10 Mistakes That I Could Have Easily Avoided With My Startup (…and 10 Solutions Too!)
I have learned the hard way that entrepreneurship is a tricky journey that requires both patience and determination in overcoming obstacles, in order to achieve forward progress. The allure for me has always been the uncapped earning potential, involvement with truly meaningful work, and most importantly, control over my time. Remember that if this were easy, everyone would do it and I assure you that they are not.
If you currently are or have considered traveling the same path, perhaps this guide will save you a ton of time and money. Most people who think about becoming entrepreneurs never actually take action because of the fear of failure and their own limiting beliefs. For those who decide to the test the waters of starting a business, a significant majority of the people fail within a few short years. My sincere hope is that this information will minimize the chances of that happening to you.
If you are considering a startup of your own or if you have one already, this resources was crafted especially for you. This world needs more independent thinkers who are willing to take risks and disrupt mainstream thinking, with the hope of a better outcome. Congrats on taking another small step towards a better future!
Here are 10 mistakes that I made and could have easily avoided:
Mistake #1 – Seeking advice from friends and family who have never built a business themselves.
I know that this is an extremely common mistake that a lot of new entrepreneurs make. It seems like the logical choice to seek approval from your parents and your best friend because we often go to them for most significant matters in our lives.
This is one scenario in which this is a terrible idea!
There are three types of people that you will encounter. The first are bystanders that will offer you nothing at all. The second are like boat anchors because they prevent you upward movement and can move you even lower. The final group consists of the minority, but these are the uplifters. This final group is full of people that you want to be around. Family and close friends who have spent their whole lives as employees, primarily make up the first two groups.
Would you go to a butcher to get lessons on flying a plane? Who you seek punctuation and grammar advice from a baby? Do you call your plumber and describe your symptoms when you are sick? I think you see my point with this and I hope you appreciate the comic relief. If someone has not been successful in the area in which you seek guidance, they are not allowed to have an opinion. Plain and simple. Accept it and move on to someone else who can speak positively from actual experience.
Another problem with seeking advice from these folks is that there tends to be a lot of negativity from them. For a majority of them, their heart is probably in the right place and they believe than inaction equates to your safety, somehow. Some of these people will not support your ideas and will become some of your worst critics for reasons that only they understand.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #1:
This mistake can be easily avoided by seeking out the right people. Asking the right questions to a qualified group of people is the only feedback that should truly matter to you. Find successful people in your niche and study how they do things. Look at their website, watch their social channels, and learn as much as you can about their journey to success. I strongly encourage you to reach out to them too. What is the worst that could happen?
- Seek the right people
- Watch those more successful than you
- Contact those who have made the journey from where you are to where you want to go
Mistake #2 – Failing to focus on sales more than anything else.
Brand new entrepreneurs frequently fall victim to running out of money. Believe me friends, this is not hard to do at all! You will burn through your savings (hopefully you have some) and any earnings that you are lucky enough to generate at a rate much higher than you plan, when you are trying to get started.
Do yourself a favor and pursue a few income streams from the beginning to increase your odds of survival. This could be a few different products and/or services as an example. This is also why a “side hustle” is another great idea. Initially, I ignored this this opportunity and it came back to haunt me later as depleted my savings to literally nothing.
Designing a website is fun and setting up your social media, but you need to spend a majority of your time pursuing clients and chasing down leads. It takes money to host your website, so without income you won’t have that hosting plan long.
Hint: If your “business” generates no income, you actually just have an expensive hobby!
Solution – How to avoid mistake #2:
This mistake is a real killer of new startups, so please avoid this scenario at all costs. I strongly recommend saving all of the money that you can, reducing your monthly expenses, AND looking at starting as a side hustle. The idea here is to slow the drain of your financial resources while you build up your cash flow stream. The hardest part with anything is getting starting, so be prepared to grind until you can grind no more….then grind a little more.
Sales at this point in the game is straight up business development. Rejection comes with the territory, but don’t get discouraged. It is a numbers game, so the more you try the more you will fail….and succeed.
- Save your money and reduce your spending
- Side hustle your startup when you are getting started
- Selling is a numbers game, so keep going no matter what
Mistake #3 – Failing to know exactly what I wanted.
