If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, congratulations! Starting a new business is an awesome and exciting experience.
But, like anything else, there’s a learning curve to entrepreneurship—you’re likely to make some mistakes along the way.
Luckily, there are plenty who have gone before you and made a lot of errors. We thought we’d save you the trouble of having to experience them yourself by sharing the 10 most common mistakes made by brand new entrepreneurs:
1. They try to do it all alone
One of the hallmark mistakes of starting a new business is trying to do everything alone.
For entrepreneurs, especially new entrepreneurs, your business can feel a lot like your baby. And just like it’s hard to pass your newborn baby off to a babysitter so you can go enjoy some grown-up time, it can be hard to pass responsibilities for your business off to other people.
What ends up happening when you try to do everything yourself is that some things simply don’t get done. No matter how much of a rockstar you are, you alone aren’t enough to get a successful and profitable business off the ground. As they say, “it takes a village.” If you try to do it without the village, you’ll find yourself curled in a ball under your desk, completely overwhelmed and cursing the day you ever decided to start a business.
If you don’t think ahead and build a reliable team, that day will come way sooner than you think.
If you want your business to be successful, you need to figure out where you’re best suited. Are you the big-picture strategy thinker? Do you want to run operations or marketing? Figure out the primary thing you want to manage for your business, then build an awesome team to handle the rest.
2. They insist on designing all the things … even if they’ve never used Photoshop
Building on the last point, for whatever reason, so many brand new entrepreneurs think they need to steer the design ship for their business. But the only way you should steer the design ship for your business is if you’re a designer.
Let’s repeat that one more time: you should only be steering the design ship for your business is if you’re a designer.
Your brand design is so important. Things like your logo, web design, marketing materials and packaging—these are the elements that make up your brand identity and play an immeasurable role in how you’re perceived in the market. If your design looks sloppy and unprofessional, guess what? People (including potential investors and customers) will think your business is sloppy and unprofessional, too.
When it comes to design for your business, leave it to the professionals. Hiring a designer with experience in bringing a brand to life will help you create a professional image that will wow investors and customers alike.
Now, just because you’re hiring a designer doesn’t mean you can’t influence the direction your brand design takes. A great designer will be able to work with you, listen to your vision for the brand, and translate your feedback into awesome design collateral, like a killer logo or irresistible app.
Look for a designer with an aesthetic that matches what you’re looking for, who also has a ton of experience in branding and logo design. Then, work with him or her to bring your vision for your brand to life.
3. They try to do too much, too soon
Expansion is awesome, but as a brand new entrepreneur, when it comes to growth, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
Let’s look at Coolest Cooler as an example. Coolest Cooler is a Portland-based business that launched a Kickstarter campaign in July, 2014 to raise funding to produce their (admittedly awesome) coolers. They asked the Kickstarter community to donate $185 in exchange for a Coolest Cooler, which was set to be delivered in early 2015.
They reached their $50,000 fundraising goal in less than 36 hours. But it’s everything that happened after they hit that goal that should be viewed as a cautionary tale for all entrepreneurs.
Instead of capping their donations and stopping at a point where they could reasonably fulfill orders, they continued to accept pledges from excited customers, eventually breaking Kickstarter’s fundraising record with a whopping $13.2 million donated by over 60,000 customers.
The problem? The Coolest Cooler team had no infrastructure in place to mass produce over 60,000 coolers in a few short months. They tried to do too much, too fast, and the results were disastrous.
Production got backed up and Coolest Cooler wasn’t able to deliver their products as promised in early 2015. Constant delays kept pushing back delivery. Then, they brought the coolers to market before they fulfilled their promises to Kickstarter backers, causing an uproar. Eventually, in 2016, more than a year after promised delivery, they made Kickstarter pledges pay an additional $97 in order to get their coolers before summer. In the end, they ended up being investigated by the state of Oregon in response to the hundreds of customer complaints about the Kickstarter debacle.
Moral of the story: scaling too fast is a death sentence for a new company. When it comes to scaling, it’s like the hare and the tortoise: slow and steady wins the race. Don’t try to sell a million units if you can’t produce and ship a million units. Don’t hire 500 customer service reps if you don’t have the money to pay them. Grow at a natural, steady pace. If you try to get there too fast, you won’t get there at all.
4. They stop growing and learning
The world of business is an ever-evolving place. There are always new strategies to learn, new tools to master, new techniques to test. And the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who maintain a student mentality; they want to grow their business, but they know in order to do that, they need to grow right along with it.
Whether it’s because they’re overwhelmed with everything they need to do or a taste of success has them feeling like “I got this,” so many new entrepreneurs make the mistake of putting learning on the backburner. They give up their student mentality in exchange for an “I’m the boss” hat and their business suffers.
