With preparing for the launch of our podcast People Who Know Their Shit and running our community The $100 MBA, Nicole and I speak with entrepreneurs pretty much every day. We talk about all kinds of things. We discuss successes and struggles. What works and what doesn’t. We spend time with all sorts, from complete newbies to business online and experts with ridiculous levels of success, and everything in between.
We love our job.
One topic that comes up in almost every discussion is mistakes made when just starting out in business.
It makes sense. The beginners love to know which mistakes they should avoid and the veterans love to talk about the things they wish they could tell their former selves, knowing what they know now.
I decided to put together a summary of the 5 most common and critical mistakes you should avoid that people have shared with us on People Who Know Their Shit, along with the mistakes we see being made with new entrepreneurs inside The $100 MBA.
Here are the Top 5 biggest mistakes made when starting a business:
1. Getting stuck on the idea phase and never doing
This is hands down the number one mistake. No questions about it. The idea phase is usually where everything stops for new entrepreneurs. Here, they are greeted by an old friend of the seasoned entrepreneur, Fear. Fear tells you that someone will steal your idea so never share it. Fear tells you that not enough people will buy it. Fear tells you that you can’t pull it off. Fear stops you from doing.
I say the following statement at least once 3 times a week: “Ideas are worthless without action. Without implementation you are just a dreamer and not an entrepreneur.”
You need to get out there and validate your ideas in the real world so you can see if they are viable businesses or not. Doing. You need to speak to potential customers and start crafting the best version of your idea. Doing. You need to start actually building your offering based on what you’ve learned. Doing.
Here is a little secret about business- everything is an experiment. Thomas Edison didn’t just sit and think about how to create the light bulb and then got it perfect the first time he took a crack at it. It’s been said that he used over 6,000 fibers to light his bulb. A reporter at that time asked Edison, “How many times are you going to fail at creating the light bulb?” Mr. Edison replied, “Son, I haven’t failed! I’ve simply discovered another way not to invent the light bulb!”
Bottom Line: Get to work. Validate and refine your idea (you can take our free course to show you how) and start hustling. As Edison once said “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
2. Choosing a topic you don’t care about
Building and running a business is hard. Most entrepreneurs we speak to say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. We can definitely vouch for that. This is not to discourage you, but rather to drive home that you had better care, love, have passion for, be crazy about, the topic your business is based on, or you’re simply not going to make it. Pure and simple.
If you don’t enjoy your business day in and day out then you’re frustration will sooner or later overtake your desire for success, money or whatever you started the business for. Trust me. I’m speaking out of personal experience. It took me a few businesses to learn this and it hurt big time.
Also, if you don’t care about what you’re doing, it shows. Your audience and customer will notice and will take their time, money and attention elsewhere- somewhere that matches or exceeds their love for that same interest.
Bottom Line: Make sure you choose a business topic you would love to talk about and be involved in even if you didn’t need to make a dime. Seriously, think about it. Would you talk about that topic when you’re on vacation?
3. Being afraid to be different
Business is all about Why’s. Why should I pay attention? Why should I switch from where I shop now? Why should I subscribe to your blog?
If your answer to every Why is the same as everyone else’s, you’re in big trouble. Not being different is usually caused by the fear of not being respected in the marketplace. Nothing can be further from the truth. I told you Fear was a tricky fellow.
You need to offer something others don’t. That could be your style, your humor or even the fact you donate a healthy portion of your proceeds to an unrecognized cause. Just asks Warby Parker how well their business is doing because of their buy a pair, give a pair campaign.
Bottom Line: Be different. Be yourself. Stop trying to be like your competition. It’s bad form and bad business.
4. Not understanding what a business actually is
We need to get something clear right away. If you are not asking for monies in exchange for a product or service, you are not running a business. A blog is not a business. It’s a form of building relationships with your potential customers.
A business must have these 5 parts or it’s not a business. It’s a hobby, it’s a promotion tool, it’s something else- not a business.
- Creating An Offer
- Delivering An Offer
If you are not creating and offering value you do not have a business.
If you are not ensuring that you are deliver your value in an exceptional way, you do not have a business.
If you are not selling, you do not have a business.
If you don’t market your business in any form, you do not have a business.
If you don’t make sure your finances are in check- your profits are larger than your expenses- you do not have a business. (Yes, some businesses lose money but if they are not working on reversing that, they don’t have a business.)
Bottom Line: Know what a business actually is and make sure you are building one. Blogs are great. Podcasts are great. But they support a business; they are not a business in itself. (Yes, there are RARE exceptions to this.)
5. Doing it alone
No one does it alone. No one. The lone wolf always dies at the end the movie. You need people to make it happen. Your customers are people, your suppliers are people, others in your industry are people.
Most importantly, you need help and support from other entrepreneurs who are at a similar stage as you are, as well as from those with more experience.
Recently, Nicole and I ran a short survey with our $100 MBA members to find out what they find most valuable about the community. The overwhelming majority mentioned that the support of the community forum was one of the most useful aspects of their experience. They found being able to get feedback and simply be friends with like-minded people was incredibly valuable and useful in their progress as entrepreneurs.
The more connected you become with other entrepreneurs, the more normal your feel about being one. You’ll no longer feel crazy or alone, and you’ll realize that we all face the same challenges, just in different forms.
Bottom Line: We all need others to grow and to succeed. Make sure you are a part of a regular mastermind group, meet-up, online community or whatever. Consider getting a committed business partner if you feel you need it to make it happen. I did, and never regretted it for a second.
Take these mistakes made at the start seriously. If I had read this post when I started out 12 years ago, I would have probably saved a few years of learning the hard way and approximately $60,000. Seriously guys.
These are the top 5 mistakes made at the start, not all the mistakes that are commonly made as a newbie. But instead of writing you a 10,000-word post, I decided to focus on only the top 5 mistakes. If you found this post to be useful, share it via social media below and we’ll know we should write a part 2.
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