Trying to offer advice to a new entrepreneur is something like trying to guide a ship with an incomplete map, and only a vague idea of the destination. You can act as a compass, offering your points of view as orientation, but whether a ship will actually reach the ideal end depends mostly on the integrity of its design, and the ingenuity of its captain. It’s worth noting, though, that a worthy captain would never leave shore without a compass. In the spirit of seafaring wisdom, here are a few tips to help point first-time business owners in the right direction.

Work with Diverse Partners

When it comes to professional collaboration, pickiness is an expectation, if not a necessity. Weeding out those who aren’t afraid to disagree is preferable to surrounding yourself with a swarm of yes men. Hire and work alongside a diverse range of views and thoughts, and you’ll create a space in which solid ideas are only proven as such after being shock tested from every conceivable angle.

Recognize the Value of Learning

As team members, we accept that our knowledge won’t be sufficient for every situation. But the fact that we can rely on the collective, total knowledge of the group whenever one member’s experience is lacking only strengthens the argument for honing our own skills; after all, a group is made up of individuals. Allocating resources toward training and development–for yourself as well as employees–is an investment that pays major dividends.

Be Mindful of Your Actions

It’s easy to head out after an exhausting week, and temporarily forget that as leader you’re representing your business in everything that you do. But you’re not just the boss when pitching to potential clients. You’re the boss when chatting up contacts, interviewing with journalists, or even just bantering in the bar. Remember that your words and actions can have a massive effect on your business, even if you happen to be out of the office.

Stay Honest

When faced with less than pleasant news, some new business owners tend to adopt a mother hen mentality. They imagine their employees as fragile, like eggs in a nest. In a misguided attempt to safeguard workplace serenity, they make the mistake of withholding hard truths, and suffer the consequences when understandably distrusting employees decide to do the same. Transparency only works both ways–if leaders expect employees to be transparent, they need to set the example.

Like a ship embarking on the voyage of a lifetime, starting a business is no guarantee of reaching a desirable end. However, owners who center themselves with sound business practices and solid displays of character have a strong chance of staying on course.

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