The 3 Best Pieces of Entrepreneurial Advice I've Received

The best examples of inspiration spark thought-provoking discussions.

learn more about Mark McClain

By Mark McClain


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The most successful leaders still seek inspiration to continue their dominance in an industry. This counsel or advice can come from any number of sources including books, poems or other leaders and entrepreneurs who have already blazed a trail. The best examples of inspiration spark thought-provoking discussions, which in turn can lead to additional innovation, crucial hiring decisions or sometimes help get the company out of a rut. While these moments of clarity and light bulbs going off take different shapes for each of us, when it does happen, it can have a significant impact on your life and company.

While there are too many people who I could thank for sharing their wisdom and helping me navigate my entrepreneurial path, here are a few words of wisdom that have continued to resonate with me over the years:

"Surround yourself with people who complement your skills and let them run." -- John Thornton, general partner of Austin Ventures.

Related: Advice From 14 Successful Entrepreneurs for Everyone Beginning the Journey

To be successful as an entrepreneur, it's important to be brutally honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses. But, the corollary is that it is imperative that you understand the importance of surrounding yourself with a stellar leadership team. This team should bring complementary skills to the table, rounding out your leadership team with executives and key players who complement and amplify your abilities. At the end of the day, having driven and knowledgeable folks who can cover your "blind spots" is a way to gain insight, side-step pitfalls and create a true culture of success. I've made a point of doing this at every step along the way on my entrepreneurial path.

"Don't focus too much on the competition or cool technology for its own sake." -- Dr. Rob Adams, director of Texas Venture Labs, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Good Entrepreneurship Advice Is About Mindset

Unfortunately I've seen this scenario occur time and time again. A young, eager entrepreneur launches a cool product and tries to dominate the market. However, instead of spending time responding to customer needs and building strong features and benefits into its products, the company gets distracted and instead focuses on every step their competitors take. Don't get me wrong, companies should be aware of what their competitors are doing. The danger comes when you focus too heavily on the competition, which can lead you down a one-way street to unproductivity.

Instead, spend time listening to the wants, needs and pain points of your prospective customers, then focus on developing a solution that addresses those issues vs. overreacting to competitors' every move. This has helped drive our growth at SailPoint over the years. We've dedicated ourselves to staying laser-focused on identifying gaps in the market so that we can solve real-world challenges faced by our customers and prospects.

"Be incredibly selective about getting the right people in the door early, as they'll reinforce the right values as you grow." -- Mike Maples, Jr., entrepreneur and investor.

Related: Warren Buffett's 3 Top Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs

As simple as it sounds, developing cultural alignment starts with choosing the right players from the day you open for business. It's important to find people who already share the values and beliefs you want to live by in your organization. This starts with the leadership team who ultimately pass those values down to directors and managers. New hires will look to tenured employees to see what it means to be "bought in" to a set of values. Your company culture will help to determine who is attracted to the workplace, who chooses to stay and how hard your team works toward your company's ongoing success. Laying this foundation from day one can help ensure you end up as a market leader instead of a market laggard.

While I have received countless pieces of advice over the years, these are three memorable sayings that are some of our "secrets to success." Incorporating these simple, yet powerful principles into my thinking has helped SailPoint to not only survive, but to thrive in this competitive marketplace.

Mark McClain

CEO and Co-founder of SailPoint

Mark McClain is CEO and co-founder of SailPoint, the leader in identity and access management. In 2015, Mark earned the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Central Texas and is a 2016 Glassdoor Highest Rated CEO.

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