My First 5 Years in Business: 6 Entrepreneurs Share What They Learned

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What is the new business survival rate? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy’s October 2020 report, an average of 67.6% of new employer establishments survived at least two years from 1994 to 2018. The five-year survival rate was 48.8% during the same time period — a little under the 50% mark.

Making it through the first five years in business is a major milestone. Entrepreneurs who get there often learn many lessons along the way, endure challenges and setbacks they might not have anticipated, discover what they are made of and enjoy surprising wins that come from hard work.

GOBankingRates spoke with six entrepreneurs who met their five-year mark about the unexpected lessons they learned being in business. Read on for some awesome advice and insight.

Treat Customers With Kindness

After years of working in freelance graphic designing and telecom sales, Roberta Perry, owner of Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc., was able to take everything she loved and learned about business, and people, to create products and a brand that she felt proud of and humbled by.

As early as the first year in business, Perry said she recognized that treating people with kindness was what made their company stand out from the crowd of other vendors at craft fairs and trade shows. 

“Customers are the lifeblood of any business, but most especially one that involves self-care and pampering,” said Perry. “I really concentrate on the customers I have and luckily for me, they bring family and friends as well as give our products as gifts.”

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No Job Is Too Small

Isaiah Henry is the CEO of Seabreeze, a property management company. Henry, who has a decade of experience in community association management, said he learned early on that it’s vital for leaders to be involved in every aspect of their business.

Before becoming CEO of Seabreeze in 2017, Henry was a business unit leader, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

“Each role taught me something that I’ve been able to apply to my current role, which is why I think it’s crucial for leaders to be involved in every aspect of their company,” said Henry. “No job should be considered too small for you to take on. This allows you to foster company-wide goals and growth initiatives, because you understand the company at large.”

Invest in the Right Tools

Chelle Neff is the founder and CEO of hair salon Urban Betty. Neff founded Urban Betty in 2005 and said it quickly became evident the right tools were necessary to run the business.

Neff said this realization came when hiring the company’s first employee and needing to run payroll.

“I realized the financial management tool I had chosen previously wasn’t going to help me pay my employees, and I needed more capabilities. I thought I had figured out my financial tools when I started the business, but I had already outgrown them,” said Neff.

Neff made the change to QuickBooks and hasn’t looked back since, especially since the business continues to scale at two locations with a third on its way. 

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Investing in the right tools does more than get the job done and save the owner time and energy. Good tools and platforms for your business will help grow the business.

Build a Great Team

Jesse Crow, owner of online retailer Rest Right Mattress, started the business in 2016. The business would not be where it is today without its talented team, a lesson Crow said he learned early on.

Crow said as a business owner it can be hard to trust people with your pride and joy: your business. But, if you learn to trust and build a good team with the right people, the business can grow into a larger company and continue providing an excellent experience for customers.

Don’t Hesitate To Delegate

Juan Dominguez, CEO of law firm The Dominguez Firm, has been a business owner for more than 30 years. Over the decades, Dominguez said he has learned a great deal about business development, people management and leadership. 

Arguably the biggest lesson Dominguez said he learned is not to hesitate to give up some hats when it’s time. This is especially true for business owners who run a law firm and are ready to hire their first paralegal, a decision Dominguez said was worth it.

“When you’re a young entrepreneur, it always seems as if you have unlimited energy to do everything. Sometimes, you might feel like no one could possibly do things better than you could. But for a business to survive and thrive, you must set up systems and processes that allow you to focus on things that need your utmost attention,” said Dominguez.

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Delegating responsibilities to talent, in turn, helps free up more time for business owners. They may use this time to scale the business, build key relationships and continue serving clients and customers.

Ask for Help

The best lesson Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of lawn care service company Lawn Love, learned during his first five years in business was that it’s okay to ask for help. A year into his entrepreneurial journey, Yamaguchi said he suffered such major burnout that he ended up going to urgent care because he thought he was sick. 

“As an entrepreneur, you often put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform highly, find success and overcome barriers all on your own,” said Yamaguchi. “You think that asking for help is a sign of weakness or even a sign that you aren’t cut out for entrepreneurship.”

Asking for help can be absolutely necessary at times when running a business. Yamaguchi said once he asked for help, he was able to recover, come back stronger and reach his goals.

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