I interviewed 483 top entrepreneurs. These are the best business hacks.
Do you ever wonder why some people have the ability to bounce from success to success, without falter?
To be clear, no one has that ability, but it can seem like that.
Not surprisingly, we need more than motivational quotes to succeed. There are many mindsets, skills, and attributes required for success as an entrepreneur.
Fortunately, most of them can be learned, strengthened, and nourished through diligence and a willingness to grow.
Having the proper success mindset as an entrepreneur will enable you to deal more effectively with the day-to-day of your business. Because you will be thinking – and acting – like a true entrepreneur.
1. Believe in yourself and your business
You have to be resilient and able to continue building what you believe is the next best thing. Things you build will often not succeed, but ultimately, those losses will add up to a win, based on what you’ve learned.
Todd Garland, founder of BuySellAds.
Todd didn’t just put out BuySellAds and start earning $10 million a year. The process took seven years and was full of struggles, hardship and things not working the way they were supposed to. Those struggles are necessary to achieve success.
2. Think three steps ahead
I follow my gut. I don’t play chess, but I imagine that if I did, I would think of every opportunity three steps ahead in every possible direction. Even if it seems like something would benefit me in the now, it might not benefit me in the long run.
Jessie Shternshus, founder of The ImprovEffect and co-author of the book CTRL Shift: The Book for Any Day.
I love the comparison between entrepreneurship and playing chess. You always have to think three steps ahead. Don’t just ask yourself, “What is happening right now?” but “What will happen three steps from the action I’m going to take today?”
You don’t succeed expecting one thing to be your winning ticket in the big entrepreneurial lottery. You have to think long-term and have a vision of where you want to be – that’s how to be an entrepreneur.
3. Do the hardest thing first
The hardest thing is usually the thing you should be going after. Chances are nobody else is, or at least very few people are. Personally, I feel comfortable and even thrive when I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics.
It is essential that you get used to the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what you’re doing.
Whether it’s getting on stage to speak, launching your product or writing a book, we tend to see others doing it and (falsely) assume they’ve always been good at it.
We all have to do everything for the first time, and none of us does anything very well the first time. The only way to truly learn about business is to start a business of your own.
4. Think big and small
You have to learn to think big and small. You have to go in the same direction with small day-to-day decisions, as well as big actions.
Once you are on your way, you will mostly have to occupy yourself with little things, which can be tedious. Nevertheless, you are the one who has to do them right.
Gabriel Weinberg, founder, and CEO of DuckDuckGo.
This ability is what makes us entrepreneurs: at times, we have to do the work that has to be done (the small things), even if we’re not great at it and don’t like doing it.
Yet, we also have to be able to step back, look at the big picture and give direction to the overall vision. This is the mindset hack we need to harness for business success.
5. Create your own luck
So-called lucky people aren’t necessarily getting more advantages than other people. The universe doesn’t favor them, but they’re putting themselves out there more. They’re creating more connections that could lead to other stuff.
That is really how I interpret luck – creating more of a mathematical probability that you’re going to get what you want.
Russ Perry, founder of Design Pickle.
Luck’s a funny thing, isn’t it? As Russ says, it is about creating a mathematical probability by putting ourselves out there and trying more things.
When you start a business, it might fail – don’t worry about it – that’s how to have a business mindset. You might have to create 10 businesses before one will be successful. We make our luck with the decisions we make and the actions we take. Plain and simple.
6. Give. Give. Give.
I have tips and resources that I want to share, and I don’t want to wait for a publishing platform to give me permission. Nobody told us we had to wait to do anything – we could just put our ideas out there, which was really a huge game changer.
I have always found that oversharing pays off in readership. Hence, I don’t save my best tips for myself, but I share them on all our social media platforms.
Nicole Feliciano, founder, and CEO of MomTrends.
Helping and sharing is content marketing, which is how you build a business nowadays. Build an audience, then determine what they need from you. Create content, find your audience, build your business.
Please do not fall into the trap of building a product or service, and then trying to find customers – that is a recipe for disaster.
7. The growth mindset
If you believe somehow you’re set to a certain capability and level of accomplishment, then you’ll never achieve anything more. However, if you believe you can get better and do other things, that growth mindset will enable you to accomplish more.
Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur and The New York Times bestselling author of 13 books.
The growth mindset should be an obvious business hack and it is essential to you succeeding as an entrepreneur. You need to have the mentality that you can teach yourself to do anything, as long as you push yourself hard enough and try enough things.
