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Entrepreneurs and mental health



With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week taking place from 18–24 May, Startups shines a light on the important issue of entrepreneurship and mental health…

The freedom to create your own routine, the ability to take on projects you really believe in, the opportunity to be in control of your professional development – these are just some of the reasons why becoming your own boss is one of the most thrilling adventures you’ll ever embark on.

Yet there are also the long hours, and the unpredictable work flows – not to mention the ‘sink or swim’ attitude – that can make running your own business one of the most stressful experiences to go through. So how do you manage your own mental health effectively as an entrepreneur, and lead a company at the same time?

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the UK between 13-19 May, with a focus on body image. In light of this, we’ll be exploring the connection between entrepreneurs and mental health – as well as touching on body image – in relation to running your own business.

We’ll look at what the statistics say, and hear from small business owners and experts about their experiences. We’ll also examine some of the common ways in which founders’ mental health may be impacted, and offer tips on how to manage them.

Readers are advised that this article contains references to potentially triggering material.


1. Mental health statistics

One in four adults experience mental illness, according to data published by NHS England.

This shows just how common mental health conditions can be. For example, in an eight-person team, two team members may have experienced mental illness.

Mental health issues accounted for 15.8 million sick days in 2016, according to data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

However, self-employed people have a lower sickness absence rate than employees in general (1.4% for self-employed, 2.1% for employees). One reason for this difference could be that business owners feel less able to take sick leave, including that which is needed for mental health reasons.

Yet, between 1993 and 2017, the number of sick days taken by workers in the UK has dropped from 7.2 days in 1993 to 4.1 days in 2017.


So why is that? It could be due to improvements in healthcare, with more access to the treatment and knowledge needed to cure and prevent illness.

But it could also be due to a change in culture that makes it less acceptable to take sick leave. Or, people may feel like they have to use other types of leave entitlement instead of sick leave, as mental health can still be seen as a controversial topic.

In 2018, the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards conducted its Mental Health in Entrepreneurship survey, with 100 entrepreneurs taking part. Here, we highlight some of the findings from the research:

  • 58% of those surveyed experienced mental health issues
  • The conditions included anxiety (21%), depression (19%) and stress (41%)
  • 55% of respondents said that running a business has had a negative impact on their mental health

Plus, according to recent research by Xero (a business and accounting software company), stress is a key issue for many small business owners. Of the 500 business owners involved in the company’s research, 17% reported that they had felt ‘highly stressed’ in the six months prior to the survey.

Claire Gamble, MD at Unhooked Communications, comments: “You have to have a lot of resilience running your own business, and looking after your mental health is paramount for this. Anxiety and depression are sadly all too common amongst business owners, and these feelings can start to manifest themselves in different ways, such as losing motivation, procrastinating, making risky decisions, and not looking after yourself. Even seemingly small niggles and low feelings can start to build up over time, so it’s important to identify them when they appear and try to resolve them.

“Routine, building a support network, and making time to see people face-to-face are important parts of looking after your health and wellbeing when you’re running a business.
When I first went self-employed, I’d often go days without seeing anyone else and I soon found myself feeling really down and losing motivation.


“In a recent survey for PR Unlocked, over a third (38%) of self-employed people who work from home regularly said they have days when they don’t speak to or meet other people during working hours, and 40% sometimes have days where they don’t see or speak to anyone else. Only 22% said they try to meet or speak to other people most days. Some people might think the idea of working at home alone all day sounds like bliss, but it can be really isolating, and have a negative impact on your mental health.

“For business owners, there’s often a temptation to work as hard as possible, or be chained to your desk for hours on end. You don’t need to hustle 24/7 – in fact, this sort of mentality is more likely to be counterproductive, and can lead to burnout.

“Take advantage of the fact that you have more control over your working hours than if you were employed. Plan your time so you can do focused work when you’re most productive, and take regular breaks to rest, eat healthily, exercise, and meet other people. If you genuinely have too much work to do, you need to start growing your team.”

