Startups fail or succeed and will continue to fail or succeed. This is an undeniable reality in business. A corollary to this would be to say that entrepreneurs fail or succeed and will continue to fail or succeed.
Every entrepreneur can relate to and probably give a lengthy answer to the following question, “What mistakes have you made as a business person?”
Research shows that about only 50% of businesses survive long enough to celebrate their fifth anniversary. These failures can be attributed to the dumb startup mistakes made by people when trying to establish a startup. While some mistakes are kind enough to be nothing more than learning experiences, others are less humane and will gut you and your startup like a pig.
You cannot, however, escape making mistakes while setting up a business – it is inevitable. Mistakes and entrepreneurship are inextricably intertwined. The general idea in startup success is that the less mistakes you make, the more likely you are to succeed.
So here are 10 dumb startup mistakes that every entrepreneur should definitely avoid making if their startups are to succeed:
- Compromising on your business plan
Trying to start up a business without having a business plan is like trying to travel to a place you have never been to before without some sort of navigation tool. You will certainly get lost.
A business plan gives your startup much needed direction from the onset as it addresses critical issues pertinent to the success of the startup. If you decide that having a business plan is an unnecessary luxury, then you set yourself up for a fall. And fall you shall. Hard.
2. Trying to do too much too soon
As an entrepreneur, you can easily get excited about new ideas to implement in your business. These ideas if they are given too much priority can overwhelm you and run your startup into the ground. It gets worse if you started the business as a young person.
You must remember that you are just starting out. This is not the time to start thinking about building an empire – your business is just a startup at the moment and nothing more. Keep your idea implementation to a minimum and your business processes as simple as possible.
3. Trying to do it all yourself
Micromanaging is a grievous sin for any startup owner to indulge in. No employee likes an overbearing boss and neither would you if you were in his/her shoes. Trying to oversee everything by yourself will cause you to burn out and consequently your business.
Learn to delegate tasks to your employees, give them clear job descriptions, resources they need for the task and get out of their way. Also as much as is appropriate, disengage from work and take a vacation. This is a good way to recharge your batteries and maintain your sanity.
4. Allowing negativity/poisonous business relationships
Entrepreneurs are usually very positive thinkers. This is why they are open to taking risks. But even the most positive thinking entrepreneurs can still be discouraged.
When you have people around you who only remind you of the overwhelming rate of startup failure every chance they get, you are hanging out with the wrong crowd. Staying with such people is a dumb startup mistake. These people could be close friends, business colleagues, family members etc. You must stay away from people with such negativity.
5. Location dislocation
Starting a right business in the wrong place does not help the success of the business. Siting a business correctly contributes a lot to its success.
Imagine a store selling products that cater to the technologically inclined situated in a rural area predominantly occupied by pensioners/retirees. That’s a dumb business startup mistake. The store will not make it off the ground, not because it is a bad idea but on account of its location.
The location of your potential customers and the cost of running your business should be front and center in your mind when siting your business.
6. Having no target audience
You cannot make a product that solves everybody’s problems. Therefore, when you have no targeted demographic for your product that is exactly what you are claiming.
Having an understanding of the different problems faced by different groups of people will help guide you in deciding what kind of product you want to make. If you decide to make the product before deciding who the product users are, you are done for.
7. Not utilizing customer feedback
The product for your startup might have been your idea but you did not design it for you – not necessarily. When you ignore the feedback of potential customers who tested your product during pre-launch, you are preparing to release a very unsatisfactory product.
Take customer suggestions and complaints very seriously. This does not mean that you should deviate completely from your original idea. Not all suggestions will be good for your product. You should make sure that every suggestion you decide to implement should be such that it is an improvement on your idea, not a deviation from it.
8. Not maintaining relationships with your customers and investors
I am sure you have heard the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is a recipe for disaster and a very dumb startup mistake when it comes to your relationship with your key investors and customers. If you do not stay in touch with them, soon they will lose touch – and interest – with you and your business.
Be consistent and regular with your outreach to those in your network. Have regular face-to-face meetings with them and keep them updated on the happenings in your business. Remember, it is easier to maintain a relationship than to rebuild it.
9. Ignoring those who have gone before you
It is true that experience is the best teacher but it does not necessarily have to be your experience. There are people who have tried to start up a business in your chosen niche before you.
Some of them failed and some succeeded. However, one factor that is common with all of them is that they all at one point or another, made mistakes. If you ignore their advice and experience, you stand the risk of making the same foolish decisions that they did and suffering the ensuing consequence.
You should find someone as close to your industry as possible that has learned from his/her mistakes and glean from him/her as you establish your startup. This will help you avoid the suffering that comes from making costly mistakes that could have been avoided.
10. Getting the hiring process wrong.
This includes hiring too early, hiring too late or hiring the wrong people.
It is not news that most job seekers today are not passionate about the jobs for which they apply. They are just looking for a source of income.
This makes it difficult to find the right people because everyone you interview instantly becomes a yes man for the job. Hiring people who do not understand the vision of your startup nor have a shared passion in it can be very destructive.
Deepti Sharma Kapur of FoodtoEat shared her story of how she hired the wrong people back in 2012 for her startup and had to go through the heart wrenching process of laying people off. It was as painful as it was a distraction.
When seeking to hire, always look inwards. Check within the confines of the industry to which your startup belongs. This way you drastically reduce the possibility of hiring someone incompatible with your business. It is an added bonus if they already know about your company and have an understanding of its vision.
If you cannot afford to hire people now, then don’t. Many businesses use automated or virtual systems/assistants when possible to carry out some tasks while others outsource their jobs. You should adopt the method that best suits your business and stick to it until you are financially able to hire your own staff.
Are there mistakes you have made in your startup that you won’t make now if you knew what you know now? Please share your experience in the comment section, especially the lessons you learnt, and let’s all learn from each other.