Startups & SMEs: 7 Best Advice From Successful Entrepreneurs

Startups & SMEs: 7 Best Advice From Successful Entrepreneurs

Franchesca Palattao
Franchesca Palattao
Published: Jun 2, 2022
Last updated: Oct 20, 2022
Business owner using his laptop

If you ask any entrepreneur for business tips for startups, they’ll more or less mention the same thing—it’s not always easy.

Even the most successful entrepreneurs today went through their fair share of setbacks in the beginning. So, whenever you find yourself backed up in the corner, you can find ideas and inspiration in others’ success stories.

1. “On day one, focus on the culture and make sure that your employees are very happy.”
— Eric Yuan, Zoom

Zoom has become one of the most prominent businesses over the past few years. But while the pandemic accelerated its growth significantly, it didn’t grow its customer base to half a million overnight.

Eric Yuan, the founder, and CEO of Zoom, first worked as a founding engineer of Cisco’s video platform, WebEx. Even during his time there, he already had the same philosophy he incorporates at Zoom today—a customer’s happiness is one of the main drivers of a company’s success.

“Care means you care about a community, you care about a customer, you care about a product, you care about teammates as well as care about yourself. So we have a very well-defined culture and values. So on day one, already have that.”

As the technology evolved, so did the users’ demands. Eric listened to the concerns of WebEx’s customers at the time. WebEx customers were dealing with unreliable connections and unsynchronized audio and video. Some found the installation process frustrating as well.

Despite the complaints, WebEx was not ready to change its strategy to accommodate the demands. It was then that Eric decided to leave and create what we now know as Zoom. He’s grounded his company’s philosophy and culture in communicating with customers, listening to them, and ensuring their needs are met.

Zoom is a testament to how important customer satisfaction is in a business’s success. As of July 2021, Zoom reported having over 500,000 customers, an estimated 36% increase from the previous fiscal year. Video conferencing continues to be a saturated market, but Zoom managed to stay ahead of the curve.

2. “Very often there are going to be naysayers and critics. But don’t let that dominate, or you won’t be able to do something new and risky.” — Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post

In 2005, The Huffington Post started with a few blogs featuring news and political opinion pieces. By 2018, it had around 100,000 contributors in the fields of politics, academia, and entertainment. Even as Arianna Huffington, its founder and first editor in chief, left the site, it’s still one of the most distinguished blogs to date. To get to the success it has now, Arianna faced public backlash and criticism. Even before its launch, her friends questioned her decision to start her blog.

At the time, she already had a national presence after campaigning for her then-husband, Michael Huffington. She was getting invites for guest appearances on television as a social commentator and even acting and writing. Despite these opportunities, she still decided to pursue her blog and grew The Huffington Post to what it is today.

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“Before we launched, a lot of people, including my friends, tried to dissuade me. They told me I had my books, my column, and my radio show, and asked, ‘Why are you taking that risk?’… Very often there are going to be naysayers and critics. But don’t let that dominate, or you won’t be able to do something new and risky.”

Arianna recognized that more could be done in media aside from the traditional radio, broadcast television, and print. At that time, conversations were starting to move online. There were voices that needed to be heard so Arianna created a platform to amplify them.

As a startup or a small business owner, it’s scary to go against the status quo. Is it going to be worth your time and money? Would there even be an audience for this? These are valid questions, but if you have a product you believe could be of service to others, there will always be a customer base for it.

3. “In order to truly tap into your potential, you need to participate in the industry in which you have interest.” — Chase Jarvis, CreativeLive

CreativeLive is a website where industry professionals and artists can hold classes in their respective fields. It also became a platform for artists to share their struggles and wins. Chase Jarvis, who’s a photographer himself, grew CreativeLive by building on that storytelling and strengthening his bonds with peers in various industries.

He shared how he went from studying in STEM to pursuing photography full-time. A lot of people resonated with that. By being a master at his craft and being transparent about his journey as a photographer, he was able to build a community. He gathered insights, shared them, and encouraged his peers to do the same.

best advice from successful entrepreneurs

When you want to create more value in the product you’re offering, you have to look beyond your bubble. In this instance, Chase improved his photography skills and expanded his network to achieve his business goal.

