I believe there is an entrepreneur in each one of us but I also know that many people start businesses for the wrong reasons or with the wrong mindset. If you want to launch a startup, be sure you’re not making one of these 15 common mistakes. Consider why you really want to be your own boss and correct mistakes in your thinking before you make big mistakes with your business.
1. You Think You Need a World-Changing Idea
We’re not all creative geniuses or revolutionary thinkers. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be a successful entrepreneur and you don’t have to remake an industry. Innovation starts with being inspired by others, seeing a better way of doing something, or just noting a problem that isn’t being addressed adequately or at all by anyone else.
Most people buy into the myth that entrepreneurs are all mavericks: people that leap off tall buildings without a safety net and somehow soar. The truth is that most successful entrepreneurs do all they can to minimize risk. While it may seem that their moves and decisions lie far outside the norm, entrepreneurs do their homework, test their ideas and know what is desired, what they’re capable of and what they’re comfortable with. Successful entrepreneurship is about carefully calculated risk.
You may hate your job so much that it’s killing you. You may be working so hard for so little that you cannot survive or support your family, as you must. But desperate people make desperate decisions.
You shouldn’t open up your own business, because you’re running away from something negative: entrepreneurship is something you run towards, because it empowers you and helps you fulfill your potential.
The process of learning about yourself and the work you’re best equipped to do is liberating and exciting.
Don’t open up just any business just to get free of your boss, your stress or your debt: take the time to get in the right headspace and discover your unique success formula while you still have a steady paycheck.
4. You Leave Too Much Up to Luck or Faith or Destiny
Two common characteristics of successful entrepreneurs are self-efficacy and a moderate to high degree of “locus of control.”
Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your abilities and your belief that you can learn what you need to. Locus of control refers to how much you think what happens in your life is something you can influence and control.
You build self-efficacy with self-awareness, learning and skill-building. Increasing your locus of control comes with this kind of genuine confidence, self-awareness and empowerment.
Many entrepreneurs do credit their faith, do credit luck and timing, do credit forces outside their control…but…they also believe good things come to those that help themselves.
Destiny isn’t just a matter of what will happen to you when you are born. Destiny is also influenced by what you do and decide about how your life will be lived.
You may think: “I don’t know what I need to do. I don’t know how to do this. I’ll find a program that lays it out for me, a plug-and-play blueprint for startup success, and then I’ll be set.”
No matter what any “expert” says: the real expert is you. Creating a successful business, discovering the business that is best for you, figuring out what strategy will work for you and your business requires research and work.
While there’s much to be learned from professionals and much to be gained from educating yourself; the bottom line is that determining what is right for you and your business takes integration of knowledge—not an abandonment of critical thinking and judgment.
If plug-and-play systems really worked, everyone would be successful.
You have to take what you learn and tailor it to you and your business and you have to apply the right strategies at the right time in terms of what stage you and your business are at.
If you do an Internet search about starting your own business or becoming an entrepreneur, you’ll likely find thousands of programs and websites that promise you can make more money than you ever dreamed of.
Money isn’t enough of a driving force to become a successful entrepreneur. If you talk to any successful entrepreneur, there are always more important motivations for their endeavors.
The money comes after you do the right things for the right reasons. People that make a ton of money by just scamming others or copying a generic formula? They always end up losing in the end.
Making enough money is certainly motivating. Making more money than you are now making can contribute to your drive. But in the end…dreams of becoming a millionaire will cause you to make more bad decisions than good ones when it comes to your business. Money is only a shallow motivator in the long endurance race that being a business owner entails.
You may be tired of having to do what someone tells you to do. You may detest busywork when your best ideas or contributions are ignored at your present job. You may dream of work wherein you can make your own hours, make all of the decisions, or make sure that everything is done as you think best. You may dream of starting a business wherein your paycheck depends upon how much work you put in at any given time.
Independence and control are two very different things.
The responsibility of making all major decisions can be overwhelming: you must shoulder more responsibility when you work for yourself than when you work for someone else.
You’ll have to do so much more busywork than you ever dreamed of when you start your own business — at least for the first year if not longer.
You’ll put in more hours than you ever did at your old job but…if you’ve done your work and the work is a great fit…they will be truly satisfying and rewarding hours.
What is best for your business? The hardest thing is recognizing when you are addicted to the wrong ideas or your original idea for your business: it is input and feedback and results that matter. Success requires a kind of agility to make the kinds of changes that are needed that are important. Not so easy if you’re a control freak.
And ultimately…your paycheck depends upon many more bosses than you ever dreamed of: all of your potential clients, customers and investors. You cannot easily control them.
Okay, so making your own schedule is a huge attraction for becoming self-employed. Being able to work when it suits you and being able to attend to the rest of your life on your own terms is something we all dream of. But in reality?
Running your own business will take more hours than you ever dreamed of at first. Yes, you can learn how to make it run better without you, after it becomes somewhat successful and yes, you can decide when and where and how you work if you’re a consultant or provide some other service that doesn’t depend on the normal 9-to-5 business hours.
But…if you start a business thinking that your time will be your own? You’re sadly mistaken. If you want your business to be truly successful, you’ll have to put in many hours to take care of the things your former employer handled after you checked out every day.