What does mental health mean to you?

Martina Mercer is a freelance PR and marketing consultant, working with brands such as Willie’s Cacao, Tax Rebate Services, Lay-Z Spa, DSMRandDTaxCredits, and HealthClic. She says: “Mental health is incredibly important to me, as it encompasses my whole self. It dictates how I feel, how I react, how I cope in situations, and how I handle every single day. I have a love/ hate relationship with my mental health, and find it hard to separate the real me from the bipolar me. It defines me.


“On a good day, I am super creative and I feel indestructible. My ideas flow freely, and I jump for joy when experiencing small triumphs at work. However, the flip side is that on a bad day – which are few and far between now – I’m subdued and calm, often retreating from the world. I don’t like myself on bad days, as I annoy myself and feel I should be grateful for what I have. But others find it to be a refreshing change, as it’s when I slow down enough to listen and plan effectively. Both sides have their benefits and drawbacks.”

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Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, comments: “For me, being healthy mentally is about finding a sense of balance in both your mind and your body.

“This means ensuring I’m getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, attending to my personal relationships, and working towards my goals. But also, importantly, it’s about making sure I take the time out to do the things which give me a sense of well-being and enjoyment. Finding that balance is what it really means to practice self-care.”

2. Common causes

There are a number of ways in which your mental health can be affected as a founder of a startup. Here, we profile some of the main factors that could have an impact, and why.


When you’re first starting out, it’s likely you’ll need to put in a certain number of hours to get your business off the ground. However, too many long days and not enough time away from the office can take its toll.



Becoming your own boss means stepping away from the routine of regular employment. And, unless you have a co-founder, this means going it alone. The pressure of being responsible for every decision can be intimidating.

Lack of support networks and structure

In addition to potentially being the only person in your company (especially in the beginning), you may find yourself without the day-to-day camaraderie of colleagues or the structure of an office – both of which can have an adverse effect when removed.

Positivity pressure

Many people dream of running their own businesses, yet not everyone takes that leap. So if you do, there can be a certain pressure to make it feel like you’re living the dream every single moment of the day – that everything’s going great, always. That could be in terms of how you act and talk about your business, as well as how you look and present yourself to the world.

Money and finance

Whether you’re funding your business yourself, have borrowed through loans, or received grants, how the numbers add up is one of the key concerns for any business. Therefore, worrying about how your business will stay afloat can be a significant stressor for many small business owners.


When you’re a startup founder, so much of who you are is tied up with what your business does. So if your business should come under threat, or it’s no longer a viable option, then you could feel the effects not only professionally, but personally too.



No one sets out thinking that their business will fail. But we have to be realistic – some businesses won’t be successful. While what it means to be a success is a topic for another discussion entirely, in this instance, when a business fails – for whatever reason – it can seem like the end of your world.

Networking culture

With many events and sessions for entrepreneurs often providing free drinks, when and how does indulging in a few social beverages become alcohol abuse?

Lack of discussion

While more can be done to promote positive mental health and create a dialogue around it more generally, when you look at entrepreneurs and mental health in particular, there seem to be even fewer opportunities for discussion.

For example, while researching for this article, there were a limited number of relatable search terms – suggesting that people are simply not searching online for information about this topic.

Plus, with cultural norms such as ‘bottling it up’ and ‘putting on a brave face’ still very much prevalent, we’re probably not yet at the stage where such matters of entrepreneurs’ mental health can be discussed freely.


Personality traits

How would you describe the stereotypical successful entrepreneur? Some common words might be ambitious, creative, eccentric, or solitary.

In turn, these words could also be applied to some elements of mental health conditions, and so continuing the concept of ‘genius in madness’.

These conditions could manifest themselves as anxiety, depression or stress, or another type of mental health issue.

Are there any myths about entrepreneurship and mental health that you’d like to bust?

Mercer states: “When I received my bipolar diagnosis, a lot of people said it made sense – that it explained my burning ambition, burning the candle at both ends, and my creativity. I was writing for Yahoo! at the time and wanted to share my story. Worryingly, I lost clients as soon as my story went viral. I hadn’t lost one client before that.


