For entrepreneurs, the first year is the hardest. That’s when financing, marketing, sales, staffing and everything else all must come together to generate income or show enough advancement to reach the next milestone. The learning curve is intense. Here, entrepreneurs share some of their most important, early lessons.

Bob Berry, CEO, and Co-Founder of EnvelopVR, on Investors

“Immersive technology is a nascent industry, so I had to educate prospective investors about the technology and why now is the right time for virtual and augmented reality to take off. Give a complete picture of the overall landscape and how your company and product fit into it, no matter what industry you’re in.” To help, he founded the industry expo IMMERSE (formerly SEA-VR) in 2014 to give investors a comprehensive, non-biased view of the industry and its potential.

Vitaliy Verbenko, Founder of Helprace, on Productivity

“Work smart, not hard. It took some very stressful situations for us to realize that. We demand a lot of ourselves as a Helpdesk portal, but we don’t skimp on taking regular breaks. When things get too overwhelming, it’s a sign to drop everything and go for a walk or to lunch or to take a small vacation.” When you return, you’re fresh and can approach the problem with clearer insights and greater efficiency.

Andrew Reeves, Founder and CEO of Luxe Translation Services, on Deals

“Trust your gut and be willing to walk away from a deal. Sometimes it’s better to lose a customer than deal with the headaches that particular customer will cause. One early client repeatedly changed the scope of work, asked for free services and was rude. I ignored the warning signs. I was patient, but my business suffered and I lost money because of this client.” Sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal.

Kush Kapila Founder and CEO of Sterlings Mobile Salon, on Launching

“Continually push forward. Break goals into small tasks and work on them every day, even if only a few minutes. Work towards a minimal, viable product and, as soon as you achieve that, launch it to the world.” Sterlings, a mobile hair salon and barber shop used that approach to win Fortune 500 corporate clients.

Craig Wolfe, President of CelebriDucks, on Quality

“Excessive overhead can bring down any business. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead, focus on your niche. Reflect your core brand ethics and quality in everything you do. Someone always can make your product for less, but quality will ultimately win out. Don’t compete on price alone.” Wolfe recently moved manufacturing to America, attracting customers that include Harley-Davidson to The Future Farmers of America and many of the major league sports franchises that use them as promotional giveaways. CelebriDucks is the top rubber duck manufacturer in the world.

There are many, many additional lessons, of course. Take these insights to heart as you solve problems for your customers and yourself while you build your own thriving business.