Do you know what you want? I mean, exactly. I originally knew the general direction that I wanted to head and this led to a vague vision and even vaguer goals. What a waste of my time! Learn from my mistake and please don’t waste your time.
You should know what your life will look like when you get to the place that you want to go. How will it feel? This is another question that you should know the answer too. Once you have narrowly defined what you want, you will start being more intentional and precise with your actions. I found that this is a never ending, evolving process.
If you aim small, you will also miss small, but don’t be scared to aim really, really high. This is also known as knowing your “why.” If you don’t know your reason for everything that you are trying to do, you may give up when things get really tough. This is what happened to me when I made my big jump from the corporate world into full time entrepreneurship….and I lived to tell about it!
Do you know your why?
If not, that’s okay but I strongly recommend figuring that our before going any further. It is a foundational belief that everything else you do depends on, so it better be strong and personally convicting to you.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #3:
Start with “why” and stop worrying about “how.” Why do want to work for yourself? What are you hoping to accomplish? What would it mean for you and your family if you were able to achieve this goal of entrepreneurship? What would your life look like in the future if you didn’t take a chance on your own startup?
Do you understand the why now? Failures will come hard and often if you are really stretching your comfort zone. When logic and the support of other leaves you, the “why” is all you have left. When your pain of not pursuing your startup becomes greater than your fear of failure, you will be on your way.
- Aim small, miss small on what you are pursuing
- Start with “why” and everything else will fall into place
- Consider your future pain and regret for not trying your hand at a startup
Mistake #4 – I thought hard work was enough to make me successful.
Although hard work is required for success, it is not enough by itself. Mindset is another HUGE piece to this puzzle. Once I believed in my vision and abilities, I was on my way. The challenge is overcoming the thinking that most of us have. I realized that my only real competition was myself and that nagging voice within.
I have since replaced the nagging one with a more positive voice and this can change the game for you too! Once I was able to turn the fear into fuel, I felt unstoppable (and still feel this way to this day). I also feel worthy of the success that I will achieve! This is very important in regard to the level of success that you will rise to.
Some more traditional contributing factors for success are worth mentioning here now as well. I found out that you need focus, strategy, persistence, and unwavering resilience to prepare with all of the failures that lead up to your eventual success. Although hard work is a component of success, it doesn’t get you there on it’s own.
Did you also think that hard work was enough to make you successful?
Success is literally the completion of the goals that you set out for yourself. You will need to figure out what you want and then put a plan together to get there. Easier said than done, I assure you. Success is not an accident and it requires a solid, executable plan to make it happen. If you have never considered this before, the solution that follows may be helpful to you.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #4:
The easiest way to see what it takes to be successful is by looking at the path of those who have come before you. Why waste your precious time and money trying to reinvent the wheel when it clearly has been done before? You also need to develop habits of success. Here is an easy framework to use to develop new habits. This starts with the end in mind and forces you to work backwards to the point of daily goals.
Choose a 90 day goal
Develop (3) 30 day goals that are going to make you reach your 90 day goal:
1.) Goal #1
2.) Goal #2
3.) Goal #3
For each of the 30 day periods, work backward to determine what you need to accomplish each week, to reach those goals. From here take each week as a goal and then you can determine the daily habits needed to reach of these goals.
From a high level, there is a framework that you can use to see what you need to do today to hit a bigger goal 90 days out. The consistent application of your goals is required to make any of this work out for you. Working with an experienced coach can help you to develop the goals and fill in all of the blanks leading up to those milestones. A good coach will also help you stay accountable to yourself too.
- Hard work alone isn’t enough to make you successful
- You must believe that you are capable and worthy of success before you can pursue it effectively
- Get a 90 day goal strategy together
Mistake #5 – I thought that coaching and mentoring were unnecessary for me.
I am great at seeing opportunities within other entrepreneurs, but I have found that I am not so good at an honest “self assessment.” When I finally found a few people that I felt could really help me challenge me, I started encouraging them to give me feedback. This has only made me stronger and sharper in everything that I do. I was overlooking some areas that I am very strong in and totally not taking advantage of those skills. Other people pointed them out to me and helped me realize that I had more to offer. Again, I wouldn’t have caught onto this on my own.
