The 10 Rules of Successful Entrepreneurs

 By Cheryl Tan, a Strategic Alliance Partner with EO Southeast Virginia

Interested in taking your business from under-performing to off the charts? Or are you in growth mode or ready for the next level in your entrepreneurial journey? Entrepreneurs’ Organization is the only global network exclusively for entrepreneurs. This organization is dedicated to helping businesses grow through peer-to-peer learning and connections to experts. Listen to the advice of entrepreneurs who shared their best tips for success at the first ever Entrepreneurs’ Expo at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia on 25 February:

  1. Mentors make success possible. Danijel Velicki emigrated to the U.S. from Croatia. The founder and senior partner of the financial and insurance services firm Opus Group says when he started in business, he didn’t know what he didn’t know. But, he says, he knew enough to find mentors who could push him to the right path. Velicki called up his first mentor and didn’t stop asking questions until he learned what he needed.
  2. Turn free work into paid opportunities. Marion Long, CEO of Therapeutic Interventions, proved himself on the job. His company provides community mental health services and therapeutic foster care to at-risk children. His first clients, though, didn’t pay him in the beginning. He says he made his mark by doing excellent work that turned them into paying customers.
  3. Fail frequently and quickly. Thanos Polizos, founder and president of, an off-campus housing company, says failure is a part of business.  But getting ahead means recognizing the problems before you get in too deep. Polizos suggests using technology to your advantage to measure how you’re doing.
  4. Automate and delegate. As you grow your business, ask yourself, “How will this business run without me?”  Figure out ways to create systems for repetitive tasks.  Delegate everything. That’s how you scale and grow your company.
  5. Hire slowly, fire quickly. Toxic employees are a drain on morale and productivity, and business owners usually learn this lesson too late. Be thoughtful about the people you bring onto the team, but if you made a mistake, fix it quickly, or else the entire company could suffer.
  6. Acquisitions and in some cases, partnerships, help your business grow. Finding the right partners is critical, and if the fit is correct, those collaborations can grow your business faster than you could by yourself. Polizos also urges entrepreneurs not to forget the power of acquiring companies to grow your own.
  7. Demonstrate you are an outlier, and you will be one. Event speaker Carl Gould challenges entrepreneurs to figure out how to show up differently.  People sit up and take notice of entrepreneurs who are bold, who offer a different take on the same old issue. That effort will pay off in customers who are delighted to work with you.
  8. It’s not about you. Communications coach John Lowe says it’s critical for businesses to focus on the customer.  Look at your marketing materials, your website, your face-to-face interactions and make sure your messaging solves a problem and clearly explains how your product or service can help your customers.
  9. Meet the bankers. Don’t wait until you need money to pay a visit to the bank. Brad Scott, president of Cetan Corp, a provider of cloud, collaboration and workload automation solutions, says when it comes to funding your business, be proactive. It’s best to get to know your banker before you need to ask for a loan.
  10. Give employees their brains back. Author and speaker Chuck Blakeman encourages business owners to create an environment where everyone takes part in the process of running the business and everyone gets to share in the results. Stakeholders make meaning, not just money. In a business like this one, everyone wins.

Entrepreneurs have an insatiable curiosity and many of them are on a constant mission to learn. Many are also generous with their knowledge. Share your entrepreneurial journey and you may be pleasantly surprised by the openness of fellow business people. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions of the ones who are willing to help. Your business will thank you for it.

Cheryl Tan is a Strategic Alliance Partner with Entrepreneurs’ Organization Southeast Virginia. She owns Tan Media LLC (, a marketing and publicity consulting company for entrepreneurs based in Virginia Beach that offers virtual media strategy sessions for businesses.

Categories: Best Practices FINANCES


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