Advice © by Laughlin Elkind (2004)

Advice is a funny thing—when we ask for it, we’re usually looking for validation for what we’re already thinking. Yet good business advice seems to come our way when we’re least expecting it. I’ve been blessed to know great mentors and successful entrepreneurs over the past several years, and here are a few of the pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up:

  1. Hire slow and fire fast. Having the right people in the right seats on the bus is the single most important aspect of building and running a successful company. In order to do that, you have to be very deliberate about hiring—take as long as it takes to find the right people, especially for senior positions. I’ve heard of companies taking as long as a year to fill certain positions. If and when a new hire isn’t working out, ask yourself if that person is worth holding onto in another position, or if it’s time to let go. Keeping the wrong staff does a disservice to your company as well as the staffed; Zappo’s famously pays people to quit early on if it’s not a good fit. Whatever your method, take your time to board the right people and—lightning fast—get the wrong ones off the bus.
  2. Nail it, then scale it. Echoing the words of Paul Ahlstrom, the author of Nail It, Then Scale It, don’t grow before you’re ready; get your business model and infrastructure in place first. Many entrepreneurs are too focused on their own vision to listen to the friends and first customers who can truly help mold the product or service into perfection. That said, if you work diligently and intently on the model itself, building it with scalability in mind, the sky’s the limit—once you’re ready to grow. Think big, but focus small until you’ve proven that the model works, and can carry out the big vision.
  3. Learn from your first, earn from your second, give back with your third. This doesn’t mean that you won’t make money on your first startup. It does mean that we all make lots of mistakes when we do something for the first time, and as long as we learn from our mistakes, there’s great take-home value for us. While you may be super excited about the future of your first company, know that there’s more in store for you as an entrepreneur. You will have opportunities to earn and to give back, so don’t worry about the mistakes you’re sure to make along the way. Instead, focus on learning as much as you can now.

What is the best, most impactful business advice you’ve received?

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of social media and word of mouth marketing firm Likeable Media, an Inc. 500 company with triple-digit revenue growth for four consecutive years, and the author of the New York Times bestseller Likeable Social Media.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.