If you’re launching a startup and you’ve made a substantial investment in ensuring your business will be a success. You also know that mistakes could be costly, so you exercise due diligence, confident you can avoid those mistake, right?
Well, here’s a spoiler alert: you are going to make mistakes. Everyone does, even entrepreneurs who were eventually hugely successful. Take Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz. He’d lost more than $500,000 in a failed consultancy business until he realized his mistake – surrounding himself with “yes men” and not getting input from people with alternate points of view. Then, there’s Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently – his mistake was thinking he could do it all himself. Once he hired people whose skills complemented his own, his business took off.
If You Burned Your Hand on a Hot Stove…
…you’d learn that you need an oven mitt. At least you would if you didn’t want to get burned a second time. Einstein was right when he quipped, “Insanity Is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He knew what he was talking about – after all, his first job was as a patent clerk.
The difference between successful and unsuccessful people isn’t that the former don’t make mistakes while the latter do. It’s that successful people learn from their mistakes and adopt new approaches.
Here are 4 common mistakes startup businesses make, and how to learn from them:
1. Not Having a Solid Business Plan
Launching your new business without a plan is like driving from New York to Los Angeles without a map or GPS – you’re going to get lost and waste a lot of time. Your business plan is the engine that fuels growth. It needs a detailed description of your organizational structure, a thorough marketing analysis, a description of your products and services (and how they benefit people), and solid financial projections. If you make the mistake of launching without a plan, it’s not too late. Sit down with a trusted consultant or a knowledgeable colleague and draft your plan now.
2. Not Setting Realistic and Well-Considered Goals
Telling someone that you’re successful begs the question, “based on what?” Success is a function of the goals you set and your ability to achieve them. Success means different things to different people, but it’s always based on goal-setting.
Setting realistic goals means more than projecting annual revenues in 5 years or 10. It requires a good deal of introspection about what you want your life to be like in the future. For example, a recent study from Strayer University found that, for more than 90% of Americans, success has more to do with achieving happiness than making money or being famous.
Setting goals for your business is one component of setting goals for your life. If you achieve your initial business goals but are unhappy, it’s eventually going to hurt your business. If you make the mistake of setting goals which are too narrow, take the time to think carefully about what it will really take to make you happy, and integrate that into your goal set. It will help you achieve personal fulfillment, and it will help you grow your business.
3. Trying to Cut Costs by Going It Alone
There’s a reason you do to a doctor rather than diagnosing yourself, or hire a lawyer if you need sound legal advice – they know more than you do about medicine and law. The same applies to business. Most businesspeople don’t understand inbound marketing, or tax law, or IT infrastructure. If you think your new business is a DIY project, you’re going to make mistakes, and some of those can be costly.
If you make the mistake of trying to cut costs by being chief marketing, financial or information officer while also running your business and suffer losses as a result, learn from that mistake. Hire the people, both internal and external, you need to make your business work and grow.
4. Not Jumping in All the Way
If you leave a 9 to 5 job to start your own business, you can’t expect to continue working 9 to 5. You need to fix problems when they occur. If one of your employees calls at 2 a.m. to tell you your computers just crashed, or that a vendor is on the phone telling him that critical supplies are going to be delivered a week late, you can’t tell him to “handle it” and go back to sleep.
If you make the mistake of thinking you can run your business on the fly, it’s time to reassess your assumptions. Make a firm commitment to do whatever it takes to make your business a success or get out now.
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