“I completely forgot my own advice,” admits Ko, 44. “With my first business, the inventory was a slow buildup over the years, so I never felt cash-strapped. But as I started my second business, I overpurchased.”
Ultimately, she had to trash more than 250,000 pairs of glasses. She wasn’t able to recoup the purchase price–but at least she saved tens of thousands of dollars in monthly storage fees. Ko swore that next time, she would remember her own advice. “As entrepreneurs, we know a lot and learn a lot–but sometimes we forget,” she says. “And this was a crucial one for me.”
As Ko has now learned twice over, money is at the root of every decision you make as a business owner. But saving and spending habits are often formed–or forgotten–long before you decide how much to pay your first employee. The salary you take for a new job will determine how much money you can set aside to start your first business. The looming sense of dread you feel when you can’t pay off a credit card bill at the end of the month could later remind you not to take on too much debt at your company.
To help guide you through the money tradeoffs you face every day, Inc. asked founders, investors, and other business leaders to pass along the best piece of financial advice they’ve ever received. Some of these experts, like GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling, are still building their first businesses; others, like Ko and cosmetics mogul Bobbi Brown, negotiated big-ticket sales of the companies they founded. And some, including Care.com founder Sheila Lirio Marcelo and Max Levchin of PayPal and now Affirm, have successfully navigated IPOs