If you want to spark a lively discussion among a group of entrepreneurs, all you need to do is make a simple request:
“Tell me about your mistakes.”
Every single entrepreneur has made mistakes, is making mistakes, and will make mistakes.
Mistakes and entrepreneurship go together. But thankfully, some mistakes can be prevented. Here are some smart ways to avoid stupid mistakes.
Get a mentor who’s done it before.
Your most valuable asset isn’t your killer idea or innovative software. Your most valuable asset is a mentor or group of mentors who can tell you what to do or what not to do.
Mentors have a been-there-done-that perspective on startup life that will keep you from making hundreds of mistakes.
When possible, use systems, not people, to get tasks done.
Systems are easier to manage than people. It’s easy to make quick-and-foolish hiring decisions. Instead of hiring a person to do a simple task, use SaaS or a tool that can accomplish the same thing.
Raise money with caution.
Many entrepreneurs think that the only way to get a business off the ground is to raise money through traditional startup funding.
Raising money is a full-time job. It takes thick skin and hardheaded persistence. Don’t let this discourage you, but take time to consider whether or not you need funding. If you do need funding, then determine the ideal time to seek funding.
It’s a mistake to rush into funding without counting the cost.
Create a rock-solid business plan.
Your startup will quickly descend into mass chaos unless you have a strong business plan. Your business plan will be like a map, keeping you on course, and protecting your startup from disaster. Give your business plan the time and attention it deserves.
Get legal help.
One of the most damaging things that can happen to your startup is to get embroiled in legal battles. I learned the hard way that lawsuits — even if you’re completely innocent — are time-consuming, expensive, and draining.
As early as possible, find expert legal counsel, and pay whatever fees are necessary to keep your business, assets, ideas, and organization in full legal compliance.
Stay away from negativity.
Entrepreneurs must stay away from negative influences. What kind of negative influences? You’ll discover haters who want you to fail and will criticize you. You may even have family members who discourage your ambition and try to slow you down.
You can’t cut everyone out of your life, but you can choose to ignore these negative forces. Sometimes, all it takes is a polite request: “I am pursuing something that is important to me, and I ask you not to make disparaging comments about it. Thank you.”
Test the market, but don’t overtest.
Testing the market is always a good idea. Don’t spend too much time and money on testing your business idea, though. As long as things look safe, take the plunge, launch the business, create the product. Basically, take action.
I’ve watched would-be startups spend tens of thousands of dollars on market research and product viability. Then, in the middle of yet another round of market research, some other startup rushes out a similar product. The slow-and-steady company failed to create fast enough and was beat out of the market by the startup that hustled.
Don’t skimp on the right tools.
You’ll be surprised at the number of things you need to buy when starting a business. I’m not just talking about staplers and sticky notes. I’m talking about systems, servers, email automation, marketing SaaS, subscriptions, software, and other tools.
These can get very expensive. Is this money wasted? Not at all. Purchasing the right analytics or SEO tools, for example, can not only save you thousands of dollars, but can make you thousands of dollars, too.
Don’t buy an office until you’re ready.
Offices are overrated. You probably don’t even need one. With a computer and WiFi, most startups and their teams are in business.
An office space usually requires a lease, a contract, furniture, decorations, etc. You run the risk of spending more time and effort on your office space than is necessary.
Rethink your “need” for an office, and you can save yourself some serious headaches.
Don’t hire expensive people.
If someone is really expensive to hire, it doesn’t mean that they are good. It means that they are expensive. That’s it.
Why would someone be so expensive to hire? One common reason is that they are hedging their bets against the failure of the startup. If they think that the startup might fail, then they will negotiate.
To “pivot” is to make a massive business change in a short amount of time.
How massive? Shifting your market. Changing your product. Reinventing your approach.
Nearly every startup has to pivot if they wish to succeed. Be on the lookout for those critical pivot moments.
Let’s just face it. Your startup might fail.
And that’s okay. It’s better to fail quickly than for your dream to die a slow and painful death. Fail fast, fail forward, and just get past it.
The best thing that you can do for your entrepreneurial success is to get the failure over with and move on to the next big thing.
No matter what, you’re going to make mistakes. You can get all the mentoring in the world, read all the articles on Forbes, and study as many startups as you want, but you’re never going to avoid mistakes.
Mistakes are often the best teachers. Instead of trying to avoid mistakes all the time, be eager for risk and ready to learn.
One mistake made is one hundred mistakes prevented, so go ahead and make a few.
What mistakes have you made in your startup?
Also read: 10 Reasons why Entrepreneurship is awesome