Although starting a business will undoubtedly be hard work, it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures of your life—if you can avoid these crippling startup mistakes. You get to bring your ideas to life. Build your team and structure your business any way you wish.
However, since building a business is new to you, learning from the business mistakesother entrepreneurs have made in the past can help save you a lot of time and frustration for the weeks, months and years to come.
You're not alone either. Some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs—ranging from Richard Branson to Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and more, have made massive missteps along their path to eventual success. It's only through learning from their mistakes and heeding the advice of other more experienced mentors that they were able to eventually achieve their biggest goals.
From my own experience and that of others, here are the 8 biggest, most avoidable startup mistakes that many entrepreneurs continue to make when building a new business.
1. Trying to Do Everything Yourself
There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, which is absolutely necessary to performing at peak levels, the reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. Although being a one-person-show may be a functional necessity in the beginning, you may want to consider delegating simple tasks to a small team of contract workers who can help lighten your load—and free up more of your time for focusing on the activities only you can do within your business.
Delegating can be a challenge, though. Others may not perform tasks the same way you would, but sometimes that’s okay. For example, you may like to move the furniture in the office when you vacuum, but your employees don’t. You need to ask yourself if delegating the task of vacuuming and allowing a little more dust to accumulate behind the printer is worth freeing up some of your time so you can focus on more important things.
2. Not Enforcing Accountability or Punctuality
If you’ve ever had a team member or contract employee consistently show up late to meetings and you’ve never held them accountable, you’re telling the rest of your team that it’s acceptable to always be late. That's a dangerous precedent to set.
Many business owners don’t want to be the “bad guy” and enforce punctuality or accountability, but those are the cornerstones for a growing successful business with people who feel responsible to deliver results across the company. Consistently being late shows people that you are unreliable and have no respect for yourself or other people’s time. If you’re an entrepreneur trying to grow a team that's invested in the future of your company, be sure to set the standard for your employees so they have an example to model from.
3. Starting a Business You Have No Genuine Interest In
No matter how much time and energy you put into your business, if you’re not truly interested in what you do—the problem you're solving, the people you're helping—you won’t get very far. You have to care deeply about what you're creatingand who you're building it for, in order to push past the inevitable obstacles that'll come your way as an entrepreneur.
If you’ve ever wondered why entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Perry Marshall are extremely successful, it’s not because they found a winning formula and they certainly didn't just get lucky one day. They've accomplished incredible feats and changed industries because they fundamentally care about what their businesses are helping their customers do on a daily basis. If you want to be successful, you have to be deeply involved with your customers.
4. Becoming Too Absorbed in the Details
Details can be important, but there is a point when you need to accept the fact that perfect isn't worth it, in order to move forward and continue making progress with your business. In the beginning, your business is not going to be perfect, and you’ll be working out the kinks even with fundamentals for a while as you get comfortable with the niche you're operating in and the customers you're working with.
If you get stuck trying to perfect something before you can further develop your business and make sure you're solving real problems your customers actually have, you’ll never get anywhere. There are of course some details that can't be skipped when it comes to your finances, sales funnels, lead capturing and customer relations. But if you’re a startup and you’re postponing designing your website because you can’t decide between two shades of blue for your typography, it would serve you well to make any choice for the short-term, move forward with designing your website and revisit your colors later when it's the right time to care about a decision like that (hint: that probably won't be for many years).
5. Building an Expensive Website on Day One
Speaking of building websites, the last thing you want to do as a startup is spend a lot of time and money building a fancy, flashy website before you even know exactly how to best serve your customers. One of the best early decisions you can make as an entrepreneur is to launch a basic website in the beginning so people have a way to learn about your product or service and contact you. That's it.
Here's why: If your business is still being developed and you invest a ton of your time and financial resources into building your ultimate website before your business is even out into the marketplace, you’ll just end up having to redo the majority of your work anyway. The reality of starting a business is that some of your assumptions will be incorrect—you'll have to grow, adapt and change in order to best meet the needs of your customers.
6. Consistently Rebranding a Product That Isn’t Selling
This is the biggest startup mistake you can make as an entrepreneur. You may have seen this happen with other people’s products. Something isn’t selling, so they change the name and put it in a new package. It still doesn’t sell.
If you have a product that isn’t selling very well regardless of how you package it, it may not be your product that is the problem. You’re either marketing a perfectly good product to the wrong people, or you’re marketing to the right people in the wrong way—there could be something wrong with your pricing, the value propositions you're pitching or otherwise.
No matter how much you like the clever name you came up with, if your product or service doesn’t appeal to your target market, they won’t buy it. It takes time to have conversations with real customers, gather a significant amount of customer data, interpret that data, and do a great job of defining your target audience, but it is worth the effort. You don't immediately launch perfect solutions—you have to work with your target customers to create the best version of what they need.
7. Taking on Unnecessary Expenses
It’s a luxury to have an office, a new computer, a fax machine, and a double monitor setup. But that doesn’t mean you need these things in the beginning. If you're starting up by yourself or you only have a few employees and they are happy to work remotely from home, then it doesn’t make sense to incur the additional costs of renting an office space.
If your current computer setup is perfectly functional, you don’t need to replace it just yet. All of the goodies you want to purchase will come in time, but in the beginning it’s smart to be frugal and only spend money on activities that have a direct positive return in terms of new revenue coming into the company.
8. Allowing Employees to Use Personal Laptops for Work
While many businesses do this, there are quite a few cons to this practice. Allowing your employees to primarily use their own personal laptops for work means that they'll accumulate passwords, save sensitive documents and other materials belonging to the business that they'll have access to when they eventually leave the company.
Turning the Mistakes of Others Into Wisdom
While making mistakes can be beneficial at times (if you truly retain the important lessons), you don’t have to experience them all yourself.
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to build a solid foundation for your business, work directly with your customers to create meaningful solutions for them and heed the wisdom from others who've forged their own path of entrepreneurship, you’ll be successful with your startup.