What do you learn from founding and running a company for almost 30 years?

It has been said that ignorance is bliss.

When I started my software company 28 years ago I had no idea what I was doing. College definitely doesn’t prepare you to run a business.

I was learning as I went and had no clue what I was doing business-wise.

Now looking back over the 28 years since I founded the software company, and having sold over 1,000 licenses, these are the three lessons that stick out.

Only three lessons? No, in reality, you learn quite a bit over 28 years of running a company. These are what I would consider the top three.

#1. You can’t fail if you don’t quit.

If I had to pick one thing that has made me successful it would be persistence.

The first five years of business are the hardest. There were several times I felt like throwing in the towel. In the fourth year, I was 80,000 in credit card debt. I was totally bootstrapped and had no option but to keep going.

If I had stopped there I would have been in debt, felt defeated, and probably would have never attempted my own business again.

The next year everything turned around. We paid off the debt, bought four acres of land, built our dream house, and sent the kids to a private school.

I often think of the story told in the book “Think and Grow Rich” about the guy who stopped three feet from gold.

If you believe in what you’re doing and are persistent, you can’t fail.

#2. Being busy is not the same as being productive.

When you are a solopreneur there are always a ton of things to do.

It is so easy to fall into the trap, especially when coming from the corporate world, that staying busy and taking action after action is what business is all about.

It wasn’t until I realized that being busy isn’t the same as being productive that things started turning around. When I started only working on the things that moved the needle forward for the business I started to see some momentum.

#3. The people you surround yourself with matter a lot.

I can attest to the saying that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around. I have had people in my life that have helped my business tremendously and have had others that were like a wet blanket and held me back.

Seek out people that have gone where you want to go or have achieved what you are trying to achieve. You can’t do it alone so surround yourself with people that raise you up and get you to think bigger.