10 Most Common Nuggets of Advice I Give Entrepreneurs

I help entrepreneurs get their ideas off of the ground.

I’ve done that now for 7 years in 3 states. In that time, I’ve met just over 700 entrepreneurs — with every kind of product and service you can imagine.

All of them have been unique in their own way (some of them super unique, like a guy I met who thought he had invented a time machine).

And all of them have been passionate about their ideas.

But after working with so many startups, I’ve noticed they experience similar patterns and problems in the early stages.

To help them through those challenges, here are the 10 Most Common Nuggets of Advice I Give Entrepreneurs…

  1. Passion, Knowledge, and Customer Demand
    - The best business opportunity for YOU is found at the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you know, and where there is or will soon be customer demand. Hit the sweet spot in the center, and you’re much more likely to be successful.

2. Start NOW
- Stop waiting for someone to give you permission to start. 
- Do your homework, but don’t slip into “paralysis by analysis.”
- The only sure-fire way you can tell if it’s going to work is by DOING it.
- Physics: Become a body in motion. Create momentum by just moving on it already!

3. Start small
- A lot of entrepreneurs start with a huge vision in their heads. You need that.
- But you don’t want to start there. You need to start small, with a minimally viable product (MVP) in order to 1) test your assumptions and 2) better be able to bootstrap (see #4).
- examples: If your goal is to open a restaurant, consider starting with catering or a food truck to test out your recipes, build a fan base, etc. / If you’re starting a tech company, come-up with a bare-bones version of your app you can get out there right-away.

4. Bootstrap 
- Debt can be a prison, and equity can make you a slave to someone else. Both can be valuable tools for growth a little later on (if used correctly) but avoid them at the start.
- Bootstrap as long as possible: That means keep costs as low as you can, reinvest your profits back into the business, and try hard not to take money from anyone other than your customers .

5. Differentiate 
- I once heard someone say “The riches are in the niches.”
- Don’t compete. Find a blue ocean for yourself and become a true innovator in your industry. (And no, customer service alone does not make you innovative.)
- Create a product or service which is truly unique, which people really want, and it will almost sell itself.

6. Focus on sales traction.
- There’s one thing every entrepreneur needs: sales.
- In the midst of everything you will do in starting a business, never forget that it’s ultimately about providing value to the customer and making sales.
- This sounds really obvious, but the faster you can generate, sustain, and build sales momentum, the better!

7. Network & Partner
- No matter how brilliant you are, realize you don’t have all the answers and you can’t build a great company by yourself.
- Get around other people who will help grow your business. Master the art of networking and find ways to partner to create win-wins.

8. Get a mentor who has done something close.
- Find someone who has been or still is an entrepreneur in your specific area … with actual experience as close as possible to the business you are in.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people are incredibly generous with giving advice.

9. Create systems.
- Unless you create systems, you’re not a business owner, you’re an employee.
- You need systems in order to scale.
- Any repeatable task in your business which requires human input to accomplish is one you should be trying to systematize to happen automatically, faster, or not at all.

10. Keep innovating
- The day you get comfortable in your business is the day you should see a big warning flag.
- Even if your current product/service is selling like crazy, never stop innovating. 
- In my experience, constant innovation is the single biggest key to sustaining success in any company long-term.

Ryan Lilly is an innovator, speaker, and writer on entrepreneurship and economic development. He is a VP for a Chamber/ED organization and manages an incubator in Florida. For more info on Ryan and to hear his latest talks visit www.RyanLilly.com