This idea has been further explored and validated by Carol Dweck in her classic book simply titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
8. The path of unpredictability
I had known I wanted to start a company for a while, but it’s difficult to walk away from a paycheck. It was a hard decision that took me longer than I would have liked.
It was easy to see how I could be making more money working for bigger, more established institutions, so I drew two lines to compare.
I drew a line of stability and predictability at a high level of income, where I would be if I had stayed in the path I was in.
I then drew a second, lower line that would be what I could expect as an entrepreneur: bootstrapping a company, not paying myself a salary for a few years trying to make ends meet, and with more uncertainty in the long term.
Jon Stein, founder of Betterment
This is not the type of thing most of us would do, but it might be the business mindset you need to succeed.
Jon Stein is analytical, so he modeled and planned two potential paths. On the one hand, there is the path of stability with high-paying and powerful jobs, which is predictable.
Jon didn’t found a small company in an easy market but stayed in the world of banking and investments. Even though that is an incredibly difficult market, he knew it was the right place for him. He could afford to bootstrap a company for a few years without paying himself a salary and was still comfortable with the whole idea.
There is no right or wrong approach – just follow the method that feels right to you. We have to figure out for ourselves what will shift our mindset in order to take the leap. Become comfortable being uncomfortable.
9. Create a mission worth spending your life on
I have confidence about myself as a human being. Just appreciate that wherever you’re at, you’re a whole and complete human being with everything you possibly need to be successful. You deserve to achieve and you deserve the fruits of your labor.
Landon Ray is a serial entrepreneur with unparalleled perseverance. At the age of 25, with his father’s financial help, he made the transformation from flower street vendor to top securities day trader.
After beating the odds on Wall Street, he used his team building skills and personal experience to create a family of products that reflect his passion for educating and supporting entrepreneurs.
This is a motivational, inspirational business hack that helps us deal with the impostor syndrome that entrepreneurs sometimes experience. As we begin to gain success, we sometimes think that maybe we don’t deserve that success. Prior to that stage, we might read business books by people that are “famous” or established entrepreneurs, and whom we consider to be natural, born entrepreneurs.
There is no such thing as a born entrepreneur. We all have it in us to step up and achieve things, as long as we are willing to do so.
We have to be aware that our every success and our position in life spring forth from our actions and efforts. We deserve the fruit of our labor and we deserve to do big, cool things. This is the same mindset Tibor Laczay used when he decided to start Zenni Optical and transform the eyeglass industry.
10. Your business will never be worse than it is today
I think we count our achievements too soon. Some people think they will be rich on the first day their website is online.
There is a much better perspective: the first day that your website is up, it will look the worst that it is ever going to look. It’s the worst product offering you’ll ever have because you will keep improving it from there.
Andrea Lake, Founder of Sticker Junkie
From the moment we launch something, whether it’s a product, an entrepreneur podcast, a blog, or a new service, we want it to be perfect. So perfect that it typically doesn’t even get launched, because it never lives up to our expectations.
We often think something is a failure, even when we’ve only just started. Be willing to suck at the beginning. Be aware that you have to progressively get better. This is a brilliant mindset for business success.
Feel comforted by the knowledge that whatever you do or publish today, that is the worst it will ever be, and you will continue to nurture and improve it.
11. Don’t struggle with failure
There is a difference between failure and your struggle with failure. You do not have to struggle with failure. That is a choice on your part. If you accept the fact that the person who fails the most wins, you can also accept that putting good effort into something that fails is a key part of your job.
Seth Godin, entrepreneur and bestselling author
Here is another epic business hack from world-renowned marketer Seth Godin. Failure is something that is inevitable in business and in life, but somehow we seem better equipped to deal with it in day-to-day life.
We start dealing with it the moment when we learn how to walk because falling is an essential part of the learning process. You have to fall again and again until you’ve learned how to walk. Giving up is not an option.
We should bear in mind that business success works in the same way. Failing is part of the process of getting good at and mastering something. Making mistakes and dealing with your failures is part of your job as an entrepreneur.
12. Have an incredible vision for your business
You don’t climb straight from nothing to something big. You hit an obstacle, climb over it and reach the next level of the plateau. You cross the line again, cross another obstacle and climb to the next level again.
The more you do that, the more you will look back and realize how far you’ve come. It is all about overcoming each obstacle as it hits, and not giving up.
