Stepping out into the unknown and becoming an entrepreneur is no easy task. Working to build something from nothing is often a lonely endeavor and you have no one to turn to when you feel uncertain. Finding mentors and learning from those who’ve gone before helps you figure out ways to navigate problem areas. 

Not only should you seek a mentor, but you may want to ensure you provide mentoring opportunities to your employees. In a survey by the MENTOR organization, researchers found 78% of employees felt more engaged when their employer was involved in their mentoring. The time investment of someone pouring into them showed they were valued. 

What if you are a solopreneur? How do you find your own mentors? Fortunately, technology allows you to gather advice from some of the top influential speakers in the world via online videos, articles, and podcasts. 

We’ve spent time sifting through some of the wonderful tips available and come up with a handful of influential speakers we think you’ll enjoy. Use these examples as a starting point on your journey to learn more about your work and how to improve your business. 

1. Disagree when necessary

Business owners often think they must always be agreeable. However, there are times when disagreeing—in the right way—leads to amazing things. 

Margaret Heffernan is the former CEO of five businesses. She gives motivational talks on why people need to learn to think differently when running an organization. She focuses on how failing to speak up holds companies back.

Heffernan’s TED talk on “Dare to Disagree” is one of the most powerful pieces of advice you’ll hear. She asks what constructive conflict requires. 

Her advice is, “We find people who are very different from ourselves. That means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to seek out people with different backgrounds, different disciplines, different ways of thinking, and different experiences and find ways to engage with them.”

Business owners must develop the openness to seek new employees outside of those they might traditionally consider. Diversity isn’t just about race or lifestyle but also varied perspectives. Set the tone for your company by hiring those you might normally overlook and seeking to integrate their views during meetings and brainstorming sessions. 

Ms. Heffernan points out, “The truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it. Openness isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.”

Find the courage to seek advice that might even make you a bit uncomfortable but engages your workers and offers fresh perspectives.  

2. Focus on customer service

Growing your business is one of the top objectives of most entrepreneurs, but you also must protect your brand reputation along the way. The only true way to grow is by retaining the customers you have while gaining new ones.

Make sure you first work on your processes and keep an agile supply chain. Companies that focus on agility have a customer service rank about seven points higher than those that don’t.

Invest in customer relationship management, perfect your inventory and make sure your logistics for any mailed orders are fast and secure. 

In his talk “What Consumers Want,” author and motivational speaker Joseph Pine shares why customization is so important to corporations. “When it comes to being what you say you are, the easiest mistake that companies make is that they advertise things that they are not.”

Businesses can create a brand that engages users by fulfilling their promises. Create opportunities for people to experience who you are, such as special events and interactive website features. 

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3. Inspire action

Great leaders inspire others to action. Are you a fantastic entrepreneur or a so-so one? If you want to know how you can become an influence in your industry, listen to Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why.” 

Sinek talks about his Golden Circle Theory in his TED talk on how great leaders inspire action. He delves into how leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., the Wright Brothers, and Steve Jobs motivated the people around them. 

Some of his top pieces of advice from the talk and his theories include: 

“Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.”

Leading your staff requires knowing where you’re going and why. Make sure you communicate the why to those around you and find people who inspire you to model in your own presentations to employees. How can you inspire your workers to do more than they ever thought they were capable of?

“It’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them,” Sinek adds. Ask your staff for feedback. What are you doing that inspires them to greatness? Where can you improve? Implement an anonymous feedback system for the most truthful responses.

4. Improve communication

As a leader, you’ll have to talk to many people in the course of a business day. You’ll talk to customers, leads, your workers, and suppliers. The better you get at communicating with others, the more your business will thrive. 

There are many entrepreneurs who share information on improving your communication skills, but we love the advice Celeste Headlee gives in her TED talk “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation.”

Ms. Headlee is a radio talk show host. If anyone understands communication with words, it’s a radio personality. She points out Pew Research’s study showing Americans are more divided than ever before. She talks about how we’re less likely to compromise and we aren’t listening to others. We talk and talk but we don’t listen. We’ve lost the balance there should be in a dialogue. 

How can you improve communication?

Headless advises, “Don’t multitask. And I don’t mean just set down your cell phone or your tablet or your car keys or whatever is in your hand. I mean, be present. Be in that moment.”

She encourages business owners to understand a conversation isn’t a promotional opportunity. Make sure you listen more than you talk and be interested in what the other person has to say.

5. Keep your employees happy

If you want your business to be a success, you must find and retain the best employees possible. Creating a fun company culture and keeping your staff happy isn’t an easy task.

Michael C. Bush gives a talk on “This Is What Makes Employees Happy at Work.” He explains there are over three billion working individuals on earth and a mere 40% of them are happy while on the job. 

Mr. Bush talks about the companies where employees are happy to have three times the revenue growth of others. His tips on making your employees happy include advice such as: 

“The thing that erodes trust in an organization faster than anything else is when employees feel that they’re being treated unfairly. Employees want to be treated the same, regardless of their rank or their tenure or their age or their experience or their job category, compared to anyone else.”

“Being humble and always hunting and searching for the best idea possible — that’s what listening is.”

“The one thing that everybody appreciates and wants when they’re speaking is to know that what they say matters so much you might actually change your mind. Otherwise, what’s the point of the conversation?”

One of the best ways to ascertain if your workers are happy is to ask them. Create an open dialogue where they aren’t afraid of retribution if they give you ideas for how to improve. Let them know you care about their happiness and want ideas on how to make the company culture better

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Looking at the words of top influential speakers helps you gather up some advice to get you to the next level, but some of the best tips you’ll receive may come from your grandma, the old man who lives two doors down, or the manager of your local grocery store. 

Share your journey with the people in your circle. Ask what others think. Listen more than you speak. Sift through all the words and keep what makes sense for your business while throwing out what doesn’t. You never know where your next inspiration might come from.

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AvatarEleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.