If your 20s are a time for figuring out who you are and what your purpose is, then your 30s are a time for discovering how to turn your aspirations into reality.
We asked entrepreneurs, including billionaire “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban and the cofounders of popular retailer Warby Parker, to share the most important lesson they learned in their 30s.
They shared insights into how their worldview and business approach changed with experience and created the success they enjoy today.
Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, co-CEOs of Warby Parker, learned that being deliberate is the key to beating the competition.
Blumenthal and Gilboa cofounded hip, affordable eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker with Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider in 2010. Last June, the company sold its millionth pair of glasses and is now expanding its brick-and-mortar business in addition to the ecommerce model that made it famous.
Blumenthal and Gilboa agree that as they learned to develop a business, they learned how to gain an advantage over once-intimidating competitors.
'Everything is not what it seems,' they say. 'Peek behind the curtain at a bunch of organisations, and it's not as tightly organised or well-run as you'd expect. There's so much opportunity for people to be more thoughtful. Being thoughtful and deliberate in one's approach is a big competitive advantage. The most thoughtful company wins.'
Mark Cuban, 'Shark Tank' investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, learned that nothing trumps sales.
The billionaire investor made the biggest deal of his life when he sold his company Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $US5.7 billion in Yahoo stock in 1999.
In his career, he's made over 120 investments in both major institutions like the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team and startups featured on 'Shark Tank.' As he became a savvy investor through trial-and-error, he realised that any company, regardless of management issues, can be made to scale if they have developed an audience.
'In my 30s, I learned that in a business sales cures all,' he says. 'If you can generate sales you can have a succesful company.'
Roth founded Matisia Consultants in Seattle in 2006. Her firm has worked with several Fortune 100 companies, and last year it brought in over $US60 million in revenue. Roth recently opened an office in Los Angeles and is planning an expansion into San Francisco.
In her 30s, she realised that it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to utilise your support group.
'I learned to be a bolder version of me, with more power to run the marathon of life, see the big picture, and stop from time to time to get the water somebody is offering you during this marathon,' she says. 'Say 'thank you,' recognise it's a team effort, but continue running and pushing a little more.'
Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and founder of KIND Healthy Snacks, learned to become comfortable with failure.
Lubetzky founded all-natural energy bar brand KIND in 2003 as a subsidiary of his company Peaceworks, which is dedicated to fostering business relationships between entrepreneurs from conflicted groups. He spun off KIND as its own company in 2009 and achieved rapid growth, which he details in his upcoming book 'Do the KIND Thing.' It brought in approximately $US197 million in revenue in 2013.
'In my 30s, I was working relentlessly to grow KIND, and the mistakes I made could fill a business school course on how not to run your startup. But I eventually learned to be comfortable with failure,' Lubetzky says.
'Trying to forget or hide your mistakes is a huge error. Rather, hold them near and dear to your heart. Wear them proudly,' he says. 'Failure holds the seeds for greatness. So long as you water those seeds with introspection and are open to learning from them, they can be the root of your success.'
In 2008, Doane created Raintees, an apparel line that plants a tree in an endangered rainforest for every shirt sold and donates school supplies to a child in need for every tote bag sold. Raintees works with nonprofits in over 20 countries.
Doane noticed in her 30s that people used their careers to pursue promotions and notoriety without being grounded in anything.
'The most important lesson I learned in my 30s is that everyone just wants to be happy, but most people have no idea how to be, so they spend a long time chasing all the wrong things,' she says. 'Real happiness lies in the small things: good books, a meal with friends, and having a purpose greater than yourself. I am spending a lot more time focusing on the simple things in my 30s.'
Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, learned that your effort cannot falter when you build a business.
Di Giusto worked in human resources for more than 20 years before starting Executive Image Consulting in 2009. She's helped individual executives look their best and has consulted for companies like McKinsey, BMW, and Thomas Cook.
Di Giusto became an entrepreneur in her 30s, 'and although I thought I'd already experienced 'everything' when it comes to hard work,' she says, 'I had to learn that an even higher level is possible and necessary.
'Also, within a corporate environment success gets into your head, while it goes right into your heart when you work for your own business,' she says.
Ariel Nelson, cofounder of Jack Erwin, learned that there's no such thing as having it all figured out.
Nelson founded Jack Erwin, an affordable men's dress shoe company, with Lane Gerson in 2012. When they launched their ecommerce site in October 2013, their first run of 3,000 shoes sold out in two months and a waiting list developed. Last year the duo opened a brick-and-mortar shop in New York's Manhattan and has raised more than $US11 million in capital to grow the business.
Nelson worked in sales before becoming an entrepreneur shortly before turning 30, and his experience taught him that 20-somethings' expectation that they will have everything figured out by age 30 is a delusion.
'Don't worry about not having it all figured out,' he says. 'Nobody does and one day it will all come together if you just keep pushing the needle forward and keep pushing towards what makes you most passionate. You'll end up where you always wanted to be.'
Shane Snow, author and founder of Contently, learned that it's not worth giving too much importance to setbacks in the grand scheme of things.
'A lot of drama went down at the end of my 20s and start of my 30s,' Snow says. But emerging on the other side of it taught him that setbacks only define you if you let them.
'The lesson that struck at 30 is something my business partner, Joe Coleman, recently articulated: 'It's never as bad as it seems.' Lots of stuff goes wrong when you build a company. But life always goes on. Realising that makes it easier to power through, and reduce, drama,' he says.
Melissa Carbone, CEO and president of Ten Thirty One Productions, learned that talent and great ideas mean nothing if they're not put into action.
Carbone got national exposure after Mark Cuban invested $US2 million in exchange for 20% of her horror attractions company Ten Thirty One Productions in the fifth season of 'Shark Tank.' Her company brought in $US3 million in revenue last year, and this year she plans on expanding her Haunted Hayride and other spooky events out of Los Angeles and into New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Carbone took notice of whose careers had taken off and what separated them from everyone else.
'The number one difference between people who have huge success and people who don't is that they jumped -- activated on their idea and did it quickly,' she says.
'Every single person has ideas and some are incredible ideas that never see the light of day. An idea that doesn't comes to life doesn't matter. It's those who bring them to life who reap huge rewards,' she says. 'Don't let fear of failure keep you from activating because it will also keep you from succeeding. Failure is OK as long as you reflect and try again.'
Levy is an independent marketing consultant, but is most notably the founder of the Influencers, a network he started in 2009 that today has over 400 members. Twice a month, he invites prominent people ranging from Olympic athletes to Nobel laureates to his sprawling New York apartment to share a dinner followed by a series of presentations from notable figures like Bill Nye the Science Guy.
As he moved forward in his career and grew his reputation, he learned that bouts of sudden success, whether on a corporate or personal level, are actually the result of years of hard work.
'To achieve any form of lasting success you need to accumulate years of experience, develop awareness, foster a community that supports you, and garner the respect of your peers,' he says.
'This means you need to start now and continuously work on whatever it is that you are passionate about, promote it shamelessly, and continue to improve it, so when the day comes you will have everything in place to become an overnight success.'
In 2010, Bijoor started Joor as an online global marketplace for wholesale buying for fashion retailers. It is based in New York City and now has offices in Los Angeles and Milan.
As she learned how to develop a business, she learned that 'strong work ethic is table stakes,' meaning that being a hard worker is simply a prerequisite at any high level of business. But to outperform your competition, she believes you need to follow the critical path method, which requires developing a longterm business plan and seeing a project as a complex web of activities.
Will Pearson, cofounder and president of Mental Floss, learned that you need to make your team happy.
Pearson cofounded Mental Floss magazine, a publication dedicated to fun history and trivia, with Mangesh Hattikudur when they were students at Duke University in 2001. They sold a stake in the company to Denis Publishing in 2011 and are now dedicated to growing their brand's global image and their profitable ecommerce business.
Pearson says that he and Hattikudur hired talented people from the outset, but it took them years to fully understand how employees' potential can be tapped when they're happy and working together.
'While we've always had a great team, early on, we didn't focus enough on team chemistry and didn't fully capitalise on the benefits gained from a team of big brains (with a lot propensity for drama!) working well together,' he says.
Kate McKeon, founder of Prepwise and Prepwise Games, learned that 'experts' don't have the answers to all your problems.
McKeon was a longtime consultant who turned to the education world when she became an instructor at Manhattan GMAT in 2008. In 2012, she founded her own test prep company, Prepwise, for students taking the SAT and GMAT.
McKeon eventually realised that the term 'expert' does not qualify someone to always be correct. 'Expecting an expert to be a 'quick study' of your situation in order to provide meaningful advice is not realistic, no matter how much you are paying,' she says.
She recommends being active rather than passive when getting consultation.
'For example, don't ask your business lawyer for acquisition strategy advice -- even though he frequently represents parties and will probably represent you shortly,' she says. 'He isn't likely to take the time to fully understand the ramifications for your business. You have to tell him what strategy to employ and let him sort through the literal legal items. They think they're experts, but they will never know as much about the world of business as someone who runs one.'
Ari Weinzweig, CEO and cofounder of Zingerman's, learned that leaders need to manage themselves before they can manage others effectively.
Weinzweig cofounded Zingerman's Deli with Paul Saginaw in 1982, and today it's one of nine businesses in the Zingerman's Community of Businesses. They have used a unique management philosophy that emphasises collective decision-making to continually grow their company, which had $US50 million in revenue last year.
Weinzweig has written a book on self-management as leadership, 'Zingerman's Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Managing Ourselves,' a concept he only learned as he grew older.
In his 30s, he saw 'how managing myself more effectively was critical to helping our organisation grow,' he says. 'I began to devote as much energy to working on myself as I had on the business.'
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