Brian Smith, Founder of UGG Boots
There is no such thing as smooth sailing. Nevertheless, when you fall while climbing an obstacle, you simply land back on the plateau you were just on. You don’t have to start from scratch again.
This is how life works in general: everything seems to be going well until something sideswipes you. The analogy of the plateaus is fitting for a successful business mindset because you always just fall down to the previous plateau. The only struggle is getting onto the next one.
Once you achieve that, you are safe there and only have to pound on the next obstacles. Brian knows this better than anyone, as he has had to deal with much crazier battles than most of us ever will.
13. Do something bold
Failures in business are opportunities to be seized. If you don’t fail at one point in your lifetime, you won’t experience the ultimate feeling of success.
True success comes from a pile of failures and learning from them. As a result, you’ll be able to make the right choices. I’m not a perfect person.
I have made mistakes – as an entrepreneur, as a small business owner, as a human being – and will probably make a ton more. As a result, I’ll learn from them and become even more successful. You need to build the same success mindset.
Nellie Akalp, Founder of MyCorporation.com
When something doesn’t work, change it drastically to see what does work. The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
As human beings and as business owners, we get stuck in our ruts. We do the same things over and over without thinking until something happens.
Nellie’s business was about to fail, so she changed something and realized that 40% had just been added to her bottom line.
It is necessary to do bold things as a rule, not just when you are going out of business. Test everything and contemplate what your business could be. Even if your business is doing okay, you could do something bold. The worst-case scenario is that you go back to doing exactly what you were doing before, so it is always worth a shot.
14. You don’t need permission to be an entrepreneur
When a baby is learning to walk, they constantly fall over, but that doesn’t make them want to stop trying. They don’t think, ‘That’s it, I’m done with walking. I look stupid, everybody is laughing at me. I will just crawl from now on.’
As human beings, we are not naturally afraid of looking stupid or failing – we get educated into it.
This is by far the best business hack I have heard about how to be comfortable while being wrong. When a baby does not yet know how to walk, they won’t stop trying after falling down a few times.
We are not born afraid of failure, but we are taught to be embarrassed by it. Bearing that in mind will hopefully help you take a leap into the unknown.
15. Be passionate about your business (not your market)
I think a lot of entrepreneurs limit themselves to the markets they are passionate about. Personally, I’m passionate about business.
When we went into the survival and preparedness market, I wasn’t that passionate about it. I don’t even like camping, but I know that other people do.
I don’t think you can remove passion from the process – someone will always be passionate. It just doesn’t have to be you, so I see myself as a publisher, a producer, an owner.
Ryan Deiss, founder of Digital Marketer
Ryan’s business hack is not just for entrepreneurs. A lot of entrepreneurs – and people looking to start a side hustle – think they need to go into a market that they are passionate about. But either their passion doesn’t align with the market that is hungry for a product, or it just limits them in some way.
Ryan’s passion is business, so he can enter any market and do really well. He has a business mindset.
This is how I see it: if I enter a market that is easy to make money in and build a good, solid business, I can use the money to buy time and freedom and follow my passions. This is the ultimate online business model.
As Ryan says, he considers himself a producer and a business owner rather than the person who is passionate about a specific market.
16. Write down your fears (not your goals)
People always tell you to write down your goals, but I write down my fears. Writing down your fears makes them look less scary. When you dimensionalize your own fears and risks, it’s amazing how much courage you will realize you have.
Jay Baer, Founder of Convince and Convert
Goals setting can be very limiting: once you reach a goal, you have nothing left to do. Your fears, on the other hand, are at the basis of an intrinsic problem: why are you not taking action on your online business ideas, starting a business or going towards your goals?
The answer is usually that you are scared because there is a huge amount of aspects you don’t know the first thing about.
The reason we don’t do things is not that we didn’t set the right goals, it’s that we are afraid.
I have a piece of paper, a “fears page” if you will, on which I write down whatever is keeping me from doing something at a specific moment. By doing so, I can dimensionalize my fears, as Jay said. This has enabled me to see what mistakes I have made and how limiting fears can be. Don’t write down your goals, write down your fears.
17. Most things in life fail (and that’s okay)
We have no ability to predict our future, so it is important to have themes. Jon’s theme was to go to a mastermind in order to inspire and be inspired by smart people, which provided him with a variety of ways for self-improvement.
That is a theme rather than a specific goal. His theme led to him starting a podcast, which I’m sure he enjoys, or he wouldn’t have done so many episodes.
