One Thing If you were given one chance to do it over again, what is the one thing you wish you knew when you were launching your business? Here's what a slew of big wigs had to say would be the one thing they learned that all entrepreneurs should know when starting up.
Staff Writer Jeremy Quittner asks Donald Trump: "What is the one thing you wish you'd known before starting the Trump Organization in 1975?" I wish I’d known how important it is to keep my focus at all times and to keep the momentum going. When I experienced financial troubles in the 1990s, I can say it was largely due to losing my focus. Business can be like combat, and you have to be prepared and on alert at all times.
Chicago correspondent Adrienne Carter asks Jim Koch: "What's the one thing you wish you knew before starting brewery Boston Beer Co.?" It eats your life. If you’re successful, the business requires all your energy to keep it going. If you’re not, it requires all your energy to keep it from sinking. I thought it might be that way for a year—that was 22 years ago.
Napoleon Barragan Founder and chief executive of 1-800-mattress
SmallBiz editor Kimberly Weisul asks Napoleon Barragan: What's the one thing you wish you knew before starting 1-800-Mattress? "In 1998 we started asking all our customers five simple questions. Until we did that, it was hard to know if we were giving the customer what they wanted. I learned that we have to be measuring constantly. We have to look at last week and last year and be prepared for tomorrow and next month. And at that time they call you a visionary."
Doris K. Christopher Founder and chairman, The Pampered Chef
Deputy Editor Susan Price asks Doris K. Christopher, founder and chairman of The PamperedChef: What's the one thing you wish you had known before starting your business in 1980? "I wish I had known there were so many organizations available to help me get started, so I didn't have to feel I was going it alone. Organizations such as the Direct Selling Assn. and the National Association of Women Business Owners have made tremendous impacts on the way I do business."
Rodger O. Riney CEO and founder of St. Louis-based Scottrade, the sixth-largest online trading firm
Chicago Correspondent Adrienne Carter asks Rodger Riney: What's the one thing you wish you'd known before starting a retail brokerage in 1980? "I wish I had given our customers a bigger discount compared to established competitors like Schwab. We would have grown much faster. You can always raise your price later, but it's tough to go in the other direction."
Liz Lange Founder & CEO of Liz Lange Maternity & flagship maternity designer at Target & Nike
Writer Pallavi Gogoi asks designer Liz Lange: What's the one thing you wish you had known before founding a line of high-end maternity clothes that weren't frilly or girlish? "Starting out, everybody had a lot of advice to give. A lot of it was negative. If my idea was so great -- if pregnant women really wanted form-fitting, office-appropriate clothing then why wasn't everybody else doing it? Sometimes I wish someone had told me to block out that noise totally."
Bill Pulte Chairman and founder of Pulte Homes, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Senior correspondent Katie Kerwin asks Bill Pulte: What's the one thing you wish you'd known before you started building homes in 1950, after finishing high school? "I wish I had known more about business and finance. I was always good at arithmetic, but there's a big difference between arithmetic and finance. I thought two plus two equaled four, until I met finance people. They looked at two plus two and said: 'What do you want it to be?' "
Gertrude Boyle Co-founder of Columbia Sportswear, in Portland, Ore.
Correspondent Stanley Holmes asks Gertrude Boyle: What's the one thing you wish you had known before co-founding Columbia Sportswear? "I wish I had known that many businesspeople are so interested in their own personal gain that they're willing to sacrifice community-building and even other individuals. I also wish I had known the differences between big and little bodies, because that would have helped us make garments fit better, sooner."
Steve Ells Founder and chief executive of Chipotle Mexican Grill, now a 360-store unit of McDonald's Corp.
Senior correspondent Michael Arndt asks Steve Ells: What is the one thing you're happiest you did when you opened your first Chipotle Mexican Grill 11 years ago? "I followed my instinct. People told me I was doing a lot of things wrong -- the size of the burrito, the spiciness, the open kitchen, the price point, the limited menu. But those things make Chipotle successful today. We're not a brand that developed from focus groups."
Mark Cuban Co-founder of HDNet, Broadcast.com, and MicroSolutions, and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks
Correspondent Andrew Park asks Mark Cuban: What's the one thing you wish you knew before you started your first company? "That my customers were far more interested in the quality of my work than how I looked doing it. That they still would have done business with me if I had worn business casual rather than switching between the same two polyester suits. I bought them for $99 each. Had I known, I would have saved a ton on dry cleaning."