4. “Leaders take bold moves and make bold decisions.” — Nellie Akalp, CorpNet

Nellie has owned not just one successful business, but two, all the while being a mother of four, a professional speaker, and an author. Her first business,, was acquired by a Fortune 500 company for $20 million. After her non-compete period expired in 2009, she dabbled in the same industry with a new company called CorpNet. Both companies aim to help businesses and entrepreneurs create and maintain their legal entities across all 50 states in America.

However, even with the experience, she’s had with her previous company, Nellie still had to face challenges with difficult solutions. There was a period of around three to six months that CorpNet was not making any profit. Nellie revealed in an interview with Mixergy that it was a stressor big enough to give her panic attacks. Despite that, she listened to her gut instinct and did what she thought could be a solution—cutting all paid advertising on Google. In the end, CorpNet’s profitability increased by 40%.

Quote from Nellie Akalp

Nellie had already put the effort into their brand and social media by actively engaging with its clients, partnerships, and even through word of mouth. By cutting out unnecessary costs and leveraging the resources you currently have, you can take more strategic steps toward your goals.

5. “Plan for the company to last forever .” — Rhys Powell, Red Rabbit

Innovative businesses don’t just come in the form of tech and finance-oriented startups. Red Rabbit provides healthy meals and snacks with regionally sourced produce to public and private schools, summer camps, and Head Start programs. Rhys, the founder of Red Rabbit, did not have any experience with the food or school system. But, with his firm belief in his advocacy, he began studying social businesses, social movements, and their impact on society.

Initially, Rhys crafted his strategies by month or quarter. However, after joining the Entrepreneurs Organization, he realized that he should be planning for the long-term. Doing so not just increases the business’s profitability, but strengthens the movement he’s a part of as well. With that, Red Rabbit is able to serve over 20,000 meals and snacks a day across New York.

“Plan for the company to last forever — Early on, my planning was done in monthly or quarterly chunks — as in — if we could only get to Q2. An early advisor told me that I needed to be planning as though the company was going to last forever. It was a huge mind shift for me.”

Long-term planning takes a great deal of effort—researching your industry, product, and business strategies. But, in the end, these efforts will pay off in bigger rewards than a plan for the short-term.

6. “You can build a high-growth company that’s profitable, that provides exceptional value to customers, and that does good in the world.” — Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker

Warby Parker was born from a question—or a concern—that personally affected co-founder Neil Blumenthal. Why were glasses so expensive?

Neil, along with three other founders, looked into it. What they found was that by bypassing retailers and the middlemen, they could reduce costs while also allocating more budget towards a better customer experience. From there, they focused their efforts on creating a customer-centric model—offering affordable prices, an online model, a home try-on program, and donation efforts to those in need of glasses.

“It was this moment of panic but also a great opportunity for us to provide awesome customer service and write personalized emails to apologize and explain. That really set the tone for how we would run customer service.”

Customer service is an integral part of a business as proven by Warby Parker and other successful businesses today. Focus your efforts on learning what your target customers need and how you can attend to those demands.

7. “The most important thing to learn when you start a company and you want to hire people is to figure out the basics of management.” — Scott Chacon, GitHub

GitHub is a lot of things. It’s a code hosting platform that allows developers to work together on projects and share code. Others also use it as a social networking site to collaborate with other developers and showcase their work.

Chris Wanstrath, its co-founder, used an outsourcing model to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. As a matter of fact, Scott Chacon, former CIO of GitHub, was originally an outsourced contractor.

“The most important thing to learn when you start a company and you want to hire people is to figure out the basics of management. This is something that we really ignored at GitHub and it was very difficult for a long time because we started with this sort of ignorance of how to properly manage people, how to give people good feedback, how to involve them, and how to help them in their career paths.”

Outsourcing allows you to accomplish your tasks effectively in terms of time and cost. For startups, hiring a virtual assistant is a practical option as you start building a remote team for your business operations. For example, Magic can integrate vetted assistants into your team. Whether that’s in marketing, customer support, or administration, we can find the right talent for you. Check out our hiring process to get started.

Learning about the decisions, successes, and setbacks of other entrepreneurs will help give you insight into what you can and can’t do. With their experiences, you can take a strategic approach to your own hurdles and decision-making.

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