7 Surprising Lessons About Success Learned From Interviewing More Than 65 Millionaires

Barbara Corcoran
Guest Writer
Publisher of Foundr Magazine
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past two and a half years, we've interviewed 65 millionaire entrepreneurs about building successful businesses. Our conversations with these entrepreneurs revealed many surprising lessons about succeeding in business -- lessons that broke the pattern of what we’re used to hearing about entrepreneurship.

Related: The 10 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master

Here are seven of our favorite lessons:

1. Never believe you know better than your staff.

When we think of high-powered leaders, people like Donald Trump come to mind -- no-nonsense, all-knowing ominous figures. But that isn’t always reality. We had the privilege of interviewing Richard Branson and weren’t surprised that he approaches leadership differently:

“With all my employees, I listen to them, trust in them, believe in them, respect them and let them have a go! I never believe I know better than they do.”

This is just one thing that has elevated Branson to the level he’s at today.

2. Don’t go big or go home.

We’re constantly told in entrepreneurship you have to go big or go home, to jump in with two feet and burn the boats behind you. But one interesting lesson we learned from our interview with master marketer and best selling author Seth Godin is that go big or go home isn’t the best way to go as a new entrepreneur.

Instead, how about this -- start small and start now.

3. The customer isn’t always right.

Many entrepreneurs subscribe to the customer is always right philosophy. However, we learned from New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss that the customer is not always right --nor do they get to call the shots.

Ferriss taught us that some customers aren’t worth it, and you don’t need to take abuse to provide good service. Firing difficult customers gives you more time to nurture your relationships with the good ones, ultimately making more money in the long run.

4. You don’t have to be smart to succeed.

Wantrepreneurs often think they must be the smartest in their industries to succeed in entrepreneurship. Intelligence (or perceived lack thereof) holds many back from ever realizing their entrepreneurial dreams.

While it’s important to make sure your company is among the best, we learned from the founder of Kissmetrics, Neil Patel, that you don't have to be smart to be a successful entrepreneur -- you just have to hire smart people.

Related: 10 Behaviors of Smart People

5. Be selfish in solving problems.

Successful entrepreneurs are in the business of solving other people’s problems, right? Maybe, but Danae Ringelmann, founder of Indiegogo, taught us that to ensure success in entrepreneurship, focus on solving your own problems.

In her 20s, Ringelmann came up against problem and quickly realized it wasn’t just impacting her -- it was impacting everyone across the world. The problem? Inefficient access to capital.

“Ideas were going unborn every day, not for lack of heart and hustle, but for lack of access to the right gatekeeper, the person who holds the purse strings.”

Be selfish in solving problems. If you’re experiencing a challenge, chances are others are experiencing it too.

6. Invest in your own backyard.

To be entrepreneurial, you have to be able to pivot quickly to chase new opportunities, right? According to our interview with Barbara Corcoran, chasing unfamiliar new markets is a fast track to failure.

“I’ve watched so many people much smarter than me lose as much money as I’ve made. You know what they forgot? They forgot to invest in their own backyard -- what they knew. They heard [another] market was phenomenal and off they went, and lost their shirts”.

Don’t forget to invest in your own backyard, in what you know.

7. The money is not the bottom line.

Many people start businesses for the money. But hopefully that’s not the only reason. Marie Forleo, founder of Marie TV and B-School, shared the secret of entrepreneurial success:

“The money is not the bottom line. The people who I see that are the most successful -- there’s something deeper that drives them. There’s this strong burning desire to make a difference.”

And those entrepreneurs who are purely chasing the money? They’re the ones who crash and burn.

These are just a few of the hundreds of lessons we’ve learned interviewing the greatest minds in business today.

There is so much more to be learned from these entrepreneurial greats, but the powerful lessons above will give any new or even established entrepreneur an edge in their business.

Related: 10 Bad Work Habits to Eliminate Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

More from Entrepreneur

Grow Your Business at Entrepreneur LIVE! Join us on Nov. 16 in Brooklyn, NY, to learn from legends like Danica Patrick and Maria Sharapova, pitch our editors, meet with investors, and potentially walk away with funding!
Register here

One-on-one online sessions with our experts can help you start a business, grow your business, build your brand, fundraise and more.
Book Your Session

Whether you are launching or growing a business, we have all the business tools you need to take your business to the next level, in one place.
Enroll Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.