Nine Resources To Help Up-And-Coming Entrepreneurs Sharpen Their Skills
When you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you may have big growth aspirations. However, it takes a lot of work to get there: According to the Small Business Administration, only about half of small businesses with employees make it to the five-year mark.
To survive those critical early years of your startup, it’s important to keep your skills sharp and seek assistance from others when needed. Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council each discuss one resource that helped them as an up-and-coming entrepreneur and the difference it made in their future endeavors.
1. Friends And Family
Being able to rely on people with whom you have close personal ties is essential to life, and it’s especially important when trying to go into business for yourself. No person is an island, and it’s smart for you to rely on every possible advantage if you’re serious about being a successful entrepreneur. Whether that’s obtaining a free room and meals when living with your family, reaching out to friends as your first clients or networking with former co-workers and extended family, you never know what kind of opportunities these relationships can provide for you. If I didn’t have my father to rely on for support, or my college professors for insight and advice long after I graduated, I may never have achieved what I have in the relatively short time it took. – Bryce Welker, The CPA Exam Guy
One of the most overlooked resources is SCORE. SCORE is a resource partner with the Small Business Administration. It is the largest network of business mentors in the U.S. When you’re just starting, you have many questions. SCORE offers classes on business structure, marketing, tax planning, etc. You don’t have the answers when you’re starting in business. Often that is because you don’t even know the questions to ask! It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a great resource to get you started. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
3. Experienced Mentors
The single best resource is individuals in the last season of their careers. These wealths of knowledge are often cast out to pasture by young entrepreneurs, but if you engage them, they will impart on you any knowledge you want or need. I started my first company at 15 years old. Very distinctly I remember buying a piece of machinery early in my career from a man who was closing his facility to downsize and retire. In the process of looking at the machinery, we began talking, and I began asking any question that came to mind. This six- or seven-hour conversation about life, that industry and his story lead us to develop some of our company’s most important processes from experiences that we did not have to live. – Jason Azevedo, MRCA
4. Entrepreneurship Networks
I realized early on that joining entrepreneurship networks is critical to sharpening a leader’s skills. When you’re in a role as challenging as a business owner’s, you need the perspective and experience of other people in the same situation to help you. Another reason to join entrepreneurship networks is to stay on top of important news. You’ll hear about changes in tax laws, new technology and much more early on. As a result, you’ll be ready to make critical changes in your own business right away. So, consider joining an entrepreneurship community or forum as a powerful way to learn. You’ll hone your skills in multiple ways through discussions and resources only for entrepreneurs. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn during my early days as an entrepreneur. I still do now, but I believe my early experiences with this platform helped me find success. The ability to connect with other business owners can lead to plenty of exciting breakthroughs, such as new strategies and partnerships. I actually found my first business partner on LinkedIn, and I don’t know where I would be if that situation didn’t occur. If you created a LinkedIn account but haven’t used it much, now is the time to get started. This tip is particularly relevant when you consider all of the new tools added to LinkedIn over the last several years. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
6. University Programs
When I was just starting out, I was 17 years old and didn’t understand financial projections. With my physical product company, cash flow was important. I found a local university program that paired entrepreneurs (of any age) with masters of finance students to help them understand cash flow projections, taxes, sensitivity analyses and more. The projections we built for free in that two-month period helped save me from going in the red and selling out of inventory. It helped me know how to take out loans months in advance and gave me the confidence and knowledge to sleep at night. Fast forward to today and I own 100% of a multimillion-dollar business that would have gone bankrupt without the help of that university student. Look for university resources even if you aren’t a student. – Meghan Sharkus, ExpressionMed
One of the best resources at any point in my entrepreneurial career, but especially when starting out, has been podcasts. As podcasts have become more prevalent, the range of content available has become both more detailed and more vast. Want to learn lifestyle product photography? There are dozens of podcasts. Curious about lowering your customer acquisition costs? There are hundreds of hours to listen to. Few other resources go as in depth with true experts in the topics you need intel on fast. The difference podcasts have made for me as an entrepreneur is immeasurable. – Richard Fong, Senior Strong
I learned most of what I know today through YouTube. When I ran my first startup, I didn’t know how to hire people, build a product or raise money. I stumbled across Y Combinator on YouTube and devoured all their videos. They were extremely helpful. Hearing how other founders navigated similar struggles and built some of the world’s most valuable companies made me understand a few things: First, there are certain techniques and formulas that make successful startups—things like the lean startup method or understanding product/market fit. Second, learning is free and resources are everywhere! I don’t have to pay for a degree to learn about entrepreneurship. Third, anyone can do this. Founders come in all shapes and sizes, and hard work can make the craziest dreams come true. – Brent Liang, Fractal
9. Business Books
Books! Books are a collection of someone’s advice, tips and proven strategies for what got them to the next level. It’s like being able to read the instruction manual for how they were able to conquer an area you may be struggling with. Business books will give you valuable information for you to absorb and soak up like a sponge, allowing you to implement it in your own life and see the results in real time. It could be an area of interest you are curious about, struggling with or even something you are excelling in. There is so much knowledge in books and they are available in every area of business you will be exploring as an entrepreneur. – Mary Harcourt, CosmoGlo