Everyone who is serious about their own success needs coaches, mentors or advisers in their corner. This is true for athletes, actors, vocalists, and entrepreneurs too. They will help you see in yourself, what others see in you. For whatever reason, some of our talents and opportunities remain hidden from our own view. The additional perspective will only become a competitive advantage for you. You will find that coaches and mentors will also become accountability partners who can push you, to help you rise up to your potential.
Don’t hold yourself back by being too proud or too busy for personalized collaboration. At the end of the day, being stubborn only holds you back when there is an opportunity on the line. I am in a Mastermind group, which involves regular meetings with other like minded high achievers. This is a form of mentoring that I personally use and I coach other startup entrepreneurs myself.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #5:
As soon as you finish reading this resource, seek out like minded people who you can network with and learn from. This could be a LinkedIn group, a local group in your area, or you can form your own. I would also also make a point to seek out a mentor who is doing some things well that you aspire to do also. I mentor a few people and enjoy giving back to the journey, so I am sure that there are others out there willing to do the same. I connected with my own mentor when I got serious about entrepreneurship and it will save you some time and offers a fantastic support system.
I would also strongly suggest seeking out personalized coaching if you are serious about doing something with your business idea or existing startup. Getting someone on your team who eats, sleeps, and drinks the grind 24/7 is going to be an asset to you. I find that most people are unwilling to invest into a proven coaching framework, but they will gladly spend the same amount of money on disposable, recreational fun. Then when return to their life they still complain about their situation.
Learn from my mistake here and make the effort to research mentor and coach options as one of the first things that you do. The return of the investment of your time, will far exceed many other things that you can do with your money as it relates to your business.
- Find a Mastermind group, startup networking group, or start your own
- Make the effort to talk to a coach about your startup business and your goals
- Surround yourself with uplifting people that will support you on your journey
Mistake #6 – I tried to be great at everything.
This is not necessary at all and the results were beyond frustrating. I know now that I am really good at a few things and average or worse in other areas. I think that everyone can say the same thing about themselves too. I have learned that it is a better use of my time to play to my strengths and focus on going from good to great, in those areas.
Surround yourself with others that have a different skill set than you. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn, because I am stubborn and too prideful sometimes. I have wasted so much time with this, but the lesson has been worth its weight in gold.
Do you struggle with this too? I think everyone on the planet does.
Now that I have delegated some responsibilities, I am much happier and I have more time to do what I do best. It’s a wonderful thing and only requires a small leap of faith to get this rolling. Think about this now and look into some options for outsourcing some of the tasks that you are weak in. Sites like fiverr.com and Upwork.com are great sites for this and I have used both with success. I wish someone would have presented this to me before I started trying to build my brand out of nothing. It is a huge waste of time trying to do it all and I promise that you will not like the results. If you consider yourself a perfectionist, you really will not like the outcome! Someone reading this needed to hear that, I am certain of it!
Solution – How to avoid mistake #6:
I am going to reiterate this point and I need you to remember this. Play to your strengths and hire other people to help you where you are weak. If you are thinking about traditional employees and you are wondering how you are going to afford to pay them, stop it. Location independant contractors are the way to go and sites like Upwork.com are the way to go. Sometimes you need to take a few steps backward, in order to take a single step in the right direction.
This concept took a while for me to embrace, honestly. I did not understand how paying other people could help me make forward progress when I wasn’t making a lot of money. The secret lies in what you can accomplish with your newly available time. I think that you also need to focus on making your strengths even stronger. This is the idea of going from good to great.
Personal development is a necessary investment of your time and money. I intake my personal development from a variety of sources. I enjoy podcasts, books, and blogs and everyone kind of has their preferences here. A lot of people want to read, for example, but they have no idea where to start or what type of book to grab next. I created a monthly book club for this exact reason, but that is just an example for you to think about.
- Play to your strengths, outsource the rest
- Focus on taking your strengths from good to great
- Explore books, podcast, and blogs for your own personal development
Mistake #7 – I failed to set a limited number of crystal clear, daily goals.
My daily goals were once vague and overwhelming. This often left me feeling further behind than I was before I completed them. In addition to this, I had far too many of the goals on my list, in a given day. This led to me frequently failing to get them all done. I finally figured out that I wasn’t making enough progress to justify my endless exhaustion and fatigue. I have since simplified and clarified my daily goals to focus on specific content creation, products, and clearly defined personal development activities.
