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4 lessons learned from this Houston-based serial entrepreneur

Words of wisdom from a founder who's done this all before. And then again. And again. Photo via Getty Images

A true test to determine if you are an entrepreneur is knowing if you can recognize your failures. From the outside, we often think of every business leader as having a resume of success stories. You see CEOs in magazines, on television, and in the news, but what you don’t always see is their often-endless list of ideas and decisions that simply didn’t work. Those failures may include a startup that didn’t launch or a key decision that went sideways. Either way, these missteps are often there if you listen to their stories or look hard enough.

I’m not immune to making mistakes. As a serial entrepreneur and having started, led, and mentored various successful companies, I have made some mistakes and have been lucky enough to learn from them. Below is a list of key takeaways I’ve compiled from years of learning.

1. Know what kind of entrepreneur you are.

Before you even get to the service or product that you want to create, learn a little bit about who you are as a leader. Check out a BOSI assessment online to help you determine if you are a Builder, Opportunist, Specialist, or Innovator. Knowing and utilizing your strengths as well as looking for help with your weaknesses will take you far. This also will make a big difference if you are searching for a co-founder. When I started Pinot’s Palette, my co-founder and I both were strong Builders. Without understanding this ahead of time, we ended up wasting time and money overbuilding features that didn’t need to be perfected pre-launch. Looking back, we could have benefited from adding an Opportunist to our team early on and focusing our time on our strengths.

2. You pay for experience….one way or another.

I can’t take full credit for this lesson. My mentor, Dr. Al Napier, shared this sentiment with me years ago. The concept is that you will either pay an in-house expert or consultant early on or you will pay for the mistakes you make with scar tissue. Sometimes, those mistakes can be detrimental. Of course, there’s a time and place to spend money and you don’t want to overspend early, but you need to balance bootstrapping with deploying capital to prevent a game-ending error.

3. Truly understand your vision and how to implement it. 

Staying focused isn’t always easy. You have an idea, but how do you get from step 1 to success? It’s easy to get off track and go down the wrong path – a critical error! As Lori Clements taught me, utilizing EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) to organize your vision and stay disciplined will ultimately help you become a better leader. I started working with an EOS coach back in my Pinot’s Palette days and it was a game-changer for how we solved problems. Now, I recommend it to every budding entrepreneur.

4. Build your support network early.

Having a support system in every aspect of life is important. In business, having the right people to lean on and run ideas by can be vital. For each business that I’ve started, there have been emotional and mental hardships to work through. You have your business “baby” and often employees leaning on you to make the right decisions. You can find a professional network through your alumni groups or just seek out other entrepreneurs also going through a similar phase in their business.

Ultimately, you need to be mentally prepared, knowing there will be ups and downs in your business. There is no way to prevent all errors but hopefully turning the mistakes into lessons is what defines leaders.

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Craig Ceccanti is a serial entrepreneur and has co-founded Houston-based Rivalry Technologies and Pinot's Palette. He is the founder, president, and CEO of T-Minus Solutions, a software company.

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Editor's note: Every week, InnovationMap — Houston's only news source and resource about and for startups — runs one or two guest columns written by tech entrepreneurs, public relations experts, data geniuses, and more. As Houston's innovation ecosystem gets ready for 2023, here are some of this year's top guest contributor pieces — each with pertinent information and advice for startups both at publishing and into the new year. Make sure to click "read more" to continue reading each piece.

Is your New Year's resolution to start contributing? Email natalie@innovationmap.com to learn more.

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