“There’s a myth that if someone has a mental health condition, or is bipolar, it means they’re crazy, they’re unreliable, they’re not a good choice. Whereas I credit my bipolar with fuelling my determination to succeed, my dogged desire to be the best in my field, and my zany creativity.

“In short, if I didn’t have a mental illness, I probably wouldn’t produce the results my clients love me for – it’s part of me. After all, a fact has just been released that 49% of entrepreneurs have a mental illness.”

Touroni adds: “[The myth] that it’s not possible to have both. It is! But you need to be very focused on maintaining the balance. It’s all about setting boundaries, and forming a secure base. You need to be as proactive about self-care as you are about your business – and that means saying “no” sometimes.

“We all have limits – and accompanying warning signs – and it’s important to tune in and recognise when it’s time to take a step back. Burnout doesn’t just happen – we’ve normally pushed our way through a lot of warning signs to get there.”

3. Strategies and solutions

So, we’ve outlined some of the main factors that can be detrimental to your mental health when running your own business. Next, we’ll provide some ideas about how to manage them.


It’s important to be aware when your mental health is being adversely affected. If it is – or to help prevent a negative impact – you could consider taking the following actions:

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Take breaks

This refers to breaks throughout your working day, as well as taking holiday leave. Only 31% of entrepreneurs take full and regular lunch breaks, according to the Mental Health in Entrepreneurship survey.

Form a network

Whether that’s attending professional networking sessions, chatting with your other co-workers, or attending a Meetup or other informal gathering or event, it can be helpful to have other people around you who understand the demands of running your own business.

For example, consider running your business from a co-working space – this will provide both a dedicated work area, and a readymade community of fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Get regular sleep

In an effort to simply have more hours in the day, maintaining a regular sleep schedule with a sufficient amount of rest can often be one of the first things that falls by the wayside.


With thoughts racing around your head about the day that’s been, or what’s coming up, the inability to sleep can make matters seem even worse. Ensuring you’re getting enough sleep every night is vital.


Looking after your mental health can also be connected to caring for your physical health. Exercise causes a reaction in your body which releases endorphins. These hormones help to make you feel more positive and energised, and so exercise is thought to help mild anxiety, depression and stress – as well as promote improved self-esteem.

Whether you want to go for a run by yourself to clear your head, or take part in a group class and meet like-minded people, there are a number of different ways to incorporate exercise into your life.

Work/life balance

Running your own business can be all-consuming, and it can be difficult to separate work and home. This is especially the case if you run a home-based business, or work with family members.

Therefore, creating a distinction between the two is key: ideally, have your home office in a separate part of your home, or set a time for stopping work-related talk.


Similarly, be sure to prioritise having dinner at home, or spending time with your children.

Take sick leave

Taking time off can be difficult, particularly if you’re self-employed, a sole trader, or work by yourself.

Although the symptoms of physical sickness may often be easier to spot than those of mental illness, if you’re not feeling 100% (whether that’s physically or mentally), be sure to take time off to allow yourself to get better. This means that when you do get back to your business, you’ll feel like your best self.


If you recognise that you’re not feeling as great as you would like to, then it may be possible to help yourself.

You can read up on the subject, and find self-help books that can guide you through the process of addressing any issues you may be facing.


Similarly, online services and apps can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of stress and other conditions.

Get professional help

Just like with physical ill health, sometimes things get better by themselves – perhaps with some assistance by yourself.

But some illnesses require specialist knowledge, and it’s the same with mental health. If you feel like you’re not coping, or you’re not seeing the results you’d like to, reach out to a professional for expert advice and treatment to help you heal.

What advice would you offer to others/small business owners about supporting their mental health while running a business?

Mercer advises: “Owning your own business while managing your mental health is ideal. You can hopefully be flexible, and as you know yourself better than anyone else, you can adapt when you feel a bad day is coming. Many people feel embarrassed about their mental health, and wouldn’t dream of sharing this information with customers and clients – which is completely understandable.


