CEO Coaching International founder, Make Big Happen author and serial entrepreneur Mark Moses knows what it’s like to build a hugely successful business from the bottom up. He learned by doing, and has successfully mastered the art of navigating the rough waters of trial and error. Moses started his first business at the age of 19; a franchise business called Student Painters that provided home maintenance services.

The industrious Moses became so focused on Student Painters that he admits to spending every waking moment not spent in class working on his business. By the end of its second year, the business brought in $120,000 in revenue. Not bad for a teenager embarking on his first business adventure.

We sat down with Moses to find out what drives him, what inspires him and what he feels have been the keys to his enviable success, as well as to craft actionable steps that anyone can adapt into their own entrepreneurial journey. Read on and learn from his triumphs and his missteps—and incorporate these hard-won lessons into your own blueprint for professional success and freedom.

What inspired you to start your first business?

My first inspiration was necessity. I needed some way to pay my way through college because my father had declared bankruptcy when I was in high school and that made the expense of college pretty much out of the question for my family at the time.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and started Student Painters. I found that I liked that sense of having my life under my own control, of being able to direct my own future in the independent fashion only business owners can innately understand—I was hooked on that feeling from the get go and I have never tired of the entrepreneur rush.

What is the most important “right-out-of-the-gate” piece of advice you’d give to entrepreneurs just starting out?

Above all else, you need to know exactly what you want. It’s impossible to get where you want to go without getting specific about what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s like trying to plan a road trip to Palm Springs. You have to know you’re going to Palm Springs before you set out. If you don’t know you want to end up in Palm Springs, you could still have a pleasant trip but where you’ll actually end up is anybody’s guess.

I have a process I like to use that I call “the crystal ball exercise.” You imagine yourself celebrating your accomplishments at the end of the year. You have to get really specific about what goals you have for your business—whether it’s bringing in over $10 million in revenue or taking on a certain number of new clients over the course of the year—and then picture yourself hitting those goals and popping open a bottle of champagne with friends, or whatever it is that you do to celebrate. The only rule here is to be clear and measurable with yourself about what your goals are because unless you are, you won’t be able to achieve them.

How do you get from that place of knowing and envisioning w​_hat you want to actualizing it?​_

I like to do everything I can to guarantee the results that I’m looking for. The word guarantee might sound like a stretch, but I find that unless I hold myself to that really high—almost impossible—standard, I don’t get the results I really want. Guaranteeing results means going above and beyond to come as close as humanly possible to ensuring that I hit my goals. For example, if I need 10 new clients this month, I may need to make a few hundred calls and set up 20 or more prospect meetings to make that happen.

If I don’t put in that legwork or if I’m not honest with myself about what I need to accomplish and what has to be done to get there, I’m likely to come up short. It’s very important to have definite​_ and measurable goals in order hit those important benchmarks.

What are some possible obstacles to success that newbie entrepreneurs should look out for?

The number one obstacle to success is usually looking back at you in the mirror. This could be good news or bad news depending on your ability to be brutally honest with yourself about your strengths, and especially about those areas that may be blind spots.

Maybe you get easily distracted, maybe you’re a bit of a control freak who tends to micromanage, or maybe you tend to burn the candle at both ends until you exhaust yourself and become less effective. Whatever your personal foibles, you need to be able to look at them unflinchingly and take corrective action before your business suffers.

​If you had just one piece of advice to give, what would it be?

Speaking a little more to the topic of the last question—making sure you know yourself and have an ability to be honest with yourself—I would say that having a great coach or coaches is the easiest and most effective way to accomplish that, and probably to accomplish everything else we’ve spoken about today. I have personally found throughout my career that having the guidance of someone more experienced who has been where I am and is now where I would like to be invaluable to my success.

A good coach will challenge you and has the ability to see where you’re getting in your own way. They’re willing to help you identify those blind spots and call you on that stuff. This is something that’s really hard to do on your own, you need guidance and you need an outside perspective to help you to get honest with yourself.

Another thing—and this is very important, the need for an objective outside perspective is something that you never outgrow as an entrepreneur. I met my first mentor when I was 24, and I’ve never looked back. I consider mentorship to be an essential part of what keeps me and my business on-track.

The Mentorship Magnate

These days Moses channels his twin passions for entrepreneurship and mentorship into his company CEO Coaching International, a business that matches CEOs with seasoned coaches who can help guide them on their own journeys to mega success.

The company helps C-level execs all over the globe to grow their companies and bring their a-games to their business ventures. Under his stewardship, Moses’s client companies have enjoyed a very healthy 139% profitability increase with the guidance of their CEO coaches; it doesn’t get anymore inspiring than these actual, definable results.