freedom to take risks. Don’t just concern yourself with success and failure.
– Adam Lieb, Duxter
5. Embrace Being Uncomfortable
Our most active mentor provided a piece of advice that has never left us—you have to become comfortable being uncomfortable. The entrepreneurial process will place you outside your comfort zone. Whether it is delivering a big sales pitch, finding a new supplier, networking with key potential customers, etc., embracing that uncomfortable feeling is vital to thriving in those situations.
-Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC
6. Work With People You Like
Whether it’s your team, clients or partners, I’ve learned to only work with people I like and enjoy. This advice really hit home for me. Life is too short be around people who bring you down. If you really like the people with whom you work, their ethics and values will align with yours. This makes it much easier to produce great results and makes for a much more enjoyable work environment.
– David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
7. Work Hard in the Beginning
Hard work is an overrated concept these days. It’s important in the beginning of a startup, but once things get rolling, the best thing an entrepreneur can do is focus on ways to work more efficiently rather than simply putting in 80 hours a week.
– Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
8. Focus on Your Vision
When you are dead and gone, no one will look back and remember you for how much money you made—nor do people care what your title was. They care if you changed the world and absolutely created something that dies when you die. Focus on that vision and remember that everything else is just lipstick.
– Matt Ehrlichman, Porch
9. Eat, Sleep and Work
The bigger your dreams, the bigger the sacrifice. When in startup mode, act like you are in prison. Eat, sleep and work, and do nothing else.
– Ziver Birg, ZIVELO
10. Seek Understanding
Before flying off the handle, getting angry or placing blame, ask why. If work ever falters or someone fails to meet your expectations, there’s often a good reason. And that might be you. By digging into the why and doing so in a patient, understanding way, you can find out if your behavior as a leader is inhibiting performance or there’s an issue in the company that needs to be addressed.
– Susan Strayer LaMotte, exaqueo
11. Cut the Dead Weight
Jen Groover once told me that life and entrepreneurship are like being in a hot air balloon: to soar higher, you need to cut the sandbags. Whether you’re being held back by limiting beliefs, limited technologies or limiting people, cut the dead weight.
– Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean
12. Analyze Your Actions
This is a maxim from Peter Drucker, but one that two different mentors have shared with me. Any time that I’m frustrated with our progress for a period of time, I take a step back and analyze if my actions are in line with our company goals. If they’re not, I revise the projects and tasks on which I’m focused.
– Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
13. Taste Failure
My mentor once asked me if I knew what failure felt like. It’s a very hard question to answer for me. Do I even think I’ve failed before? Or, am I the type to look past my failures so they don’t hold me back from my successes? The advice he told me was that I need to push my limits until I have tasted failure so that I can learn how to rise from it and come back a stronger leader.
– Shahzil (Shaz) Amin, Blue Track Media, LLC
What’s the best advice you ever received? Tell us about it in comments below.