“If you are struggling, it’s important to take breaks, and not to feel guilty for it – you’ll be twice as productive when you return, which will make up for any absence. On a bad day, find tasks that will not be too customer-facing, or will not require much decision-making, and take time for yourself. If you can’t do this when you’re your own boss, when can you?”

Touroni continues: “Running a business is one of the most stressful things you can do. Blurred work-life boundaries and the inevitable uncertainty that comes with starting a business can take their toll on our mental health.

“Unfortunately, many of the traits that might lead someone to become a successful entrepreneur are the same traits that might make them vulnerable to over-extending themselves and neglecting their mental health.

“My main advice would be to be honest about how you’re feeling. Are you struggling? That’s fine. Make sure you talk about it. Having solid support is really important – whether that’s in the form of a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist. Someone with whom you can check-in with on a regular basis, talk about how you’re feeling, and ensure you’re not neglecting your own needs.”

Evidently, mental health is a key component of overall health and wellness. As a founder of a small business, you have a number of duties to your company: to lead, to set direction, and to take responsibility.


Yet at the same time, it’s important to remember your duties and responsibilities to yourself. This means ensuring that you’re in the best possible condition, including your mental well-being – both for your own health and for the success of your startup.

However, it can be difficult to say that you’re not well, especially when you don’t know what the reaction will be.

But a leader who is open and honest – particularly about any challenges that they’re facing – and who speaks out, even when it’s a scary thing to do, can be a real inspiration. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a company that is led by someone with such compassion, both for themselves and for those around them?

Similarly, the more people who create a conversation about entrepreneurs and mental health, the more ordinary it will become.

Via Startups UK



Why Digital Freelancing is the Future of Work



The corporate world has changed more in the past two years than in the past twenty years. It took a pandemic to make people realize that you don’t need to travel for work two hours a day to sit in front of a computer that is connected to the internet anyway.

It is no longer possible to attract people to work at a full-time job in a corporate office because people have realized that the idea of a “safe and secure” job is just a dream that can collapse at any time. There is no need to work at a specific location in a specific city because we all live in the global village called the internet. 

If you have expertise on a specific skill, you can remotely work for the best companies in the world at command earnings that compete with anyone in the world with the same skill. And the best part is that you can work on a contract basis.

So what is preventing people from becoming freelancers and quit their day job (if they are fortunate to have one)? The lack of a personal brand.

The full-time corporate world operates on slightly different rules where you can jump from one company to another based on your personal network and influence. But in the freelance world, having a personal network is not enough, you need a personal brand.


Building a personal brand doesn’t mean becoming popular. A personal brand is built when you add value to people’s lives through your content, sometimes without charging anything for it.

If you want to build a strong personal brand as an influencer, you need to start with blogging. Write a few articles a month about what you learn, what you know and what you have experienced. Writing is the best way to let the world know that you exist.

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Once you start writing, you will see that opportunities will come your way. Start helping out people with your content and then with free consultations. There are a ton of freelancing opportunities in the world, and you can become a specialist in one category. Let’s say, for example, you are an SEO expert. Start writing about SEO on your blog, share them on social media and post videos about what you know. 

Research companies that you want to help and maybe create an SEO audit report for them and cold-email it to them. If you add value first instead of asking for an opportunity, an opportunity will come your way. 

You cannot demand heat before you throw in the piece of wood. Set up a calendar that shows your available times and let people book a free 15-20 minute consultation call with you. This is how you add value and then get a sale, without asking explicitly for the sale.


Freelancing makes you an entrepreneur where the product is yourself. This is the first step in your long journey of building something for yourself, that eventually becomes greater than yourself. 

Freelancing also requires professional relationship skills, sales skills and the skill of adding more value than what you are getting paid for. This skill is vastly different from the skill of being an employee.

If you are not in a full-time corporate job right now, it is time to start freelancing instead of trying to find a job in the post-pandemic, new world order. 

