The path to business ownership is rarely easy. Most entrepreneurs thrive on their ability to make fast decisions and learn from experience — good or bad. In the spirit of sharing wisdom to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Deluxe asked dozens of successful small business owners to tell us what they wish they had known before they started their business. Here are the top 20 tips.

Getting a business off the ground

“Open your business next to the busiest place in town, even if it is your competition!” —Michele, retail business owner

“It is important to share your thoughts on your business idea with others during the planning phases of a new business. When seeking feedback, the business line is as important as what friends and family think of your ability to operate a business. If the feedback is genuine and you don’t take it as a personal attack, it can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.” —Bill, consultant

“I wish I had done more research in figuring out what customers were willing to pay for.” —Taylor, marketing agency owner

“Start like you are going to be big. Hire experts from day one such as Deluxe for marketing … I did not, and it has cost me so much unnecessary expenses, personal time and caused slow growth.” —Lisa, retail business owner

Managing money

“I wish I knew that I could have charged more money. I undervalued myself as a businessperson.” —Elisa, information services business owner

“Hire a professional accountant or learn more accounting.” —Marc, automotive business owner

“Cashflow is key. It must remain the top priority, and one person cannot possibly do it all: it’s OK to admit that.” —Tom, retail business owner

“Debt destroys businesses. Mastering the art of bootstrapping has transformed my businesses tremendously.” —Gary, consultant

“I wish I would have known how long it would really take to break even and overcome cash flow problems.” —Keith, retail business owner

Establishing partnerships

“Partnerships are not always easy, no matter how much you adore the other person; it is work.” —Joy, retail business owner.

“People do business with those that they know and trust — especially on Main Street. Building stronger partnerships and really investing in them from the beginning would be the advice that I would give myself and any new organization getting off the ground.” —Jacqueline, nonprofit owner

Embracing digital marketing

“I didn’t know how important SEO was to increase website views … We worked on our products and photography for a couple of years and did well. Competition increased, and we knew we had to step up our game to remain competitive in the global economy.” —Sherry, retail business owner

“I wish I had known to create a website right away. I still don’t have one.” —Kelly, retail business owner

Understanding the importance of using Google Analytics to drive marketing investment decisions.” —Christine, nonprofit owner

“The importance of social media and reviews to our business.” —Mari, mestaurant owner

Spending time wisely

“Don’t focus on the things you’re not good at simply because you feel a business owner should be able to do it all. Focus on what you’re really good at and find help to do those other things.” —David, information services business owner

“I wish I had understood the value of working on your business as well as working in the business. Once you know exactly what business you are in, others are as good at the actual work as you are, but no one can guide the business as well as you can.” —Russell, photographer

Growing the business strategically

“We need to focus on priorities that drive success, rather than being distracted by projects that are failing. Know what is happening in the market around you!  Look for great openings and be willing to change your direction.” —Jonathan, nonprofit owner

“Sometimes you get an opportunity that will bring in revenue, but that compromises the vibe you are trying to create. Don’t settle.” —Jessica, nonprofit owner

“I wish I had known that fast growth isn’t necessarily the key to a great business. Slow and steady wins the race.” —Amy, spa owner

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