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Business Unplugged™
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Top 10 Most Important Lessons from 13 Years as an Entrepreneur

Written By: Greg Hartle | 18 Comments

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to an entrepreneur?

I’m often asked this question as I travel around the country speaking to groups on 21st century capitalism and leadership.

I suppose this question is asked so one can get a head start down the correct path to entrepreneurial success. Except, of course, there is no correct path.

Sure, there are many tactics, strategies, and principles that will help you build your road map for success. But, ultimately, you’ll be required to experiment to determine what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be presented with many unforeseen internal challenges. And you’ll run up against external forces that you couldn’t have predicted.

Since you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn, grow, and experiment with many tactics, strategies, and principles, I thought I’d offer these 10 11 lessons I’ve learned over the years that may help provide more of a compass than the map itself:

  1. The moment you decide to create something for others, you are a leader. Act as such. Be an example – an example to your employees, an example to your vendors, and an example to your customers. And, most importantly, be an example to your family.
  2. Your job as a business is to solve problems, not create them. For far too long, too many businesses have created more problems than they are solving (e.g., energy industry, food industry, health industry). Let that not be you. Make the commitment to be a business that focuses less on the bottom line and more on improving the wellbeing of others.
  3. You must have the willingness to do whatever it takes. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to do whatever it takes?”  If your answer is anything less than, “Hell yeah!” close up shop and go do something else.
  4. Your business is about service, not personal achievement. Often, when I ask entrepreneurs why they started their business, they give answers like “freedom of my schedule,”  ”be my own boss,” or “make money.” I cannot stress enough that if you start a business based solely on your own personal achievements, you will fail. Your purpose has to be bigger than that… much bigger. One that serves others. You just get to enjoy some of the rewards along the way.
  5. Treat your business like your baby. And know that, just like your baby, it matures and you have to let go of perceived control so it will flourish. There will come a time in your business’s lifecycle that YOU are the problem. Be aware enough to recognize it when it arrives and humble enough to bring others on to the team who are more talented than you.
  6. Being a founder is about stewardship, not ownership. Being a steward is different than being an owner. We’re all just temporary custodians of whatever we think we own, including our business. Remember, some day you will no longer be the owner, but you will always be the founder. Make business decisions based on the founder’s legacy you want to build.
  7. If you think you have competition, you really don’t know who you are. While there may be others in your industry, there should never be another like you.
  8. Some people will say it’s too expensive no matter how low the price. Other people would gladly pay more no matter how high the price. It’s never about price. It’s always about value.
  9. Don’t bet your business on the illusive home run. Focus on a steady diet of daily disciplined improvements. You’ll score more runs (make more money) in the end.
  10. Without the fun quotient, the chances of success are severely diminished. Have fun… lots of it.

Oh, and one last thing…

Take care of yourself.

Make your spiritual, emotional, and physical health a priority. When owning and running a business, you will experience more stress than you can ever imagine. But if you are unhealthy, you will be of no use to anyone, including those most important to you. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it. Please trust me when I tell you that there will never be anything more important than your health. Always remember that.

Let me ask youknowing what you know now, what advice would you give to an entrepreneur?

Article written by
Along with helping companies take the leap into 21st century business through New Methods, Greg Hartle speaks professionally with businesses, non-profits, and other groups on conscious capitalism, leadership, and integral life strategies.
  • skooloflife

    Well said Greg. Really looking forwarding to meeting you on Monday. I couldn’t agree with you more on the physical fitness part. I noticed when I’m surfing regularly ideas tend to flow. A few days out the water and I get stuck. The advice I would give to somebody base don my experience is plant lots of seeds, and water them every day.  Over time it will all add up.

  • Hi Greg,
    As an entrepreneur for 30 years, i think one of the hardest ships to sail is entreprenuership.  I hope you have a lot of young people who subscribe, because when you enter these waters, a good compass is essential.  Thank you for writing and engaging.

  • I really like what is written here. It puts everything back in proper perspective. Thank you. I have been sole owner of for 18 years.  I agree with all that is written above. Thank you.  Peace, Tamara

  • WalnutAcre

    I really enjoyed this article and agree with all the points, especially #7. It’s so difficult to try to copy someone else’s success and so freeing to truly live your own version of success.

  • greghartle

     @WalnutAcre Thanks. Always valuable to recognize your unique abilities.

  • greghartle

     @TamaraLeah Glad you liked it, Tamara. 18 years is a nice run. Keep it going!

  • greghartle

     @ElaineJoli Thank you, Elaine. So many want the map, but a compass is so much more valuable.

  • greghartle

     @skooloflife Plant seeds, water daily… words to live by. Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked the post. See you Monday!

  • Treat it like a baby:  no doubt!  I’ve had this baby going it’s 9th year and it was my first.  So when my daughter was born;  some of “parenthood” seemed old hat.  Staying awake late at night, worrying, nurturing…everything I had done and still do with the business.  This article was wonderful whether for a fresh graduate or experienced entrepreneur.  Thank you, Greg

  • greghartle

     @Jacob Yount My pleasure, Jacob. Awake late at night, worrying, nurturing…yes, indeed.

  • Syd Ku Collie

    Great article!! I like how u cancelled the ten and put eleven instead from then I just knew I was in for a treat lol

  • Insightful post, Greg.  I sold my building and tax practice after twenty-plus years and appreciate your article because I could have written it. I was always convince that my business suceeded because I valued my clients as friends and treated them as such.  #12 on your list might be how one treats their employees.  I treated mine as friends, as people I liked, the way I like to be treated myself. They not only gave 115% but they maintained, to me and to others, that then never worked for anyone better.  I hold that close to this day and always will. 
    Keep up the good work.  You can and will help a lot of future business people, I’m certain, by teaching them what values are important. The end results of adopting your principles are that everyone wins, the owner, the clients and the employees.  It’s how businesses succeed.

  • greghartle

     @Syd Ku Collie Haha. And just when you thought I was done… Boom, cherry on top! But, we’re trying to stay healthy so no irl sundaes.

  • greghartle

     @Karleene Morrow Excellent point about employees. They are the lifeblood of any successful business. Want happy customers, make sure you have happy employees. Thanks for sharing.

  • MZazeela

    Great post, Greg. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Or, as Zig Ziglar used to say, give others what they want and you will get what you want.

  • Falisha Hopkins

    Awesome article!  #7 WOW oh WOW, powerful!

  • What Ms. Maya Angelou says: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

  • LiynLing