James Altucher, entrepreneur and bestselling author
Themes rather than goals.
It’s true we don’t know where the future will lead us. I knew I wanted to create an online business, and my podcast ended up being that business.
James Altucher is right: I had no idea I was going to create it. I am quite sure that if I’d known what was coming, I would have got bored and lost my passion. As a result, I would have been unsuccessful.
I agree that we should be open, because we can’t predict the future. However, having themes around what you want to do is a good thing. Themes are the best way to set yourself up for success as you see it.
18. Be a painkiller (not a vitamin)
Every company needs to solve a problem, which you can compare to the function of a painkiller as opposed to a vitamin. When we have a toothache, we want a painkiller, not a vitamin, and we’re willing to pay for it.
Matt Barrie, Founder of Freelancer
Does a business hack get any simpler than this?
If your business solves a problem that your customer is experiencing, then you are their painkiller. The customer will immediately need your assistance.
Even though the vitamin market is massive, it’s a much tougher thing to sell, because vitamins are easily forgotten about. I love the simplicity of Matt’s approach: “Be a painkiller, not a vitamin.” If you offer a service that people are in need of, they will happily pay for it.
19. If your business fails, it’s because you suck
There’s no middle ground. Something either worked because it worked out, or it failed because I wasn’t good enough. That’s okay. I have to be okay with the possibility that everything could fall apart, even if I do everything I can to make this company happen.
If it fails, it’s probably because I suck.
Saying that something failed because we suck sounds really harsh, but it is absolute ownership. It is important that we take this ownership, not just of the companies we build, but of our entire lives.
Even though many situations are out of our control, we can’t just sit there worrying about what could go wrong. Moreover, we can’t blame others when something happens to us. We are responsible.
When we decide to put ourselves out there by creating a product, service or startup, we have to be aware that everything comes down to us. We are putting ourselves on the line. By doing that, we allow ourselves to succeed, just like Austen did.
20. Avoid the entrepreneurial gap
The gap is what’s between today’s goal and the horizon. If you look back at your achievements and consider how far you’ve come, you will stay out of the gap. However, if you’re always walking towards the horizon, without turning around and recognizing your goals as you achieve them, you will never feel fulfilled.
Brian Kurtz, Founder of Boardroom Inc.
The entrepreneurial gap has caused a huge business mindset shift for me.
It is crazy that we as entrepreneurs are always searching for that horizon. We set goals three months, six months, a year, five years in advance. However, when we hit those goals, we instantly set five or ten loftier ones.
Congratulate yourself on your successes and improvements as you go. It’s an amazing accomplishment to work towards something in order to better yourself and your family, and you should spend more time contemplating how far you have come.
It is tempting to think always feel the need to first accomplish a certain thing, achieve a certain result, or let your business hit a million dollars.
There will always be something new, so take the time to feel proud of what you have already achieved.
21. Know enough to be dangerous
As entrepreneurs we need to know enough to be dangerous in every area.
If someone crosses our path and isn’t good at their job, we have to be able to recognize that. That’s part of what creates these long days: we need to learn all aspects of the business. If we don’t, it is hard to delegate, because we don’t know what is good and what is bad.
Michael Sacca, Founder of Rocketship.fm
One of my favorite business hacks: Knowing enough to be dangerous gives us the leverage points that we need. It is very hard to outsource something completely if you know nothing about it.
Obviously, we don’t need to know everything and be accountants, lawyers and editors all-in-one, but we have to know enough to be dangerous.
Don’t listen to the experts who tell you that you can only do a tiny bit of your business and have to outsource the rest. There’s no such thing as a four-hour work week and being able to outsource everything, especially not at the beginning.
Unfortunately, you have to dive in head first and learn everything about your business that there is to learn. This works if you want to learn how to get on the first page of Google or sell courses online.
Then, when you get lucky and have that momentum, you can take the revenue you’ve created, take all the bits of knowledge you have and put people in place to take care of those things. Remember, it’s still your business and you are still responsible for it.
It’s your turn to implement these business hacks
Learning how to have a business mindset will affect your success or failure in business. Luckily, your mindset is also the thing you have the most control over. choose one of these seven mindset shifts to adopt and begin working on its development.
As you become more confident and comfortable with this new mindset, move onto the next. Push yourself to be one percent better than you were yesterday, and start with changing your mindset.
Developing these success mindsets will give you the resilience and direction you need to push through the ups and downs that come with running a business.