On the road to success, there are sadly few shortcuts. But there are several detours you can avoid by following those who’ve completed the course.
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Jeremy Adams is one such guy. His desire to leave behind his trailer park upbringing saw him set out on his entrepreneurship journey as a teen, burning CDs, doing neighbors’ yard work and waiting tables before launching his first start-up, a food truck company, at the age of 22.
A few months later, the young Floridian’s business was picked up by former “Shark Tank” judge Kevin Harrington at a local competition, kicking his journey into the next gear and spurring the pair to co-launch a marketing start-up.
Less than a decade on, the 30-year-old now runs a multimillion-dollar portfolio of businesses, including his latest venture, Unicorn Innovations, which helps entrepreneurs build their businesses.
Adams himself is now a multimillionaire, according to a representative.
Speaking to CNBC Make It, the entrepreneur described the 10 lessons he learned along the way.
1. Learn to embrace loneliness
Long hours, regular knock backs and often isolated working can make the journey of an entrepreneur a lonely one. But while it’s important to take time out to socialize and look beyond your business, it’s also critical to embrace loneliness in the short term for results in the long term.
“Turning down plans, staying in on the weekends, etc. are often essential in reaching your goals as an entrepreneur, and those sacrifices may lead to extremely isolated periods of time, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he noted. “The low points always lead to higher ones.”
2. Friends and family are sometimes a great ally, but often your worst enemy
Though they typically want the best for you, advice from friends and family can end up limiting you if they don’t share your mindset.
“The reason the one percent is the one percent is because they think and operate differently to the 99 percent,” said Adams. “Take advice and guidance from family and friends with a grain of salt, but always follow your gut, even if it strays off the given path your family has for you — it will pay off in the end.”
3. Everyone is on the same journey
It’s easy to look at those we consider successful and think they have it all figured out. But, in reality, everyone faces similar challenges when it comes to their careers, finances and relationships.
To avoid getting bogged down with the pressure of other people’s achievements, “compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today,” said Adams, quoting one of his favorite books, Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules For Life.”
4. Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for guidance, especially when they have particular expertise you lack. That’s especially important for technical matters, like taxes, which can create a huge headache for businesses if handled incorrectly, said Adams.
5. Partner with or hire “A players”
In the early days of a business, it can be tempting to try and keep costs down, including with the staff you hire. But often that ends up being a false economy that can actually hurt your growth. Instead, focus on getting what Adams calls “A players,” who are driven and passionate — even if that means hiring fewer people at a higher rate.
“I realized how much going cheap with people costed me in headache and lost opportunity. Looking back, I would have paid myself $1,000 less each month to get the right person,” he noted.
6. Lose the ego
Passion can blind you, particularly when it comes to running a business. It’s important to remain humble and accept help.
For Adams, that lesson came at a pivotal moment when his food truck business merged with its biggest competitor. Aged 27, he was eager to take the CEO role, but eventually ceded it to his partner, who had prior experience running a 3,000-store business as the CEO of frozen yogurt chain TCBY.
“Let the smarter people do what they do best. I should have been begging the guy to be our CEO, looking back at it,” said Adams.
7. Build a business, not a lifestyle
Too many people these days are focused on building “lifestyle brands” that are reliant on their personal image and social media presence, said Adams. That can make it very difficult to detach yourself and enjoy downtime.
Instead, build a business that can stand independently from you and, as soon as you can afford it, start hiring a team to help so you can focus on managing things at a high level.
8. Stay focused
With so many ideas bubbling away, it can be easy for entrepreneurs to suffer from what Adams calls “shiny object syndrome.” But rather than jumping from one thing to the next, you should stay disciplined, focus on doing one thing brilliantly, and only then move on to the next thing.
9. Work on earning millions, not saving hundreds
Perhaps as a result of his low-income upbringing, which included his family relying on coupons and money saving deals, Adams said focusing on penny pinching gives him anxiety. So, rather than spending time figuring out money hacks, he recommends concentrating that energy on working to increase your overall income.
As a “big fan of investing,” Adams puts a significant portion of his income into stocks and cryptocurrencies each month.
10. Be addicted to growth and development
Finally, become obsessed with self-development. By his own admission, Adams was never a great student at school, simply doing enough to scrape by. But since starting work he has developed a new obsession with learning, consuming over 1,000 books in the past three years and working with numerous mentors.
“It is a big financial and time investment, but easily the best investment I’ve ever made,” said Adams. “And guess what: I am still just 1 percent of the person I believe I can become.”
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”
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