Entrepreneurs can all relate to the fact that it is difficult to navigate uncharted territory in the business world. Putting yourself out there and taking on all the risks associated with launching a startup isn’t easy.
You’re only human, and you will make mistakes in the process of building your business—so don’t beat yourself up about it. However, it can be helpful to learn about the most common errors and misjudgments that other entrepreneurs have made, so you can avoid them. Watch out in particular for the following missteps.
1. Misjudging the learning curve of a new industry
The nature of your startup and your own experience in the industry will determine the necessary homework required to make a successful entry into the market. Entrepreneurs often overestimate what they know about a new industry they’re entering—especially if they’ve founded other startups in related fields. However, aspects of business you may have thought were universal—for example, software development life cycles, sales timelines, and supply chain logistics—can prove to be particular to an industry, and not relevant or accurate in your new field. Stay humble and be open to learning from those who are more experienced than you.
2. Creating a business without consumer feedback
One of the biggest pitfalls an entrepreneur faces is launching their product or service without having any concrete data on how it will fare. The antidote to this mistake simply involves running ideas past the target audience early and often. Market research and product testing allow business leaders to refine their model to meet consumer expectations, and improve their chances of success once the company officially takes off.
3. Complicating a product or service
Dreaming up a new business can be a lot of fun, but trying to put it in action all at once, or at least up front, is more complicated. Entrepreneurs will find that creating a new product with too many components or options—or too many separate products—almost always hinders progress. In fact, introducing too much at once will likely confuse consumers and hamper your ability to develop a strong, cogent brand identity. Startup leaders should instead focus on what they do best and build from there.
4. Putting personal bias into marketing
With a new business, chances are high that the entrepreneur either has some personal connection to the product or a deep belief in its potential for success. This is absolutely critical for the startup’s success, but the marketing of a product shouldn’t hinge on what the entrepreneur thinks is the most notable aspect of it. Instead, startups should market their products in a way that meshes with what their customers want and that demonstrates how the product can solve customers’ problems. Believing in a product gets the ball rolling, but convincing others on their own terms is the only way to keep it going.
5. Losing focus because of the competition
A key trait of successful entrepreneurs is the ability to focus on the important things. Too often, however, startup leaders begin to worry about moves their competitors take and lose sight of their own position in the market. Entrepreneurs should never ignore the competition, but at a certain point, it becomes necessary to let go of what we can’t control.
6. Neglecting to delegate
Another crucial part of letting go of things out of one’s control involves delegating. Yet the appeal of running a one-person show has thwarted many a startup. Entrepreneurs get a 24-hour day just like everyone else, which means that it’s critical to decide how to maximize that time. The advantages of letting others take on some responsibilities are countless, and they include everything from smoother operations to better mental health.
7. Overlooking the fundamentals
Even with the right focus and delegation, entrepreneurs may still struggle with making time for the basic fundamentals that a company needs to function. The natural tendency of business leaders is to want to take care of those tasks commonly associated with the position, such as being in the spotlight and making big strategic decisions. However, equally important are the small details that don’t carry the same glamour.
8. Halting personal education
A mistake related to inadequate preparation is overlooking the importance of continuing learning and education. For entrepreneurs, the solution may come in the form of books, executive business courses, working with a mentor, or a combination of all these approaches. The best business leaders invest in themselves, take notes and ask questions, and build up support systems for learning.
9. Becoming impatient with the process
Of all the many uncertainties they deal with, entrepreneurs must wrestle with not knowing if or how soon their business will take off. There is no real timetable for a startup, since by definition, you’re attempting something that hasn’t been done before in the exact way you’re doing it, even if you’re in a crowded market. Thus, patience and endurance rank at the top of the list of characteristics entrepreneurs must develop.
10. Fearing failure
Closely related but worth a separate mention is the fear of failure. Entrepreneurs will find failure to be an inherent part of getting a business up and running. Not even the biggest companies reached their status without a few hiccups. Embracing the reality and benefits of failure will greatly aid entrepreneurs.