If you are already in a corporate job, you need to start freelancing as a side-hustle as soon as possible. Even if you are just building your brand and doing free consultations, it is more than enough to start with because it creates the foundation for your future freelancing journey. 

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You might have friction getting started in this journey if you are an employee or have been one. Because the typical mindset of an employee is to look for security and “something guaranteed” for every piece of effort that you put in. Getting started with your freelancing career is the first step in dealing with career and professional uncertainty.


I cannot tell you what opportunities you will get once you start building your personal brand. But I can say with conviction that once you start, you will start getting opportunities.

Via Entrepreneur

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Why You Need a B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy–And How to Build One



B2B influencer marketing has essentially been around since the beginning of commerce. When the dairyman told all the bakers on his delivery route that they should purchase flour from a certain miller, and when the miller gave the dairyman flour for his household as repayment, B2B influencer marketing was born. So, how can you make this marketing strategy work for your business, and why should you want to?

Why is B2B influencer marketing important?

At its core, influencer marketing is a field of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive or showcase a brand message to the larger market. Rather than selling directly to a big group, instead you can inspire, hire, or even pay market influencers to promote what you have to offer.

In the world of networking, we see B2B influencers guide, direct, and even enhance the experience a business has with another business. While we would like to think that slick ad campaigns and ad spend are directing traffic, it is still the word-of-mouth influence that guides people and businesses to each other.

A quick guide to B2B influencer marketing

Where to find influencers

Ask yourself who your current advocates are. Who already speaks highly of you? Who refers business to you?

Advocates aren’t always clients or customers. Sometimes, they can be our vendors and suppliers. Other times, we must look at other professionals related to our industry. Advocates speak highly of your people, products, or services.


Do your clients connect on social channels? Do they tag referral partners? Do they recommend services and providers to their own clients as a value-add? Where are they also sharing information on non-social channels, such as podcasts, speaking events, and books?

Consider sponsoring a speaking event where a potential B2B connector will be presenting. Build a relationship with them off-stage in order to get their shout-out on-stage. Feature potential B2B influencers on your own company podcast. Showcasing your relationships with influencers and companies will add to the trust factor so that other businesses will be comfortable connecting with you.

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Build a B2B influencer connection

Think about tires. If you are a fleet manager and you are purchasing new tires for vehicles in your fleet, you might discover you need brakes. You might then mention to the tire dealer that you need to have some new decal work done. Your tire provider suggests a brake shop that specializes in fleet maintenance, and suggests a painting and decal service that one of their other clients uses.

Did the tire provider need the brake guy or decal person? No. Most likely the brake shop and the decal creator reached out to create a B2B connection which would benefit the tire dealer (and themselves). If you know of other businesses that your clients regularly utilize, your business can build a B2B influencer connection with benefits for all.

Did the tire provider need the brake guy or decal person? No. Most likely the brake shop and the decal creator reached out to create a B2B connection which would benefit the tire dealer (and themselves). If you know of other businesses that your clients regularly utilize, your business can build a B2B influencer connection with benefits for all.


Make sure to vet any potential connections

It is easy to speed forward and engage a B2B business as a possible connector or influencer. However, you need to take some time to vet the affiliations and relevance of the connection. Checking affiliations and relevance is as simple as doing a Google search, website review, or social media audit.

While it might seem like a particular business would be an ideal connection and influence, their affiliations and company culture may not be a perfect fit and could create some reputation, brand, and image problems in the long run.

What is your plan for co-creation?

If you are just hoping your B2B influencer is sharing your service/product accurately or is referring potential clients through the right contact at your company, you are not going to receive the impact you are looking for through this influencer.

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B2B influencing is about co-creation. Co-creation means you are working together with the influencer—it is collaboration and partnership. It is developing a relationship, not just a tactical means to an end.

In a number of instances, a company hires an influencer from a transactional perspective, and only provides the influencer with what is needed to achieve a given result. However, the more you develop a relationship, and provide the influencer with the education and resources to make the most impact for your company, the better the result and outcome.