As the weeks go by now, I can see my forward progress and I still have some sense of balance in my life. I promise that this is the way to go. Experience is undeniably the most valuable learning tool that we have available to us. It can come at a price though, whether financially or in terms of your time. All of these shortcomings have been blessings and have taught me critical lessons along the way. I can honestly say that I am better positioned now that I was one short year ago.
What does all of this mean for you?
You have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and save yourself money, time and frustration. The choice is yours and you are ultimately the creator of your own experience in life. You will get out of life, what you contribute to your life. It boils down to perspective and your tolerance for operating outside of your comfort zone.
In some ways, this mistake is an expansion of mistake #4 from above. Try setting achievable goals, so that you can frequently get wins. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business be. If you set super aggressive daily goals that you frequently miss, it will destroy your motivation and then you will be dead in the water.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #7
Try choosing 5 goals a day to strive for and reach. I am a fan of 7 day a week goals, not 5 because you lose momentum. On the weekends, maybe you shoot for 2 or 3 to help carry your momentum into Monday. Remember that your daily goals should move you closer to accomplishing weekly goals. Then from there, your weekly goals will position you to reach your monthly goals (short range) and 90 day goals (medium range).
Here is a simple example of what this may look like:
Monday through Friday:
- Read 10 pages
- Workout for 30 minutes
- Reach out to 10 potential clients
- Work on social media follower growth
- Work on special projects, items for sale, etc.
Saturday and Sunday:
- Read 15 pages
- Misc prep for the next week
What would your world look like if you did the above plan for just 30 days? You would read at least a book a month for personal development and get into shape. You would also grow your client base and increase your reach on social media.
- Choose 5 daily goals or less to get frequent wins
- You must take action daily
- Set goals 7 days a week, instead of just 5 days
Mistake #8 – I failed to take care of my mind and my body.
This is a mistake that I have made over and over again. It’s easy to do for a night owl like me. I would work a full time job, spend time as a father and a husband, and then grind at night until the wee hours of the morning. It seems like a solid plan since most side hustles sound something like this, but ignoring sleep and a fitness plan is a big mistake. Sleep allows the mind to sort through everything that you have done and you regain clarity after you get adequate rest. I shoot for 6 to 7 hours a night and anything less than 5 is rough and less than 4 is insane.
If so, I strongly suggest that you plan your time better and have a hard stopping time each day or night, depending on how you work. When we are rested, you get more out of your time too. It requires less time and effort when rested than it does to complete something when you are completely exhausted. I speak from a ton of experience here. Learn from me and don’t follow in my old footsteps here.
Having some kind of a fitness plan is really essential too. If doesn’t have to be anything crazy regular exercise and weight training can offer you benefits far beyond what you would think. When you start working out consistently, you will start to eat better too which will help your working performance and the quality of your sleep. Sleep, physical health, and eating properly are all tied together and this is an area that you will want to have in check if you hope for any chance of success with your startup.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #8
This is a mistake that is easy to avoid. Make getting sleep, eating right, and working out a priority. Launching and growing a startup is hard enough as it is, so there is no reason for you to stack the odds against yourself. I have found that it all begins and ends with sleep. If you don’t get regular and quality sleep, the other two areas do not matter as much. Think of sleep as foundational for your level of success because it is.
Once you get your snoozing habits in check, work some raw fruits and vegetables into your daily meals along with lots of water. This is an easy step in the right direction with eating healthier and I know that you will enjoy the boost in energy that follows as well. I am not an expert in dieting or exercise science, but I don’t think that anyone would disagree with these tips.
A workout plan can be as simple as walking, jogging, pushups, crunches, and flexibility movements. If you add a chair and some adjustable dumbbells, you can actually do a lot in the way of workout variety. This is my preferred equipment list and the cost is minimal. Although this is a good starting point, I believe in the value that a qualified personal trainer can provide you with too.
Take a look and research the most successful people in your niche and I bet you will find that they have a focus on taking care of their mind and body as well. You simply cannot ignore this area and expect a good outcome.
- Get 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night
- Make a point to eat raw vegetables, fruits, and consume more water
- Incorporate a daily exercise and/or workout into your plan
Mistake #9 – I failed to conduct market research before launching products and offering services.
