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?