The Best Startup Decision I Ever Made: 8 Founders Fess Up

The concept of failure is all too familiar to founders today. It's almost a mantra: Fail fast, fail often, fail early, fail cheap - sometimes, it seems like there are far more ways to fail than to succeed.

But every once in a while, startups make a pivotal decision that creates an undeniable shortcut to the finish line. We asked eight successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share the single best decision they ever made with their startup.

1. Choose The Right Co-Founder

People often liken a co-founder to a spouse: You spend more time with them than anyone else in your life, you have to be uncomfortably honest about difficult topics and, if all goes well, you stick together through thick and thin - or at least until a successful exit. I trust my co-founder completely and rely on her to provide a balancing perspective in all our important decisions. We've certainly made mistakes along the way, but we've borne the consequences of those mistakes together. We also genuinely enjoy spending time together, which makes the whole startup adventure a lot more fun! Our relationship has provided important business advantages since our clients, employees and investors can sense the mutual commitment we have to the company and each other. - Martina Welke, Zealyst

2. Get A Subscription At Mixergy

When we started our business in China, I noticed that many of the mistakes we made could have been easily avoided if we were surrounded by a community of entrepreneurs or mentors who could coach us or share their experiences before we went through the pain. Meeting them in person was impossible given none lived in China. I searched online for a community that would be able to share stories, conduct classes or give practical advice that would help our business. I came across Mixergy and, after watching three interviews, I signed up immediately. I can tell you the ten interviews/classes changed our business and my life. Mixergy gave me a place to generate new ideas and implement effective strategies, motivating me to continue fighting for financial freedom. - Derek Capo, Next Step China

3. Put Your People First

The best decisions we've made have revolved around people in almost every way. Great people make or break your startup, and bad hiring decisions can break it quickly. I feel like thus far we've made some great decisions around people. From my co-founder to early hires, everyone involved in Speek is here because they're capable, passionate and willing to take a risk at some level to make Speek happen. - Danny Boice, Speek

4. Say 'No' To The Wrong Clients

Early on, we discovered that clients who were not in alignment with our core values sapped 80% of our time and energy, leaving less room to amplify and scale what was working. Developing a process to weed out clients who were not in alignment and then empowering our staff to say "no" to those clients made room for us to say "yes" to the rights kinds of customers so we could serve them brilliantly and with joy. - Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

5. Find Underserved Markets

We have always been opportunistic about finding markets that are underserved where we do not face entrenched competition. For example, in the early days, we focused on serving clean tech companies, first in San Francisco and now, in the last year, in LA. We aggressively pursue new markets and new opportunities. Because we commit ourselves to these new markets and put a lot of resources into them, we are able to get first-mover advantage and become the dominant player. - David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

6. Do Your Own Market Research

At Star Toilet Paper, we have an obviously unique concept where there is no easy answer. That being said, in the beginning, my brother and I ensured that we did not outsource market research and business plan writing. We wanted to learn the ins and outs of our business and how we could enter the market. By doing this initial work ourselves (but making sure we let others do legal work effectively and ask questions when necessary), we understood our company like the back of our hand prior to entering the market. - Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

7. Focus Your Market & Prioritize Sales

As with most founders, we had ambitious plans but soon realized that to build market share, we needed to define "market" more carefully to demonstrate traction. Our initial goal was to launch in every physician's office, but in some traditional industries like health care and education, no one wants to be the first to try new technology. On the other hand, they will speak with you once you have proven credibility. We chose one market, one product and one focus. This helped us lead the team toward one goal and march in one direction together before we started adding features and other offerings. Focusing on market share through one customer base and product also allowed us to prioritize selling, receiving feedback, iterating and selling again to align with market needs rather than just building beautiful products. - Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia

8. Just Start

I started. Sure, launching your own business can be a daunting task. There are a million reasons not to; you don't have enough money, you're current job is "secure," the success rate of startups seems scary and so forth. But at the same time, if you don't jump in, your success rate will be zilch. Plan carefully and think things through, but remember: You can't learn to swim if you don't get in the water. - Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net