9 Rookie Business Lessons That Are Always Best Learned The Hard Way

Boris Jovanovic

Since I was a kid, I've always been obsessed with business. I never really knew what I wanted to do because I had so many different interests growing up. That sense of curiosity still sticks with me till this day, which makes it a lot more exciting when something sparks.

I was always 100 percent certain I would be in business somehow. I just knew. I didn't care what type of business, as long as I thought it was fun and it could make a lot of money. That's all I ever knew growing up. I just didn't know where to start.

I had always done things like sold candy, washed cars or anything a kid could do to make money. At 18, that fire really ignited, and it became a deadly obsession.

Business is the most fascinating sport that was ever created. The playing field is global, it never stops and the number of players is limitless. It's a battle royal for who can climb higher and higher, and the best part is no one knows the outcome on the other side. It requires complete sacrifice, perseverance and determination to stay in the game. An unprecedented level of focus and hustle are needed to compete.

The game isn't over, but these are a few of the things I've learned along the way:

1. Business is simple.

All you have to do is start by creating value for someone. It's about identifying a problem that a group of people have and going out to develop a better solution that someone is willing to pay for. In the case of most tech startups, it's about creating a product or service people genuinely love to use over and over, and get hooked on because it's fun, entertaining or fills a void in their lives. Not easy, but simple.

2. People are everything.

Business is just groups of people working together toward building something awesome. I've hired and fired people. Even people who were once close to me. Unfortunately, not everyone is as great as they may seem initially, and this is probably the most important part of the whole game, and by far the most difficult to get right.

As long as you're around good people, anything can happen. Anyone can find a Harvard or Yale MBA, but it's hard to go deeper than what's on a résumé and learn about the struggles and adversity someone has faced. Getting to truly know that person's story and why they want to join your journey is more important.

It's like dating. The hottest girl in the world might just provide short term gratification, and few months after the honeymoon phase, you realize you want someone who you actually connect with beyond just the physical attraction. In business, after you get over the fact that the person has a fancy piece paper, but is a complete f*cking d*ck, you'll want them to get the f*ck out of your face. Hiring based on personality, attitude and character is priority because that's what can't be taught.

3. It's not about raising capital. It's about your product.

I've dug myself into holes before obsessing over investors and the dollar signs in front of what we raised. If you don't have to raise don't do it because the headlines are making you feel like you should. It's not needed for every business. After all, ownership is everything, right? It's oxygen, and it certainly matters, keeping you in the game or taking your business to the next level.

I've dug myself into holes before obsessing over investors and the dollar signs in front of what we raised. If you don't have to raise don't do it because the headlines are making you feel like you should. It's not needed for every business. After all, ownership is everything, right? It's oxygen, and it certainly matters, keeping you in the game or taking your business to the next level.

It's not everything, though. I've seen people raise tens of millions and have to fold because the product just wasn't there. I've also seen people raise nothing and do incredibly well for themselves. Money is a tool to buy time. If you have time, you can probably figure it out, but it's not always the case.

4. Timing is everything.

We live in a world of uncertainty, and no one knows what's going to happen next. It makes the game that much more interesting. You could get everything right. The team, the product, the investors, the growth, but all of a sudden, everything changes and you go bust. This is the factor we must use our judgment to determine and can play the biggest role in your success.

Things just happen sometimes. The market doesn't give a sh*t about who you are or where you come from or what connections you have. Ever heard of being in the right place at the right time? Yeah, well the same thing applies to business. Being on the market at the right time definitely helps.

5. Start small.

Create value for a small group. I know you want to take over the entire industry that you're in and capitalize on all the people who need your product. Find a target market, and start with a relatively small size of people to focus on. Once you've created value for a small group, then you know you can scale that up. Talk to them a lot. They know more than you do about their problems. If you start off trying to take over the world, you'll have no entry point and just be all over the place.

It takes time to figure it out. This is the very reason most of these hot social products start off at colleges. It allows you to test and iterate using a controlled group of people. The entire state of California is not a controlled group of people. Find a crew, build something cool for them, and you'll know when you're on to something.

6. Work hard.

Sh*t will happen if you stay in the game long enough. Good stuff takes time to build and grow. Our generation wants to strike rich quick and needs to realize that's not the way the game works.

When has anything great come instantly? You have to put in the hours. All the overnight success stories you hear about are not what they appear to be. Most likely, those teams working on the products were grinding for years until something clicked. The harder you work, and longer you stay in the game, the higher the likelihood of you succeeding is. Just don't give up, and keep moving forward.

If you want instant gratification, then you're in the wrong place. This game isn't the least bit instant. It's a long-term play, and you have to be willing to give everything up for it. Even if you don't see the outcome today or tomorrow, it'll happen eventually. You have to really want it, and the lifestyle isn't for everyone. But the only way to win is to play the game.

7. Forget about the bullsh*t.

Don't listen to the hype. There's more beneath the surface to every story. Every overnight success took 8-10 years to build. Keep f*cking working your ass off if you believe in your company. Every company acquisition, press release and fundraiser has a true story behind it.

For example, just because you got acquired doesn't necessarily mean it was a successful exit. The company could've been acquired to save public face of the founders and investors. There are so many things that come into play that look sexy, but they just aren't.

Don't get totally caught up in the industry. Remember, the media will always feed you what will get you talking. Be aware and knowledgeable of what's going on, but please, don't take everything for face value. Be skeptical of everything you hear. You know more than you think you do.

8. This isn't sexy.

You have to love the journey. There's a ton of suffering, hard work and pain that the external world will never see in this game. The loneliness, depression and struggle that entrepreneurs go through is mind blowing, and everyday people think this is solely being done for riches. Sure, we all want to make a ton of money, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's capitalism after all. There's more to it, though.

Changing the world, making an impact on other people's lives, and being extremely passionate are also of part of the game. We do this for other people more than we do it for ourselves. We do it because we firmly believe we can change the world. We see a future where something can be made better, and we're crazy enough to chase that vision and belief.

If you're solely getting into this for money, you're not going to last. It's too hard and too painful for just the money. Investment banking sounds more like your game if that's all you want. There has to be an emotional connection that compels you to do this for the long term.

9. Just start.

Stop making excuses about school, partying or the new episode of "Game of Thrones." All that stuff will always be there for you to fall back on, but this opportunity may not be. Find a problem that impacts you personally or the people around you, and go for it