In 2015, a study conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor revealed that almost 14 percent of working-age Americans are in the process of launching or actively running a new business. This data reflects companies with paid employees, as well as an increasing number of solopreneurs and freelancers.

With so many people diving eagerly into the world of business, you might be wondering how you can establish your own small startup. For those who already own a business, it is also important to maintain a competitive edge.

Whether you have been self-employed for years or you are just getting started, here are seven valuable pieces of insight from American entrepreneurs who know what it takes to succeed.

1. Find a Mentor
One of the most important things to remember as a business owner is that there is always room for improvement. In order to adhere to this principle, you must be willing to learn. As a result, many entrepreneurs recommend finding a mentor, an individual who can be trusted as an honest and supportive critic throughout your career. It’s as simple as this – learn from those who came before you. Take instruction with gratitude, especially when it comes from someone with experience.

If you are having a hard time finding a mentor, you can also research leading entrepreneurs in your field to familiarize yourself with the competition. For example, Tim McMullen, founder of Redpepper, says that he used to find 10 of the smartest people in his industry and study them closely. In fact, this personal emphasis on growth and creative coaching has become the foundation of Redpepper’s branding philosophy, an approach that has landed him contracts with clients like Coca-Cola and Claire’s… more