What I’ve Learned Mentoring Dozens Of First-Time Founders

I guess I’ve kind of always known this — but now I really know it…

Building a business has nothing to do with tactics and everything to do with mindset.”

Not just from my experience building a bunch of companies over the last 15 years (7 so far in software, education, real estate, e-commerce, etc), but also from helping dozens of founders build their businesses too, via one-on-one mentoring and also my private Inner Circle community (check it out here).

I started mentoring smart, first-time founders for fun back in 2011. At the time I was building BigCommerce as co-CEO and I found it really fun to just invite smart founders to our office in Sydney and help them with whatever was on their minds.

We’d talk about hiring, raising capital, marketing and all that tactical stuff. But I always found the most interesting (and most impactful) conversations for those founders were when we really dug into their “why”.

Specifically, what was driving them to build their businesses and whysucceeding wasn’t an option. It was the only possible outcome.

After a few years of having these conversations and mentoring quite a few founders, I really came to understand that if you’re a smart entrepreneur you’ll be resourceful enough to figure out the mechanics of growing your business. Who to hire. When. Which marketing channels to test, etc.

But as Tony Robbins says:

Success is 80% mindset, 20% mechanics” — Tony Robbins

Whenever a founder really came unstuck and was ready to throw in the towel, I realized I could always “talk them off the cliff” by refocusing their mindset on what’s to come, not what’s happening now.

So over a period of maybe 12 months, my entire conversations with those founders shifted from “so tell me how your business is performing” to “sotell me how you’re feeling about your business”.

That one subtle change was huge. It took our conversations in a totally different direction and I realized that when they felt optimistic about what’s to come, they could easily handle the crap they sometimes had to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

I guess that’s when I learned that building a successful business (whatever that means for you) comes down to just 3 things:

  • Being long-term focused
  • Being patient
  • Controlling your thoughts

I’ve already written about how it takes 7–10 years to build a REALLY successful business (it took us 8 years to build BigCommerce to where it is today). And I’ve written about patience too.

But I’ve never really written about controlling your thoughts. Yet it’s something I’ve been teaching founders for about 5 years.

And when I reflect upon what’s impacted me personally as a founder and operational CEO (I currently run two companies), it hasn’t been the mechanics of building a business.

Truthfully, they haven’t really changed since I started my first company in 2001 — build a great product, use online marketing to generate leads and look after people once they become your customers.

Hardly rocket science, right?

The biggest lessons that have helped me over the years are those which involved reshaping my mindset and shifting my psychology.

I’ve had way too many mentors to list here, but the most profound impacts have come from people like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Scott Harris, Siimon Reynolds, Robert Kiyosaki and Allan Pease.

And funnily enough, none of them taught me the mechanics of business. They all taught me the psychology of success.

The next time you get frustrated with your business, try to focus more on your mindset and less on the mechanics.

That’s the fastest way I know of to not only refocus yourself but also to keep you in the game so you don’t throw in the towel.

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About Mitchell Harper

Mitch is a 7x company founder, advisor and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of BigCommerce. His companies have generated over $200,000,000 in total revenue and he is currently building an online education company and a SaaS company.

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