The 17 Rules These Entrepreneurs Say You Should Break in 2017


Forget the rules. Do what makes sense instead.

Getty Images/Tara Moore

1. Sara Sugarman, founder and CEO, Lulu & Georgia

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Sara Sugarman/Lulu & Georgia

2. Jonathan Neman, cofounder and co-CEO, Sweetgreen

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3. Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO, LearnVest

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4. Sarah Pierson, cofounder, Margaux

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Alexa Buckley

5. Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO, Parachute

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Denise Crew

6. Clare Vivier, founder, Clare V.

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Katrina Dickson

7. Ariel Nelson, cofounder, Jack Erwin

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Jack Erwin

8. Jeni Britton Bauer, founder, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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Jeni's Art + Design

9. Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder and CEO, Zuvaa

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10. Tristan Walker, founder and CEO, Walker and Company

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Walker & Company Brands

11. Katie Doyle, cofounder, Brass Clothing

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Brass Clothing

12. Karissa Bodnar, founder, Thrive Causemetics

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Thrive Causemetics

13. Grady Laird, cofounder, Grady’s Cold Brew

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Grady’s Cold Brew

14. Kari Saitowitz, founder, The Fhitting Room

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The Fhitting Room

15. Neal Gottlieb, founding twin, Three Twins Ice Cream

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Three Twins Ice Cream

16. David Mandelbaum, cofounder and CEO, Panatea

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17. Andres Hinostroza, cofounder, JoyBird

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Follow the lead of these entrepreneurs as they throw the rulebook out the window and focus on what makes sense for their business. Their advice for 2017, as told to Amy Wilkinson.

Related: These 4 Books Changed These Leaders' Lives and Businesses for the Better

“Quit attempting to respond to emails within 24 hours. This reactive behavior is distracting and keeps you from the task at hand. In 2017, I’m going to get to emails when time permits and focus on the tasks that make the most impact on my business.” -- Sara Sugarman, founder and CEO, Lulu & Georgia
“Stop trying to compete like crazy to be better. Instead, think about how you can approach things differently. I always remind myself of the Albert Einstein quote ‘We cannot solve our problems using the same thinking we used when we created them.’”  -- Jonathan Neman, cofounder and co-CEO, Sweetgreen
“Stay in the weeds! Many entrepreneurs are encouraged to eventually take a backseat and let their leaders tackle the details. Instead, I believe it’s critical to stay tuned into those decisions, even if you’re not the one making them anymore.” -- Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO, LearnVest 
“Take a bet on inventory. At a time when many are playing it safe and shying away from assuming inventory risk, Margaux is betting that offering more size options will up the number of items sold.” -- Sarah Pierson, cofounder, Margaux

“Break the rule of perfection and focus on progress instead. When you obsess over every misstep or criticism, you become your own roadblock to growth.” -- Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO, Parachute

Related: Fresh, Fun Ideas to Bring Your Team Together

“Mix work with pleasure! I’ve grown my business in Los Angeles and immersed myself in the creative community. After we’ve worked together, it can be a bonus to become friends.” -- Clare Vivier, founder, Clare V. 
“Don’t be a ‘me too’ brand. Entrepreneurs should break away from the formulaic approach of growing a business. Instead, focus on yourself -- your strengths, weaknesses and vision for the company.”  -- Ariel Nelson, cofounder, Jack Erwin
“The old adage of thinking outside the box? Think inside the box. Get to know every boundary, every corner. A creative entrepreneur sees opportunity using the same set of resources and demands as everyone else.” -- Jeni Britton Bauer, founder, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
“Take more vacations. As entrepreneurs, we are natural workaholics. I always challenge my entrepreneur friends to break the #TeamNoSleep stereotype and take some time for self.” -- Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder and CEO, Zuvaa

“We break communication rules that traditional consumer packaged-goods companies have followed for decades. We don’t talk at our community; we have a dialogue with them.” -- Tristan Walker, founder and CEO, Walker and Company

Related: These Entrepreneurs Show You Can Start a Business at Any Age

“In 2017 we’re going to stop saying yes. As a startup, your first inclination is to say yes to everything. But you can easily lose focus this way. This year, it’s either a ‘Hell, yes’ or a ‘Hell, no.’” -- Katie Doyle, cofounder, Brass Clothing
“Rule to break: Focus only on revenue, not profitability. Instead: Focus on profitability as you scale. When you don’t understand how much you are spending to grow your business, you get into a cycle of raising massive amounts of money so often that you can’t focus on your core mission.” -- Karissa Bodnar, founder, Thrive Causemetics
“‘More flavors’ is a general rule in beverages these days if you want to grow market share -- and we will continue to ignore it. Having a recognizable signature taste is a rarity. Why dilute a good thing?” -- Grady Laird, cofounder, Grady’s Cold Brew
“People say to never hire a friend, but hiring friends has enabled me to have multiple trusted resources on the team to help with confidential projects and provide honest feedback.” -- Kari Saitowitz, founder, The Fhitting Room
“Credit cards get a bad rap, but for many entrepreneurs they are the only unsecured debt available. During the economic downturn, they kept us going. You should pay your balances in full each month when you can, but you’ll be thankful to have them when you can’t.” -- Neal Gottlieb, founding twin, Three Twins Ice Cream

“Operate responsibly within the means of your balance sheet but dream way outside its lines. Give yourself two hours to freely think bigger. Your mind and business will thank you later.” -- David Mandelbaum, cofounder and CEO, Panatea

Related: Science-Backed Brain Hacks to Crush the Goals You Set

“If you’re playing by any rules to begin with, you may be already losing. Find what works for your business and develop around it.” -- Andres Hinostroza, cofounder, JoyBird

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