So, you’ve decided to start your own business. What are your motivations for doing so? Perhaps you have an innovative product or service that you think might be the “next big thing” that takes the world market by storm. Or maybe you’re so tired of being an employee – you hate your boss, can’t stand your colleagues, don’t believe in your company’s goals – you think it’s time to leap into entrepreneurship. Or perhaps you’ve been laid off and feel that not being able to find a job in this economy is forcing you to start a business.
Whatever your motivation may be, you now work for yourself. Yet starting a business is the easy part. In America, the Small Business Administration states that an estimated 627,200 businesses were formed while 595,600 businesses ceased during the same period. Rather grim statistics, you might think. The question is: what can you do to ensure that your business is amongst the ones that survive and thrive?
These are the 5 most common mistakes that business owners make, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Expecting Quick Success
It’s easy to be attracted to the idea that we should be successful if we’ve invested some time, money and energy into a business. For example, placing one advertisement for a workshop and expecting many people to sign up. Or investing all your savings in setting up the business, and thinking you deserve some clients as a result. When quick success doesn’t happen, self-doubt arises, taking a stab at much-needed confidence, and causing you to lose faith and patience in your business.
When asked what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Norm Brodsky, a veteran business owner who has started and sold several multi-million-dollar businesses, replied, “The most important quality is resilience”. He was referring to the ability to bounce back from failure, to turn around a bad situation, and to profit from your mistakes.
This mistake can be avoided by taking a 360-degree look at the steps needed to grow your business, implementing a well-researched plan, and having enough financial reserves that lasts at least 18 months when you start a new business.
2. Not Applying Sales & Marketing Fundamentals
Do you have a negative reaction to the word “sales”? Many entrepreneurs dread sales and marketing because of old mental images of “snake oil peddlers”- people who can convince others to buy things they don’t need. Entrepreneurs do not want to be perceived as the salespeople who are manipulative and out to rip people off.
While this is a common perception of sales, the truth is, nothing happens until a sale is made. As such, the first fundamental is to have a healthy mindset about sales and marketing.
Other sales and marketing fundamentals like having a target market, knowing who your ideal client is, having a sales process, the 80/20 rule [that 20% of your marketing activities will generate 80% of revenue], the 7-touch-or-more process prospects go through before becoming a customer, the need to have a marketing plan, the necessity to invest at least 10% of revenue in continued marketing, may seem run-of-the-mill. The truth They are applied in businesses that succeed, and are absent or sporadic in those that fail.
Some successful entrepreneurs may even go so far as to say a business owner’s main business is marketing, and not the product or service they are offering. While you might not agree with this view, the point is: constantly exploring new marketing methods, testing them, repeating what works and discarding what doesn’t, will ensure your business’s survival.
This mistake can be eliminated by attending any variety of Sales & Marketing 101 type seminars, really weaving the fundamentals into your business, and continually testing marketing methods. And as always, strategies you’ll learn work only if you work them.
3. Not Knowing Or Owning The Reason You’re In Business
Because the barriers to entry in most businesses are low, many people go into business without really connecting with why they want to be in business in the first place. Perhaps they want to get rich quick, or they were downsized, or they had a life transition [e.g. from being a professional to a stay-at-home-mom], or they have the mom-and-pop corner store mentality (if mom and pop could succeed then, I can do it too).
Seduced by the lifestyle possibilities of the new business, some business owners may neglect to see if the business is truly aligned with their passion and values. Prospects will sense the lack of passion or authenticity in what you do even though you don’t articulate it. What’s more, in the highly sophisticated, fast-changing world we live in today, it takes real passion in your products and services to sustain you and your business through the ebbs and flows of business cycles.
This mistake can be abated by getting clear about your passion – what do you really want to do with your business? What are your values around how you will conduct business with the world? Know how and why you started your business and embrace the reasons. If possible, convey them to your customers.
4. Not Mastering The Mental & Emotional Game
If running a successful business were as easy as knowing what to do and doing them, why aren’t there more successful business owners around? It’s usually because we haven’t mastered the inner game of winning in business.
To win, you must be aware of the types of behavior that are self-sabotaging, deal with them and hold on to your vision till the finish line. At the same time, you must continually nourish yourself by connecting to your belief in the success of your business, and truly owning the positive difference your business is making on the world.
An example of self-sabotage is the inability or refusal to learn from your mistakes. It’s the tendency to repeat self-destructive patterns of behavior even though you repeatedly end up being bumped in the head. For instance, an entrepreneur I worked with was close to shutting his business down, because like the previous business he started, he didn’t embrace sales and marketing, and let sales dwindle until it was too late.
This mistake can be eradicated by having a good mentor or business coach and having him or her assist you in uncovering your blind spots and developing an unstoppable mindset. “You can’t see what you can’t see” is the reason sports legends like Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan work with their coaches. You are taking on the challenging yet rewarding entrepreneurship game after all, and you deserve all the support you can get.
5. Going Solo
The journey of entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. There are many roles to be filled (salesperson, marketer, manager, bookkeeper), and these roles involve risk-taking and a tremendous amount of energy and time.
While the business owner has to wear several hats, the tendency is to do everything yourself. Before you know it, you don’t have enough time to socialise or spend time with your family, and you become more and more isolated. Your business becomes your life. You are tired. And you become tired of your business.
What’s worse, many entrepreneurs do not accept the help they can get because they think no one else knows their business better then themselves. After all, they started their business in the first place so that they could do things their way! They have allowed their ego to get in the way.
This mistake can be remedied by outsourcing certain functions like accounting or website development. You can get out of isolation by joining mastermind groups for entrepreneurs, where you can exchange ideas, and ask for feedback and support. You can also create your own Board of Advisors, where you invite established professionals or business owners to mentor you.