10 Things I’ve Learned From 3 Years of Running A Business

I’m coming up on the three year mark of running my own business, working for myself. I still have a lot to learn, but these are ten things I’ve found to be true for entrepreneurs.

1. No one in the market owes you anything, and you don’t owe anyone else anything either.

The market is a ruthless place. If you want to form alliances with partners, investors, or complementary businesses, it has to make sense for both sides. No one is going to enter into any sort of deal that only benefits one side.

Likewise, consumers must see the value in your offering in order to become customers. If they do not see the value in what your product or service offers, either the value doesn’t make sense to them, or you haven’t described the value adequately.

Just because you show up, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success.

2. Only those who have gone all in as an entrepreneur know what that feels like.

Starting a business is an emotional roller coaster. Just check out all the think pieces on Hacker News or Medium and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

It’s a soul-crushing gambit, which you have to be mentally and emotionally tough to endure. Find other entrepreneurs who are at a similar level to you (or one step above) and form an accountability group. By being around other people who have gone through the same things you have, you’ll be able to help each other by supporting each other by sharing your experiences and knowledge.

3. Your competition will bring their best against you every day. It’s your responsibility to bring your best to the battle as well.

Even your friends who are in the same field as you are your competitors.

While it’s good to form alliances whenever possible, never forget that at the end of the day, people are all about doing what’s best for their business.

Iron sharpens iron. In order to be around people who are influential in your space, you must constantly be upping your own game.

Never quit grinding. Never quit being hungry.

4. There will be people close to you who try to dissuade you from your path. Carefully consider who you listen to.

This is a common one. When you break away from having a day job, and set out to start your own business, your friends or even family members may try to talk you out of it. They may bring negative mojo whenever you mention running a business to them.

To me, this is a real “Mom I love you but this trailers got to go” type of moment.

I love my friends. I love my extended family. But starting a business for me was not only the best option for my circumstances, but something I had to do. It’s something I went all in on.

Many people close to you won’t be able to understand this — ever. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you stop loving them.

However, I will say this. If your immediate family, your spouse and children, aren’t on board with you starting a business, you will never succeed. This is a big life step, and your spouse needs to be 100% on the same page with you, or you are headed for troubled times.

5. You can’t control anyone but yourself.

This one is more of a general life principle, not limited to business.

Simply put, you have to be okay with the fact that people will do whatever they want to do, and you have no control over that.

You can’t base your own happiness on what other people will do or say, because you can’t bend someone to go a direction they don’t want to go.

The most you can do is state your case, and see if you can convince them to get on board with what you believe in. Don’t count on anything outside of yourself, though.

6. No one matters outside of your family, your team, and your customers.

Thanks to Cory Miller of iThemes for this one.

Your family is the foundation of any success you have — in business, in this life, wherever. They have to come first when it comes to any major decisions.

Your team is who you depend on to build your collective vision. You’ve convinced these folks that your business stands for something that they believe in. Something they believe in enough to spend half their waking hours (or more) working towards. Together, you share a vision, and you work together to see it come to fruition. Protect these people. Your success depends on theirs.

Your customers are your evangelists, your brand ambassadors, the people who pay the bills for your company. Always make sure you deliver on your promises to them. Give them the value they expect, and treat them like gold. They will help your company grow into the future.

7. No one sees the grind or how long it takes to get to success, they only see the final result.

Everyone has heard the stories of the ten year overnight success. That grind, paying your dues, and building a business, day by day isn’t just good copy — it’s how every successful entrepreneur found their path.

Don’t shy away from rolling up your sleeves and doing the work, for as long as it takes to get there.

8. No one else has your DNA.

Successful companies distinguish themselves through their philosophy, their culture, and their actions. No one else has the same set of experiences as you do. If you’re a founder, that DNA will permeate your company culture.

Be more of who you are, not less. That’s the way to distinguish yourself in a crowded market.

9. Failure isn’t the end of the world.

As long as you’re alive, ’ll always have another chance to try again.

Failure is the predecessor of success. Fear of failure is what keeps most people from starting a company or striking out on their own.

But all of the entrepreneurial heroes in the history of the world endured many failures before finding success. That doesn’t mean fail like an idiot, but what it does mean is to be fearless when it comes to risk and failure.

10. Just keep swimming.

Perseverance is an essential trait if you want to start a business. Like Gary Vaynerchuk says, most wannaprepreneurs take one punch to the face and slink back to getting a day job.

Starting a business of any size is inherently risk-laden.

There will be days where you wonder what you got yourself into. There will be emotionally difficult days.

Block all that out and just keep moving. Keep grinding out victories.

History is written by those who are too stubborn to quit.


If you think someone else might find this useful, I’d appreciate it a ton if you’d hit the “Recommend” button. Thanks so much.

This originally appeared on http://www.johnjlocke.com/2015/ten-things-learned-from-three-years-running-business/ on August 23rd, 2015.