Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s no different for entrepreneurs launching a new business. Getting a little tripped up here and there is natural, but for a startup, even little errors can become costly down the line.
Luckily, countless entrepreneurs have blazed the startup trail before, and many of them have committed common mistakes the rest of us can learn from. With a little bit of planning and the wisdom to learn from the advice of others, you can avoid some typical stumbling blocks.
1. Don’t be afraid to fail.
“The biggest mistake you can make is to be afraid of failure. Failure is key to your success, and jumping into your fear is very positive for your future business. How you pick up after failure and learn from your mistakes is the key to great success.” – Audrey Darrow, president, Righteously Raw
2. Get organized.
“Being organized is key. Running a small business is like being a circus ringmaster. It’s normal to have dozens of things happening at once. So, I have a daily task list, things that I need to do. And I list them by their priority. It sounds simple, but it works, and makes me far more productive.” – Tara Langdale-Schmidt, founder, VuVatech
3. Don’t misinterpret your market.
“The biggest mistake a business owner can make when launching a startup is misinterpreting the market. Whether it is underestimating [or] overestimating costs, appealing to the wrong target demographic, or poorly gauging the demand, misinterpreting your market can end your business before it even starts.” – Nabeel Mushtaq, COO and co-founder, AskforTask
4. Learn how to delegate and avoid micromanaging.
“As a startup, there is sometimes a lack of self-awareness. Founders in the early stage are not great at delegating work to their team members. They try to do everything that they possibly can to cut costs, but really, in the long run, they should have delegated the things that they are not good at and focused on their strengths. If you are aiming for multiple targets at once, you are very unlikely to hit one.” – Matt Pyke, founder and CEO, Fly High Media
5. Don’t hire too soon.
“By far, the biggest mistake a startup can make is hiring employees too soon, such as hiring full-timers when a part-timer might make more sense, or hiring an employee when a subcontractor could have done the same job/function. It is very easy to run a small business with part-timers, subcontractors and the services of other professionals.” – Joseph C. Kunz Jr., CEO and president, Dickson Keanaghan
6. Don’t get tunnel vision when raising money.
“[It’s a mistake] focusing on raising money instead of customers and product-market fit. Once companies have a product, many focus on raising money. But they should focus on customers and product-market fit, making sure their value proposition and offering resonates with a market and will get traction.” – BJ Lackland, CEO, Lighter Capital
7. Don’t avoid contracts.
“One of the biggest mistakes a business owner/entrepreneur can make when starting a business is the failure to implement contracts. No matter how good relationships may be, they can come to a screeching halt when systems and agreements are not put in place.” – Michelle Colon-Johnson, founder, 2 Dream Productions
8. Don’t give yourself the wrong salary.
“Paying yourself too little or too much [is a mistake]. It’s often easier to determine the salary for a new hire than determining an owner or partner’s pay. Consider paying yourself a percentage of revenue. Whatever you choose, make figuring out your pay and that of your partners a practice and foundation to healthy expectation of management.” – Diana Santaguida, co-founder and creative director, SEOcial
9. Don’t move too slowly.
“Having been a first-time founder who made many mistakes, I realize in hindsight that I never made decisions fast enough. I was slow to recognize that a relationship with a business partner wasn’t working out, that my customer wasn’t willing to pay enough money to sustain our business, that investors weren’t interested in funding my business no matter how much they liked me, etc.” – Sam Rosen, CEO and founder, MakeSpace
10. Grow at the right pace.
“I have had a lot of people who want to invest in my company. One of the biggest mistakes you can do is partner with someone just because of the money. The investor is more important than the money. You need to pick someone that shares your vision and morals. It is OK to be picky when it comes to an investor.” – Tara Langdale-Schmidt, founder, VuVatech