How do you plan to compensate influencers?

Not all influencer marketing requires you to pay for time. Sometimes, B2B connections are made that are just about giving valuable connections.

Could a “paid” influencer provide value? Absolutely. But you should determine the best influencer for your product or service first. Then determine if that influencer relationship should be a compensated one or a value/connection one.

B2B influencer marketing and your business

Just a few years ago, B2B businesses would have balked at the idea of using influencer marketing as a marketing strategy; it was considered “celebrity” and a hack. However, businesses have been using this technique long before it was given a trendy name and celebrity status.

Influencer marketing is all about relationships—your relationship with an “influencer” and their relationship with your client/customer or prospects. The key is to know the purpose, audience, and tools necessary to make it work effectively. Knowing your audience and the key influencers in your industry, professional network, or community can make the biggest difference.

My guess is that you have already been using this technique or are an influencer yourself. You just didn’t know you were doing it. Now, do it with purpose!


Via AB

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17 Tips for Racking Up Revenue From Founders With Off-the-Charts Success



The reasons behind a company’s hockey-stick growth can be varied, of course. One company’s software or consumer product can land at the exact perfect moment when consumers want it most (ZoomPeloton … ahem). Other companies may succeed because they’re doing something that’s been done but they’re doing it with far more efficiency and verve than their predecessors. Still other companies can thank good old-fashioned gumption.

No matter the reasons, a few things remain constant across all fast-growth companies: They go where no one else will. They get comfortable being uncomfortable. They take the risks no one else wants to take. Here, 17 of this year’s fastest-growing private companies across seven regions describe just one reason why they’ve managed to come out on top:

1. Don’t be a hero.

“Early on, I thought the answer to solving problems was to work through them–just keep working, 24/7. It took time to learn that working hard is only part of the equation. Yes, you often need to wear 10 different hats, but you also need to find the right talent. I now believe that’s the most important piece of growing a business. You need a great team to make great things happen.”
–Brixton Albert, founder and CEO of Performance Golf (No. 4 Southeast), an online golf trainer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

2. Take risks.

“You’re going to make mistakes. Ninety-nine percent of what happens is how you respond to things. Don’t be afraid to try something new and buck the norm.”
–Anthony Perera, founder and CEO of Air Pros USA (No. 5 Southeast), an HVAC repair company in Hollywood, Florida

3. Distribute decision-making.

“Give people autonomy to make decisions within your organization. Especially when you’re remote–you don’t have the luxury of sticking your head into someone’s office to ask them a question. Letting people make decisions on their own has helped us operate and grow.”
–David Brasfield, founder and CEO of NXTsoft (No. 6 Southeast), a fintech company in Birmingham, Alabama


4. Get it right, right away.

“I started my last business in my 20s; I was really learning on the job. We didn’t have the right structures in place to ensure every employee knew exactly what they were doing. That can create communication breakdowns. This time around, I was really diligent about putting systems in place. From our mission statement to annual goals, every employee now knows exactly what success means for them.”
–Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts (No. 3 Rocky Mountain), an RV vacation membership club in Vail, Colorado

5. Take time for you.

“It takes a lot of energy and sleepless nights to work at a company that is growing as fast as ours. You’ve got to make sure your personal health is OK. I do CrossFit in the middle of the day for an hour to recharge. That has done a lot for me and dramatically increased my productivity.”
–Brett Stevens, co-founder and CEO of Fohse (No. 1 Rocky Mountain), a manufacturer of LED grow lights in Las Vegas

6. Don’t panic.

“When you have a hundred things going on and a hundred decisions to make, it can be easy for excitement and momentum to turn into panic. I dived in. As a team, we strive to be as present and mindful as we can be. We seem to do our best work when we’re most challenged.”
–Brian Larsen, co-founder and CEO of RestoraPet (No. 3 Mid-Atlantic), a pet supplements maker in Gaithersburg, Maryland

