The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Dennis O’Donnell, cofounder of PAW5 and Clear-Coat.
There are some things that entrepreneurs can do right away to tremendously impact their businesses and careers, like dedicating time to learn, empowering those who are talented and passionate, and being honest with themselves. I find that when we stick to these core principles, it always takes our business in the right direction:
Dedicate time to learn
When you’re a new entrepreneur with a successful business, it’s easy to assume that because you’ve arrived at the point in your career you aimed for, you no longer have anything left to learn. But as I now know, it’s actually the complete opposite: If you’ve become an entrepreneur, especially a successful one, you need to read, learn, and experience now more than ever.
I now regularly attend continuing education classes via webinars and networks like Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I block off time to read how-to’s, biographies, and fiction—almost anything that’s recommended by thought leaders or has actionable lessons (right now I’m reading Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares). I’ve since learned how to define my companies’ core values and vision, and how to engage with team members better at work, so our employees are happier. I’m using these lessons to discover the things I’m best at and get inspiration and energy from, so I’m happier, too.
I’ve learned the importance of and ways to be a more well-rounded individual—not just a workaholic—so my personal life is more fulfilling. I’ve found new passions to focus on in my career, like building sustainable companies, which I never would have fully understood had I not taken the time to read about them. If I were to wish anything for a new entrepreneur (or myself 10 years ago), it’d be to set aside at least one hour a day to just read, watch, and learn.
Empower people who are talented and passionate
It seems the I-can-do it-better attitude of entrepreneurs is a gift and a curse. It’s this mindset that pushed me into starting a company, and that’s awesome. But I also fell into the trap of trying to be good at everything and “do it all myself,” which meant I was great at nothing. The breakthrough lesson for me was to find people who are passionate and amazing in their fields, and to empower them to really take control of those things they’re good at. It’s incredible to see what one person can accomplish when they’re doing something they love, so a big priority for me was to first find these amazing people, hire them, and then mostly get out of their way. That also allowed me the time to do the things I love and am really good at, so the company grew as a result, and everyone (including myself) was happier.
Be honest with yourself
This seems like common sense, but it took me a while to realize that nobody thinks they have a bad idea. Every entrepreneur makes decisions that he or she thinks is best for the company, even though those decisions are often dead wrong. So I try not to justify any of my ideas with gut feelings. Think about it. Everyone has that feeling when they make a decision. Nobody says, “This feels like a bad decision, but I’m going to do it anyway.” I instead try to boil my decisions down to first principles or objective measures. It’s a really hard habit to master, so I have to be honest with myself and often re-think my approach. A gut feeling isn’t a competitive advantage. Your competitors all think they’re right—just like you.
Read all responses to the Entrepreneur Insider question: What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?
The Most Important Thing You Can Do Before Starting a Business by Josh Reeves, cofounder and CEO of Gusto.
The Important Business Lesson Too Many Leaders Ignore by Aidan Fitzpatrick, founder and CEO of Reincubate.
What Google and Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Success by Alexander Goldstein, founder and CEO of Eligo Energy.
Here’s Why You Should Start Working Less by Erik Severinghaus, founder and CEO of SimpleRelevance.
The Dangerous Mistake Too Many Leaders Make by Fayez Mohamood, cofounder and CEO of Bluecore.
The Biggest Challenge Every Entrepreneur Faces by Jeff Ruby, founder and CEO of Newtopia.
Here’s What Happens When Your Company Only Focuses on Data by Allison Berliner, founder and CEO of Cataluv.
What Every Entrepreneur Should Be More Prepared for by Feris Rifai, cofounder and CEO of Bay Dynamics.
Why Virtual Offices Don’t Work by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.
The One Quality That Defines a Great Entrepreneur by Anthony Katz, founder of Hyperice.
What Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Apple by Michael Maven, founder of Carter & Kingsley.