Keys to Success

Starting your own business is never easy, but it’s often the struggles you go through that make you so successful. These five entrepreneurs each experienced setbacks, but instead of getting overwhelmed or giving up, they dug in their heels and accomplished their goals. Here’s their advice for small business owners.

Comfort is a Thing of the Past

As the founder of MODCo (an acronym for My Own Damn Company), Sara Rotman is the only woman to own and run a fashion advertising agency. Her $90 million company caters to some of the top names in fashion, including Vera Wang and Tory Burch, but when she started the company in 1996 she worked out of her home and had no outside funding.

“The best advice I ever received was from my first accountant when I was discussing the launch of my company. We were speaking about my business plan and how much money to borrow to launch. She wisely said, ‘Only have enough cash on hand to barely survive; never so much that you are comfortable. It’s important to stay scared in the beginning. Being comfortable is the enemy. Staying hungry forces you to push yourself to continue to survive, grow, and evolve.”

Forget About Shortcuts

Mark Cuban might be worth billions, but he grew up in a decidedly middle-class family. Cuban’s first entrepreneurial expenditure happened when he was just 12 years old selling trash bags to pay for basketball shoes.

He worked odd jobs to pay for college, including a dance instructor and party promoter. After college, Cuban used his knowledge of computers to build a dot com fortune. He’s now perhaps best known for owning the Dallas Mavericks and voicing criticism about everything from NBA referees to the U.S. Patent system. Regardless of the criticism he receives, Cuban’s strong work ethic is an inspiration for all entrepreneurs.

“Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”

Ask for Advice – But Don’t Always Take It

When you’re starting your own business, it seems like everyone has an opinion on how you should run it. Lots of this advice can be helpful, especially for a first-time entrepreneur, but some of it, as well-intentioned as it might be, is best forgotten.

Serial entrepreneur Robin Chase knows this first hand. She’s the founder and CEO of Buzzcar and GoLoco, and the founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the world’s largest carsharing company. She’s been named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and sits on the advisory boards of OECD’s International Transport Forum, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Committee on Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the World Resources Institute.

“I think it is a good idea to get lots of advice, but keep in mind you’ve probably given the problem more thought than your advisers, and remember that their motivations don’t always align with yours. There are a number of situations in which I wish I hadn’t listened to others’ advice and had trusted my own value system.”

Know You’ll Never be Perfect – But Try Anyways

As a Taiwanese immigrant, David Chu is the epitome of the American Dream. His family came to America in the 1960s when Chu was a young child. Just two decades later he founded Nautica, which made $2.5 million in profits its second year.

Chu sold the company for $1 billion in 2003. He went on to found several other fashion lines and earlier this year he began working as the CEO of luxury lifestyle company Georg Jensen.

“Acquire the skills in the trade that you need to practice in and continue to perfect the trade. Once you find something you love to do, you will continue to do it and continue to perfect it. You can never get it perfect.”