Advice comes in all shapes and sizes, but the advice that online entrepreneurs need is real-world advice from business owners just like themselves. Because running a business is no small feat. There will be days when everything goes well, and other days when nothing seems to go right at all.
On those tough days, look to what others have done before you. Believe that you can rise above your challenges like other online entrepreneurs have. Everyone’s story is different, but there are a few common principles that can help any business succeed.
In this the second half to our real advice series, find out for yourself what these successful online entrepreneurs have to say about starting a business. You may just discover the ticket to your own success in online business.
Successful businesses find a problem that needs to be fixed, and work towards finding a convenient solution for their customers. Whatever your product or service may be, it needs to provide value to the people you serve. This is what Chieh Huang realized when he started his company, Boxed. He and his other co-founders wanted to give people an easier way to buy groceries in bulk at the best prices.
From that idea Boxed was born, an online site where people could shop for wholesale products and have them delivered straight to their doorsteps. What started as a small startup shipping paper towels out of Huang’s garage has turned into a global company with more than $100 million in annual sales. Besides Huang’s rapid success in just 4 years, he’s also recognized for giving back to his employees, even paying for their children’s college tuitions.
Before starting Boxed, though, Huang had a comfortable job at a law firm. One of his coworkers came up to Huang and told him “not to leave the comfort of the job to start [his] first company.” Luckily for Huang, he refused to follow this advice and instead trusted his gut.
Huang says that ability to trust his instinct is “what got me here today.” From where he stands, the CEO of a highly-competitive internet wholesaler, right up there with big names like Amazon, that advice has led to some remarkable things.
You may not know where your instinct is going to take you at first, and that’s okay. It’s to be expected. But have the courage to follow your gut even if you can’t see the end result right now. You know enough to begin, so trust yourself to take the leap.
Focus on What You Can Do
David Bladow, CEO and co-founder of BloomThat, grew up around a family of entrepreneurs. His mother, father, stepfather and grandfather all worked as their own bosses, something that Bladow wanted for himself.
He started BloomThat in 2013, an online flower delivery service with the goal to “make it easier for people to be more thoughtful.” Within 2 years, Bladow had raised over $7 million in venture capital funds. BloomThat now offers flower deliveries across the United States and continues to be profitable.
But in the beginning days of the business, not everything went smoothly for Bladow. For some time they had to stop offering same-day delivery in their hometown of Los Angeles and had to amp up the delivery fees. Somehow, they were able to get over those hurdles.
What helped Bladow was when he learned to only “control the things you can control.” You are going to have so much vying for your attention, but as Bladow puts it, “Don’t give the small things the time they don’t deserve.”
Those small things “that get under your skin” can take up valuable time that you could devote to moving your company forward. Bladow also says, “you spend all day dwelling on [the little things] when you shouldn’t. Focus on the two or three things that you can control in life, the rest you just take in stride.”
What can you control in your business? Focus on what is within your power and then don’t let the things that aren’t in your control bring you down. Despite what’s out of your control, you are the deciding factor for whether or not your company will succeed.
Bladow, after seeing his family run their own companies and now running his own, came to this conclusion about making a business work: “You have to be smart and work hard, but often it is simply the sticktoitness you need to fight through the darkest days.”
Your ability matters, how much you know will help, but it’s that grit and perseverance that may matter more. For Bladow, he says, “That’s what makes a difference. Just don’t quit.”
Keep Improving Yourself
For Tina Sharkey, she was driven by a guiding belief that “everyone deserves better…and better doesn’t need to cost more.” As a co-founder and CEO of the online business, Brandless, Sharkey has been able to give her customers a variety of high-quality products for just $3 each. Brandless creates household, food and beauty products all with healthy ingredients or fine materials. They make organic foods and recyclable goods easier to find and cheaper to buy.
And people love it. Sharkey and her co-founder started Brandless just this year and within just 5 months have made over $50 million in sales. Quite a feat for brand new online entrepreneurs.
After experiencing for herself what a well-functioning business team can do, Sharkey shares this piece of advice: “High-performing teams need to be constantly learning and constantly coaching.” Without pushing yourself, you never can reach what you or your business can become.
Sharkey relates it to professional athletes. They all want to improve themselves and become a little better. Because of that they have several coaches to help them and give them the feedback they need. Sharkey says, “The truth is the most high-performing people are the ones that are constantly trying to improve. So, you have to be able to have that feedback.”
For some entrepreneurs, though, that feedback from their mentors or peers demoralizes them instead of encouraging improvement. To this, Sharkey says to “depersonalize” feedback, or to “always take feedback seriously but not personally.” When you see that such feedback is not meant to hurt but to help, you can begin to use it to your advantage.
Final Words of Advice
It takes a lot of courage not to give up on those days when throwing in the towel is easier. But as Huang taught, you have to trust your gut and move forward anyway. You know more than you think you do.
Things will often be out of your control. So take accountability for what you can do, and let go of what you can’t control as Bladow taught. Then always be open to feedback. Sharkey and other successful entrepreneurs didn’t get to where they are today without taking in advice without taking it personally.
With their words of advice stowed away in your mind, make the choice to move forward with your business. It won’t always be a walk in the park. But it wasn’t for these entrepreneurs either and look where they are now. Even if you can’t see the end result just yet, you too are on your way to success. So don’t you dare stop walking now.