And if you think that working whenever you want to won’t end up interfering with your home life, you’re not realizing that everything that needs to be done needs to be done according to some kind of deadline and it will impede your evenings and weekends and every hour of your life at the beginning.
There is a difference between being self-employed (still an employee—just of your own business) and being an entrepreneur (not tied to any one business), but…there’s a process and path to get there.
9. You Don’t Match Your Passions to Your Abilities
My goal is to help people profit from their passions, to help people discover the work they are meant to do, help them break free of jobs that don’t inspire them, don’t engage them, don’t pay nearly enough, or burn them out in any way.
What many people do, when they are just fired up about starting their own business, is: they confuse their hobbies with a business idea.
Or they confuse some cause they’re really passionate about with a business idea that they are not equipped to make successful or really make a difference with.
Or they think that the passion they have will somehow turn into a moneymaker even though they don’t have the real talent or skill to make that business successful.
It’s a great idea to consider what you’re passionate about when you’re thinking about your successful business, but it’s a more realistic idea to realize how and where and why you can make the most impact depending upon who you are and what you have to offer.
What you think of as your passions often don’t match up with your abilities. Awareness can prevent you from making this mistake.
10. You Don’t Consider Your Business and Your Abilities
You should consider what your business will require of you and whether it’s the best fit for your abilities before you start.
If you have been following this column, you know I have talked about entrepreneurial strength systems. Successful entrepreneurship depends upon covering four different components or working systems that make up the organism of a successful enterprise.
A successful enterprise requires “The Head”, “The Hands”, “The Heart” and “The Voice”: the strategic thinker, the implementer, the bond-builder and the ambassador.
It is unlikely that any one person can juggle all of these roles equally well. You’re always better off determining where you need help than trying to be what you’re not or not admitting to yourself what you need.
When you first launch your business, you’ll have to cover all of these. But it’s better to partner up, from the beginning or some point later, so that what you have to offer and what you know you do not do well is covered too. And after your business starts gaining traction, then you need to delegate the right roles to the right people because no one is the perfect entrepreneurial organism by themselves.
You may see a hot trend that you could take advantage of, or you might see other people doing well in one kind of business or another. But if you base your business idea on a present trend, it’s likely that the trend will change before you’re ever ready to act upon it. And if you simply copycat another business, you won’t see the success that comes with a truly unique business.
Trends come and go. If your business idea depends upon a trend that is occurring right now, it’s likely that the trend will be over before you get your act together and it’s certain that you will end up without a business when the trend is over.
A successful business may get temporary leverage from a current trend, but it is the real value of what you offer that will keep your business relevant for the long run. And understanding your unique value helps you to keep your business ever current and always growing.
Family business is so inviting for so many reasons and in so many ways. The friend that you recognize as a great thinker and know could be successful? That’s attractive too.
But truthfully, most family businesses and friend partnerships end up splitting relationships rather than building or cementing them. Because people do things they’re not really comfortable with, because people hold their honest opinions back, because people buy into the charisma of the person, or the pull of the idea, without considering whether the team or partnership is really equipped to make it work.
Partnerships are actually a good idea: it’s unlikely that you alone have all that it takes to make a business successful. But understanding yourself and your abilities and your life plan is most important in determining the right partner for you. If you don’t understand what is most valuable about you, you cannot understand who will complement you for your best shared success.
It is so easy to fall in love with a great idea. It is so easy to get swept up by anything that feeds your hope, inspires you and seems so obviously the best thing to do.
The problem is that most people don’t fully consider what their business idea will entail, what skills and knowledge are needed, or whether it is profitable and true now.
You might understand exactly what people will need for this problem or that. You might see just how things are going to go in the future. You can have the greatest idea and just fail miserably.
Great ideas fail all of the time. You only hear about the ones that succeed.
Your business, ultimately, is not about you. It is about your customers. And if you get wrapped up into thinking that you have the answer without understanding their questions: you’ll miss the mark every time.
It’s not a great idea that will make your business successful. It’s whether anyone else thinks it’s great. You can find this out before you launch your business if you understand how to test your ideas.
Most people operate on a life plan that doesn’t really apply to them as individuals. They think: “I will gain this degree and get this job and make this amount of money and will marry and have the 2.5 kids and dog and home and an in-ground pool.”
So they buy into this idea of success and when they achieve it…they feel completely disappointed. Goals don’t matter if achieving them is just a checklist and does not make the most of who you can be.
Most of us confuse success with what we have been taught success means. And this always falls short if you do achieve these indoctrinated goals.
Coming to understand what success really means to you, means making your life and work about what will really be best just for you and not everyone else.
Your success depends upon understanding what success really means to you. It depends upon doing deep work to separate what success is supposed to be, from what it really is for you.
The sad thing about natural talents is that we don’t think of them as success factors. Because they come naturally: we don’t value them.
It is what other people think is valuable or relevant or important that we try to be. We value what we are not more than what we are. We think that success means being what successful people are portrayed as being and don’t ever question our thinking. And if we don’t fit: we try to smash ourselves into that mold like a square peg into a round hole.
But each of us, with our unique life experiences, our unique education, our work experience, our special talents and passions and quirks…this is what creates a powerful personal brand, what makes you perfectly equipped to excel at a specific kind of work. There is work you are meant to do…there is the perfect business for you to open…based on the unique you and what really matters to you.