I had always been an “instincts” guy with all things that I do. I mean that I trust my gut when making decisions and I even once argued that this was all that was needed to be successful with product launches, etc. I always talked with other people who believed in looking at what the data shows, but I remained steadfast in my belief that none of that applied to me.
Nothing like a failed product launch will get your attention more quickly. Read that line again and learn from my pain. When you invest money and time into a product that you build off of a gut instinct and nothing happens if will force you to evaluate the effectiveness of your methods. This was my personal experience anyway. I started to realize that selling a process was not what everyone else wanted. Some people want to buy a solution. An example is an entrepreneur that invests into a startup coach with the expectation of making measurable progress and breaking through barriers.
There are a lot of free tools available to help with researching the need for a product or service. Social media is another platform that will prove to be useful with this. I learned from my own experience that it is not about what I want, but rather what my audience wants. Gut instincts cannot tell you this, but data sure can point you in the right direction. The time, cost, and effort that you spend in proactive market research will be minimal in comparison to what you can expend in a completely flopped effort. Trust me here.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #9
Instincts are still something that I pay close attention to, but not for products or services anymore. I think instincts backed by data can be extremely powerful though because this combination offers validation. Use a tool like surveymonkey to create a poll with a few questions or less and share on all of your social channels. It can be hard to get participation, so I have found that shorter surveys work better. It is also wise to bounce your ideas off your Mastermind group, mentors, and your startup coach.
Another tip that I will offer is to watch and emulate others who have done something similar if you can see evidence of success. Someone else may have already done what you have done, but not in your voice or with your unique style. That is the key right there. Use your uniqueness to your advantage and give your audience what they want.
- Use surkeymonkey.com or something similar to create a poll
- Run your ideas past your peers, mentors, and startup coaches
- Focus on delivering a result, not a process
Mistake #10 – Personal development wasn’t part of my daily ritual.
Once upon a time, I did read anything and had never heard of a podcast. So what? I found that after receiving my Master’s degree that I had stop striving for continued growth. I treated my advanced degree as a finish line, instead of a milestone. So many people do the very same thing and wonder why their career becomes stagnant. When my pain of staying the same exceeded my hatred of reading, I started cracking books open again. The self-health and business books were different than what I expected because I found myself considering new perspectives.
I started with The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz and I was never the same. I read another book, then another and another. In march of 2016, I discovered podcasts and enjoyed them as well. In April of the same year, I launched my own podcast Intentionally Inspirational and have set out to help my audience with personal development material, offered them actionable tips, and brought on fantastic guests to share their journey as well.
I have found that reading 15 pages of a book a day is a great way to complete 12 to 15 books per year and it doesn’t really take up too much time. I have carefully chosen a few weekly podcasts to keep up with as part of my personal development plan as well. Some of you will be readers and some of you will prefer audio. The point is to do something to expose yourself to new ideas and material. I do not believe that you can reach your potential in business or in life, without a strong focus on your personal development.
Solution – How to avoid mistake #10
Start with reading 5 pages a day, then work your way up to 10 pages a day and then 15. Pick a podcast or two and start listening each week as well. If you are a reader, but don’t know where to begin, check out audio books. They were created for people just like you.
I have found that I get faster and faster with reading the more that I do it. I try to mix up the topics from leadership to productivity and everything in between. It keeps things interesting and it keeps me growing in different areas. I would suggest the same basic plan for you.
Additional opportunities for personal development include seminars, group coaching sessions, etc. If you want to do big things, you have got to be the best at what you do. No one rises to that level without a serious effort with learning and gaining new knowledge. It takes intentional effort to get results from personal development. Like most things, you will get out of it what you put into it.
- Dive into a new book and set easy daily reading goals
- Check out audio books
- Listen to podcasts to give you variety with you personal development content
I wrote this in the hopes that I could save all of you time, money, and resources by learning from the mistakes that I have made so far. Launching a startup business can be confusing, challenging, and overwhelming at times. If you never had a partner in the journey, you certainly do now. I am certain that I will make more mistakes along my journey, but the key is to find the learning opportunity that exists with each setback. I would love to hear your feedback on this resource and please feel free to reach out to me personally if you need anything at all.