Written By Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation

13 Things You Wish You Knew Before Starting a Business

What do you wish you knew before going into business that you had to learn the hard way?

To help you prepare for starting your own business, we asked business leaders and entrepreneurs this question for their best tips. From dedication to asking questions to establishing proper hiring, there are several things we wish we knew before going into business.

Here are 13 things business leaders and entrepreneurs wish they knew before going into business that they had to learn the hard way:

  • The Nitty-gritty Details
  • Patience
  • The Importance Of Confidence
  • Dedication To Asking Questions
  • The Ability To Hear The Hard Truth
  • Turning Off The Workday
  • There’s More Than One Way Up The Mountain
  • It’s A Marathon
  • The Freedom To Grow As You Go
  • Proper Hiring
  • Social Media Becomes A Burden
  • Fall In Love With Your Customer

The Nitty-Gritty Details

I wish I knew all the nitty-gritty details that are involved with running a business like accounting, profit projections, scheduling, etc. As an interior designer, I got a design degree, and once I started my own interior design firm, I quickly learned how much I didn’t know about the business side of owning a business. I reached out to others, signed up for conferences, read accounting books and sometimes learned by trial and error, but if I could do it all again, I would have gotten a business minor along with my interior design degree. 

Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors


Before you start your business, it is important to note that everything is going to take longer and be more complicated than you thought it would be. This isn’t a bad thing; it is simply the nature of business! If you can recognize this reality early and manage your expectations, you will be off to a better start than the average entrepreneur. The key to creating a successful business is to be a skilled problem solver and always be solution-oriented. I guarantee you that it will make all the difference.

Brad Sacks, More Than Gourmet

The Importance Of Confidence

It’s easy to think you’re not good enough, you’re not big enough, you’re not successful enough or you’re not smart enough. But often, the truth is that there’s very little that separates you from everyone else. Generally speaking, people tend to underestimate themselves and overestimate the competition. You need to always be clear with what you know and what you’re capable of, and you also have to know what your competition knows and what they’re capable of. That way, you enter the arena with a clear picture of what you and everyone else can and cannot do, and that will give you confidence in your edge over everyone else.

Phillip A. Lew, C9 Staff

Dedication To Asking Questions

Ask questions to yourself, your employees, your customer and your vendors in business. Wisdom comes when you ask questions, pay attention to the answers and act on the insights. Then, not only will you receive the guidance you’re seeking, but you’ll be surprised that you’ll be ready to receive even more instructions through conscious questioning.  

Gregory Drambour, Sedona Retreats

The Ability To Hear The Hard Truth

There are some executives who do not want to hear a bad truth in any context. This often presents in cases where there is a familial or other non-work relationship between them and the affected manager. Learn to identify them quickly. Any entrepreneur, CEO or business owner that refuses to manage reality should be avoided. Even family should be able to have hard conversations.

Matthew Lee, Learning & Development Leader

Turning Off The Workday

It’s no surprise that starting your own business takes a lot of time, but I don’t think I realized just how much time would be involved. In particular, I found it incredibly difficult to “turn off” at the end of each workday. Knowing that everything you put in will — at least ideally —  have a direct impact on the success of your business gives you an added push to work much longer hours. Based on this, having the ability to be able to “turn off” at the end of a workday is something that I really had to learn. There’s always the temptation to work weekends or longer hours to “just get that one thing done” for your business, so forcing yourself to stick to a schedule is definitely a good lesson to learn – even if it’s something I continue to work on myself.

Anna Barker, Logical Dollar

There’s More Than One Way Up The Mountain

I wish I would have known that work is work, no matter what field you are in. I was taught to romanticize entrepreneurship. But frankly, entrepreneurs work harder than anyone. I also wish I would have known that “there’s more than one way up the mountain.” I think I let a lot of “influencers” make me think that if I did not live my life a certain way, I would not be happy. Both happiness and success are relative to each individual. Some people just want to have a happy little family business; others want to scale to Amazon size — and that is okay! Don’t be afraid to do you, help others and pursue your goals.

Annika Ehrig, Whiteboard Geeks

It’s A Marathon

I think going into business I always say that you have to have a fair amount of ego to believe that you can “build a better mousetrap” or grow something that fulfills a gap that is unfulfilled. However, it’s hard and a challenge. It does not happen overnight, so it’s so important to remember that it’s a marathon and great things take time.

Gresham Harkless Jr., 16 Blue Media

The Freedom To Grow As You Go

It’s easy to believe that it’s necessary to be an expert in every single detail of business prior to getting started. However, the business climate is ever-changing which requires every entrepreneur to make a commitment to adaptability and continuing education. The most successful businesses are often the ones most willing to enthusiastically evolve and adjust as needed in new circumstances. If business were art, I’d say that I’ve learned it is helpful to keep a Monet style “Impressionistic” image framed in the mind of the future. But know that every detail does not have to be painted in to achieve a masterpiece in the long run. The details will evolve. The business will evolve. The business person will also evolve.

Jena Ritchie Land, Leader in Empowering Ethical Entrepreneurship

Proper Hiring

Many of my early hires weren’t the right long-term fit, and so I had to continue to spend time hiring (which takes quite a bit of time). So develop a thorough system and ensure that you have a specific expected outcome for what the job you are hiring for should be working towards accomplishing (i.e., Job Scorecard). This is not the job outline. The Job Scorecard is how you as the boss will rate your employee and base any/all raises promotions off of. Having a proper Job Scorecard and hiring process will work towards minimizing voodoo hiring practices. I recommend reading Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart. This helped us to create a system that we implemented to find and hire the right talent.

Matt Blake, Entrepreneur, Investor and Partner

Social Media Becomes A Burden

Many typical lifestyle activities such as social media will become a burden. Spending your evenings on Twitter or Facebook while being an employee is wasted but not decremental to your work. Once you start a business, you will constantly play catch-up and have to finish things off. Accounting, payroll, invoicing, support, etc., will all be on you. Social media especially has a tendency to drive you down a rabbit hole and hold you from finishing work. Deleting all social media apps from your phone is the first step. Switching off notifications for Messenger is the second one.

Edward Briggs, Home Reviews

Fall In Love With Your Customer

Fall more in love with your customer than your product. When starting a new business, often we are more in love with our product which creates blinders for solving the customer’s real pain. First, listen to your ideal customer’s challenges and fears. Second, create a product that solves those specific problems. Finding the problem first will make marketing and attracting the right customer way more profitable and enjoyable. 

Jenn Christie, Markitors

The Importance of Social Media

Before going into business, I wish I would have had a better understanding of social media and just how important it would be to my business. In the eyelash extension business, a lot of aspiring artists and potential clients are on social media looking up different suppliers and salons. Luckily I surrounded myself with a great team who were able to help increase my visibility and followers, but had I started even earlier – I would be even bigger!

Vanessa Molica, The Lash ProfessionalTerkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at terkel.io to answer questions and get published.

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