Don’t be that person. If you want your business to be successful, you have to be real about the fact that there are many things you just don’t know yet, and you need to remain open to learning those things. Learning is the key to growth, and the second you stop learning is when you — and your business — stop evolving.
5. They don’t know who they are — or who they want to be
A huge mistake made by many brand new entrepreneurs is launching their brand before they know what their brand really is.
If you want your brand to be successful, you need to have a clear idea of who you are, what you’re about, and who you serve. Your brand identity is what’s going to create the connection with the customers you need to catapult your business to success.
If you have no idea what that identity is, you’re not going to connect with anyone. No one wants to connect with a company whose identity boils down to “Well, I’m not sure who I am or what I’m about… but buy my stuff anyway!”
Before you launch any business venture, it’s important that you lock in who you are as a brand. If you’re feeling a little lost on your brand identity, it can be helpful to ask yourself some exploratory questions, like:
- What is our company’s mission?
- What are our company’s brand values?
- Who is our ideal customer?
- How do we want to be perceived in the market?
- What sets us apart from our competition?
- Why should our customers work with us over all the other available options?
- What is our customer’s biggest problem, and how does our product/service solve it?
- What kind of voice does our brand have?
The answers to these questions (and questions like it) can help you get to know your brand better and that knowledge will help you have a significantly more successful launch.
6. They hire people they like — instead of people they need
Look, we get it—it’s fun to work with people you like. Who doesn’t want to work with someone who’s fun and awesome and “like, totally gets me?”
There’s nothing wrong with hiring likeable people who are a great fit for your company culture. But a major mistake a lot of brand new entrepreneurs make is that they hire people they like instead of hiring people they need.
Your business isn’t going to get off the ground if you hire your friend who failed Composition 101 to write your website copy instead of a professional copywriter or a designer who made you laugh in the interview (but has terrible samples) instead of someone who has the design chops you need.
If you want your business to be successful, you need to build a team of people who are awesome at what they do. Yes, it would be great if you liked them, but if you make that the first (and only) criteria when hiring, you’re going to end up with a team of people you really like, who can’t do the work you need them to do.
7. They keep too tight a hold on their wallet …
Building a business costs money and a lot of brand new entrepreneurs are terrified to spend it.
To avoid doing so, they cut corners and pinch pennies and then are totally shocked when their product launch flops—even though they didn’t spend a dollar on ads.
8… Or they spend like it’s going out of style
On the flip side, there are also plenty of brand new entrepreneurs who spend money like they’re trying to land a spot on “Rich Kids of Instagram.” They spend money like it’s going out of style, building state-of-the-art corporate headquarters with a keg-o-rater at every station or booking private jets to take their investors to Vegas. And they always seem to be surprised when their company goes under.
You don’t want to be either of these people. If you don’t spend enough money and invest in things like product development, marketing, or advertising, you’ll never get your business off the ground. But if you spend too much money on things you don’t need, like a high-tech office or expensive team outings, you’ll run your business into the ground before you even get started.
When it comes to spending money on your business, think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: you don’t want to spend too much, you don’t want to spend too little—when it comes to spending, you want things to be “just right.”
9. They don’t solve a problem (or the right problem)
Your customers have a problem. Your company presents a solution to said problem.
When you really get down to it, that’s the point of starting a business. You’re solving a problem.
But a reason that a lot of new businesses, and new entrepreneurs, fail is that they don’t actually solve a problem. Or they’re solving the wrong problem.
If you want to find success as a new entrepreneur, you need to get really clear on a) the problem your customer is having, and b) how your product or service solves that problem. Without that clarity, you might build a business that doesn’t actually offer any solutions to your customers — or offers a solution they’re not looking for. Either way, your business fails.
10. They let fear run the show
Starting a business is super exciting, but it can also be scary. While a bit of fear and anxiety is totally normal, healthy even, allowing fear to run the show is like boarding an express train to Mistake-ville.
Starting and operating a successful business requires a certain amount of risk. If you’re not willing to take risks, you’ll never reap the rewards. If you’re paralyzed by fear – fear of making mistakes, fear of running out of money, fear of all the things that might go wrong – you’ll never be able to make the decisions you need to make to take your business to the next level.
It’s ok to be afraid. It’s not ok to let fear stop you from making the right decisions for your business. You’ve got to be brave. In the immortal words of John Wayne, “courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
There’s no way around it — as a new entrepreneur, you’re going to mess up. But now that you know the 10 most common mistakes made by new entrepreneurs, at least you can avoid these mistakes.