7. Get out and network.

“Don’t hide behind the computer–get out there and explain your vision and mission. When we were in total startup mode, I was at an event at least three times a week. Eventually, with enough networking, you’ll find that one person who gives you that shot.”
–Glenn Diersen, founder and president of Summit Human Capital (No. 1 Mid-Atlantic), an employer of record in Richmond, Virginia

8. Fight the urge to say yes.

“As a founder and entrepreneur, I want to say yes to everything. But as we’ve tried to own our culture and own our value proposition, it’s become easier and easier to look at a potential customer and say, I don’t think this is the right fit.”
–JC Grubbs, founder and CEO of Tandem (No. 86 Midwest), a software consultancy in Chicago


9. Look for strategic partnerships.

“We’ve built our business off being nimble through the use of strategic partnerships. I go to different companies and propose products and partnerships, and then we work together–I call it my pantry. We’re just putting different ingredients together.”
–Michael Walters, founder and president of studio503 (No. 4 Midwest), a strategic business development firm in Maple Grove, Minnesota

10. Don’t hate the haters.

“When our products were inundated with fake negative reviews on Amazon, it stung. But we eventually realized it was beyond our control. I learned not to focus on the negative. Instead, we refocused on our main goal of helping people.”
–Law Payne, co-founder of Hardbody Supplements (No. 2 Midwest), a fitness and supplements brand in Overland Park, Kansas

11. Find an opportunity.

“When we began in mid-2017, there was a misconception in sports media: Fandom was waning. It wasn’t; it just switched–from big screens in living rooms to little ones in our pockets.”
–Brian Verne, co-founder and CEO of Wave Sports + Entertainment (No. 2 Pacific), a media firm in Santa Monica, California

12. Zig when others zag.

“I spent a month watching YouTube tutorials to learn about Facebook ads. Then I looked for ways to differentiate. My idea: write copy sets that were like stories–my story. It caught people’s eye.”
–Shane Heath, founder and CEO of MUD/WTR (No. 3 Pacific), a coffee alternative maker in Venice, California

13. Create intrapreneurs.

“We have a lot of intrapreneurs, people with strong sales teams who are great with cash flow. Creating attractive, long-term incentive plans for sales leaders has been crucial for increasing our revenue.”
–Aaron Weymann, founder and CEO of Kayo Energy (No. 3 Southwest), a solar panel sales company in Tempe, Arizona


14. Focus on your finances.

“Make sure you’re focusing on your financials first. They say 90 percent of small businesses fail, and a lot of that has to do with their inability to compete with larger companies and the resources they have. I’m not talking about just HR and hiring, but also how important financial models and forecasting are to the health of the business.”
–Emerson Smith, founder and CEO of Pushnami (No. 1 Southwest), a digital messaging platform in Austin

15. Don’t let culture be an afterthought.

“We didn’t build our company from focus-group learnings or anything like that. But we did think about culture early on. Once you grow and scale quickly, you can’t back into culture. It has to come from the ground up.”
–Bill Shufelt, co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing Company (No. 2 Northeast), a maker of non-alcoholic craft beers based in Stratford, Connecticut

16. Look at metrics.

“If someone is calling into a call center for a prescription, they’re probably already unhappy. So, we put the patient first–and we keep an eye on our metrics. Growth is a familiar one. But the other metric I point to is customer satisfaction. We have a Net Promoter Score of 96, which is absolutely heroic. In health care, the industry average is 14.”
-A.J. Loiacono, co-founder and CEO of Capital Rx (No. 3 Northeast), a pharmacy benefit manager based in New York City

17. Stay honest.

“When so much is happening so quickly, you’ve just got to be speaking the truth all the time. Be as transparent as possible, with your team, with your customers, with your investors–with everybody. Talk about failures or things that aren’t going well, chiefly. That way, you can destigmatize those things and work on them more effectively.”
–Dan O’Malley, co-founder and CEO of Numerated (No. 4 Northeast), a digital lending platform in Boston

Via Inc


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