Advice from BRIDGE Insiders: Starting a New Business in Polk County

Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most daunting yet exhilarating journeys you can go on. There are endless learning opportunities along the way that have helped shape you into the business owner you are today.

Because we know the most successful entrepreneurs are generous and driven to help others, we asked YOU to share your pearls of wisdom on what you believe entrepreneurs need to know as they are getting started in their own journey. We compiled the responses from our very own BRIDGE Insiders so get ready for a wealth of information from our locals.

Don’t forget, BRIDGE Local was born out of a desire to see our small business community and local entrepreneurs thrive, so if you need help starting a business we can connect you to resources, information and other entrepreneurs like yourself. Join our growing network of local entrepreneurs by becoming an Insider.

Now, let’s see what advice our Insiders had to give to new business owners starting out in Polk County! 

Care for Customers, Employees & Yourself

“Persevere through the lean, challenging and dark times! You’re not a quitter! Also, you absolutely must believe in your imperfect self (not to be confused with trying to make others believe you’re perfect). If you don’t, you cannot expect others to.” – Wade Altman, Florida Tech Group

Invest in your team!! They make or break your business!!” – James Morrow, Celebrate Birth

Be a good human, be generous, be compassionate, be humble, be understanding and don’t just do it for the return, be genuine! It will get you 1000x’s further in life and in business.” – Jennifer Goodlet, Jennifer Goodlet Photography

Trust your gut! Do your due diligence, and take information into account – but if something doesn’t feel right, it’s worth taking a second look. The gut often tells us something the information hasn’t yet.” – Dianne Aikey Kaplan, 1st Priority Staffing

“…You just have to be ready to turn on the balls of your feet. One moment I’m talking to an owner or professional designer and the next I’m in a hole talking to a day laborer digging a foundation. Everyone has something that motivates them. As a leader you have to figure out what that is. I have also found that if you hire the right people they want to work together and they take pride in a successful project. I guess keeping everyone focused on the mission is my goal.” – Michael Huff, Pre-Con Construction of Florida 

Never Stop Learning 

“Dedicate time to learning every week. It could be a free YouTube video on marketing, it could be research into your competition, it doesn’t matter. Continue to learn new things about your industry, your business, or your customers and new opportunities will present themselves. In the beginning, it feels like you can’t spare a minute to anything that doesn’t generate revenue. However, one simple idea could completely transform the way you do business in a way you never would have considered.” – Cameron Magnuson, Magnuson Insurance 

Don’t be afraid to ask LOTS of questions. You don’t know what you don’t know! Get a free mentor through SCORE Mentors or the Florida SBDC at USF and ask them what questions you need to be asking.” – Kate Lake, My Office & More

Get Involved in your Community

“Spend time getting to know people in a meaningful way including city leaders and government, and business owners; small and large. Make friends. Be curious. Ask, ask, ask lots of questions, to understand their needs. Be a go-giver. Give up a little time on weekends for community needs. Work to become part of the community.” – Patrick Thurmond, Keller Williams Realty

“Get out in your community and be involved. Put a face to your business and build those relationships. Delegate, trust, then get out of the way if you want your employees to use their skills and expertise without being dependent on you or your approval. If you manage every step, then expect to be the manager of the job and that your employees will follow instead of lead.” – Lana Swartzwelder, The Libertore Fund for Children, LJS Learning Solutions


“Visit 1 Million Cups Lakeland for coffee and startup stories!” – Robert Blacklidge, Catapult Lakeland  

Manage Time Effectively

“Recently someone has taught me to protect my calendar and spend 25-40% of my time in the first few years just dedicated to organizing and planning. This is not systematizing. Just sheer planning that will save you time and money if you picture your week, set your targets and breakdown what it would take to reach those targets…” – Adam Whelchel, Spark Bookkeeping

“Start getting permits to build/remodel/change a building 2-3 months before you want to start…” – Brenda Drawdy Cross, Privileged Critters Animal Hospital

“Get a great CPA!!! 😉 But seriously, it’s so much easier to do things right the first time.” – Allison Brown, Allison Brown CPA

To view all of the responses, click the button below: