So you want to be an entrepreneur, eh? Get ready for the ride of your life. Following our passions gives us a feeling of vivacity that is infectious. We get tunnel vision as we hone in on our dreams. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we need tunnel vision to stay on task and to keep our dream alive on awful days. But other the other hand, we have to heed the signs that may be pointing for us to take a new route or reevaluate an idea.
If you don’t pump your breaks every now and then to come up for air, you could find yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of disaster.
Here are 12 Startup Pitfalls to Avoid.
1. Going with no guidance.
The task of writing a business plan can be daunting. In fact, many people with exciting business ideas often give up when it is time to get it down on paper or they fly without one and wonder why their plane crashes mid-way after takeoff. Your plan is your map and every now then you’re going to need to look back at it to make sure you’re on track (especially if you intend to seek financing).
Whether it’s in an old shoe box, computer file or tattooed on the bottom of your foot, you should at least have the vision, its purpose, the mission and your target audience written down somewhere.
2. Spending cash unwisely.
Think of your money as your lifeline. Even blood donors have to wait 56 days before they can donate again. You should be spending conservatively and only on necessities as a startup. Entrepreneurship brings a variety of hidden costs.
Mismanagement of funds and bankrolling poorly executed ideas is a surefire way to go broke fast.
3. Figuring it out on your own.
No one is an expert in everything. If you don’t know the answer, find someone who does. There are a variety of programs to assist entrepreneurs, networking opportunities to meet other professionals and workshops to teach solutions to problems.
You can’t be all things. Smart entrepreneurs surround themselves with smart people.
4. Fearing failure.
You’re going to fail most of the time and get it right some of the time. You get more lessons and experience out of losses than wins. It’s scary. It sucks. It’s entrepreneurship.
Think things through. Try your hardest. If you fail, reevaluate, get back up and repeat.
5. Not devising a marketing strategy.
How can someone buy your product if they never heard of it? You’ll learn very quickly that it takes more than grandma bragging about you to her friends at church and a classified ad to build a brand.
Find out where your target audience is going and be there when they arrive. You’re also going to have to leave your modesty at home and actually tell people what you do. If you’re not enthusiastic to sell what they will be buying, they won’t be enthusiastic about taking their hard-earned cash to buy it.
6. Growing too fast.
Once you start meeting your financial goals, even exceeding them, this is the perfect time to reevaluate and pull out that old business plan or vision statement we talked about in #1. Don’t just aimlessly decide to start hiring new employees, adding more products to your line, making large distribution deals or spending more on plush items.
Growing requires preparation and a blueprint. Just remember that more employees, more office space, more products, more overhead costs means spending MORE money.
7. Not being on the same page as your partner.
If you’re going into business with a partner, you guys not only need to be on the same page, but at the end of that page should be a line for you both to sign on and a notary seal. Nothing can make a venture go sour like two people who begin to despise one another.
Sure they’ll be days when you want deflate your partner’s car tires, but a good working relationship starts with a legally sound one. Your roles should be clearly defined, your strengths and weaknesses should be shared candidly behind closed doors and your decision-making process should be clear before the first decision is implemented. You both should be a unified front to your staff, investors and general public. There should be trust and room for respectful disagreement. Because there will be issues – oh yes – many issues. But who wants to deal with that on top of possible backstabbing?
Successful entrepreneurs execute not procrastinate. You can have a billion-dollar idea, but if you never put it into action it is worthless. Entrepreneurs don’t have time to wait or waste. If you are not a self-motivator who can manage your own time, adhere to deadlines, occasionally beg and be willing to put in at least 12 hours of work most days – then you, my friend, should stick to your day job.
9. Not knowing your competition.
If you don’t know what your competitors are doing, how will you know what sets you a part from them? Do the research. Get to know the leading people in your field. Join associations where your peers are having open conversations about your industry. Buy trade journals. Go to trade shows. Participate in Google+ groups and chime in on discussions on LinkedIn. Be in the know. Thinking two steps ahead keeps you on your toes and full of fresh ideas. Industries seldom die. They change. Make sure you’re at the front end of its revolution.
10. Believing if you ‘Build It, They Will Come.’
Ryan L. Mansell, author of Success In Online Business, encourages entrepreneurs to go beyond themselves. “An idea or service may look good to the entrepreneur but the most important question that should ring in one’s mind is whether customers would actually be willing to pay for it.”
Case in point: after kicking butt in the dental industry, Colgate thought launching Colgate Dinner Entrees (microwaveable meals) was their next great idea. It wasn’t. Do your research and host a few focus groups. Just because it seems like a good idea doesn’t mean it is one.
11. Not packing a tissue box.
Cry Me A River is not just a hot song by Justin Timberlake. It’s a way of life at startups. Five doors may slam in your face before one cracks open wide enough for you to jam your foot in.
So bring your box of tissues, sister. It takes a lot of ugly, boring, tedious work to get your business off of the ground and sometimes you will be up to 2 a.m. getting it done. Your days will be demanding. Your mind will be all over the place and sometimes all it can take is dropping a splat of coffee on your blouse to make you completely lose it. So you may cry. Often. However, get your ass up the next morning and go back to work full throttle. This is your dream. Doing what you love makes the tears worth it.
12. Forgetting to establish your Avengers team.
Successful entrepreneurs are rarely a one-woman show. They usually have a team of good mentors, advisors, friends, family and employees around them. Everyone needs a cheering section. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your company, who can offer words to build you up, not tear you down.
Launching a startup is hard enough. You will wrestle with doubts and fears on your own. The last thing you need is negative comments from the peanut gallery. People who are not entrepreneurs will not always get it so make sure to find other women entrepreneurs you can have a glass of wine with and just vent.