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The life of an entrepreneur can be complicated. There’s so much business advice floating around, but much of it won’t be the right fit for your company. Finding the best practices which will work for your business usually involves a bit of trial and error, and sometimes the results can seem unusual to outside observers. Conventional wisdom doesn’t always work, especially today with industries in flux and new companies constantly emerging to disrupt the status quo.

Here are the best practices of 15 entrepreneurs who dared to blaze their own path, throw out conventional wisdom, and discover how to move their company forward:

1. Being Messy With Our Employees
Being involved with your employees is messy, but it’s worth it. We live in an age where employees increasingly expect to have meaningful connections with the people they work with and the people they work for. The old school model of keeping work at work is quickly fading away, so establish appropriate boundaries, and lead your team through genuine relationships.

Seth Talbott, Preferling

2. Valuing Our Network
None of my company’s successes would exist if it weren’t for the people in my network. It’s tough to do anything alone, so I live and breathe the notion that ‘your network is your net worth.’ By cultivating and managing my network, I’m able to see success where I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids /Equitable Payments

3. Making Friends, Not Clients
We aren’t out to just make money and move on. We want our clients to develop meaningful relationships with our agency that extend beyond just ROI. From day one, the clear driving factor for our success has been word-of-mouth advertising. That means taking time to actually create a relationship with everyone we work with and work toward their success as well.
Vinny Antonio, Victory Marketing Agency

4. Obsessing Over Data Analysis
At Speek, we have instilled a culture of obsessive — and possibly religious — data-driven decision making. Rather than spending time having subjective arguments about which UI may work or which call to action may convert better, we have simply tested everything from day one. Now, this is an intuitive part of how the entire 20-person company operates.
Danny Boice, Speek

5. Being Unforgettable
We take being unforgettable seriously. There’s no business I can think of that can’t benefit from standing out from competitors. For us, that means taking online learning in a unique direction. We do that by offering well-crafted courses but making them insanely fun as well.
Dustin Lee, RetroSupply

6. Asking Provocative Questions
The greatest success of my innovation firm, Cotential, has come from being willing to engage in provocative inquiry, to have tough conversations with my team and enable productive conflict, not consensus, to lead the way.
Erica Dhawan, Erica Dhawan, LLC

7. Building a Culture Around Hiring
More than any other factor, the people you hire will determine the success or failure of your company. Creating a culture that places an emphasis on recruiting talent (moving fast and decisively, paying what people are worth and spending a lot of internal time and resources interviewing candidates) has allowed to grow at a rapid pace.
Matt Mickiewicz, Hired

8. Doing One Thing Well
This is easier said than done, but it has helped us run Scripted time and time again. When we could have done all kinds of marketing jobs, we focused on writing. When we could have done all kinds of writing, we focused on medium-length blog posts. So far, this focus has paid dividends, and we’re synonymous with high-quality branded writing.
Ryan Buckley, Scripted, Inc.

9. Drinking Our Own Kool-Aid
Many times, people forget to consistently work on making their service or product better. We never have this issue because we are consistently using our own service to expand our business and grow our influence. By doing that, we are able to identify issues and figure out how to provide real value to our clients through our own mistakes and successes.
John Hall, Influence & Co.

10. Controlling Every Step
If you are in consumer products, manufacture everything in house. This has been my key ingredient to delivering the highest quality products and innovating new products, delivery times, price and scaling, depending on the market. Be lean, be nimble, and don’t let outside vendors influence your bottom line. Have multiple suppliers for your raw goods so you never get caught with your pants down.
– Joshua Waldron, Silencerco, LLC

11. Documenting the Process
Document the procedures and processes to everything you do. It’s vital to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and the step-by-step recipe you’re working with on any project. Whether you’re on-boarding a new employee or saying goodbye to a great team member, writing down the steps and goals you have will keep everyone in the loop.
Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

12. Employing Energy and Persistence
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Energy and persistence conquers all things.” As long as one is persistent and has the energy to push forward in any endeavor, the odds of success will be in your favor regardless of the obstacles that stand in your way. Once you realize this, you can do anything you put your mind to.
Kayvon Olomi, AppTank

13. Minimizing Distracting Conversations
As a basketball player, I learned that during practice, you should never sit down and talk about what you did last night or about what you are going to do after practice. It’s all about focus. During core work hours, I like for our team to be really focused on getting stuff done. Lunch breaks and coffee breaks are opportunities to catch up with friends.
Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp

14. Split-Testing Ideas
Rather than assuming or — even worse — debating what we believe will work best, we always take the top few ideas we wish to implement and split-test them. You can easily do this through Google Analytic’s Experiments feature. This will tell you precisely what works best, and often, the results will surprise you.
– Nicolas Gremion,

15. Valuing the Customer
Above all, we serve the customer, and we do our best to give them the tools they need to get their jobs done.
Wade Foster, Zapier