“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
There are so many resources available online speaking volumes about entrepreneurship. Most of them sternly forewarning young entrepreneurs against certain mistakes and pitfalls that could be fatal for their businesses. However, they forget that mistakes are inevitable, especially for startups.
You are young, inexperienced, hot-blooded and enthusiastic; but more importantly, you are still learning. As an entrepreneur, you will goof-up at times but it is the experience you earn that matters the most. Also, remember that you not just learn from your mistakes but learn much more from them than from your successes.
There is a host of examples where successful entrepreneurs of today made some of the biggest mistakes in their initial days and the lessons learned helped them go forward in their career. Hiten Shah, for example, the co-founder at KISSmetrics wasted $1,000,000 on a never-launched web hosting company. But according to Shah, the experience has taught them “to spend smart, optimize for learning and focus on customer delight.“
When talking about his entrepreneurial mistake, Rand Fishkin, the CEO of Moz and co-founder of Inbound.org said, “One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made at Moz was to build big bang projects.” The projects not only required several months of development time but also there wasn’t much visibility into their progress. While some of the projects worked, they fell flat on their faces many times and got delayed by more than a year.
Fishkin therefore suggests entrepreneurs use agile development – something he learnt from his mistake. He also emphasize the importance of having proper visibility into a project’s progress as well as to keep teams accountable to each other for better end-results.
While every new entrepreneur tries to avoid mistakes desperately, the truth is you cannot avoid them all. But you can always change your perspective about coming mistakes. Instead of banging your head or feeling guilty about them till the end of the world, consider them as a worthwhile experience. What went wrong? What are the things you did or didn’t? What could you have done differently?
These are some lessons your well-positioned mistakes will teach you and they will remain valuable for eternity. Here is a list of mistakes almost all startup founders commit, some of which are bound to happen no matter how careful you have been. If you have already made some of these mistakes, make sure you undo them by learning your lesson from these mistakes.
“Underneath every mistake in business is a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs miss these lessons because they lament and blame others over the mistakes.” – Ajaero Tony Martins
Startup mistakes are a highly feared factor, discouraging so many ‘wannabe’ entrepreneurs from exploring a new idea. But as mentioned, you need to change your perception about making mistakes as entrepreneurship is for the brave hearts, people who are ready to risk everything and start from the starch as well as understand the value of the experience and knowledge gained in the process.
By the end of this article, you will be able to see the positive sides of early startup mistakes, although we are not encouraging you to make any. The aim of this post is to help you get rid of the unnecessary fear of making mistakes.
Without any further ado, here are 4 startup mistakes many entrepreneurs make, describing the lessons you need to learn from each of them.
Many startups fail believing the concept that if you can prove your point with some persuasive marketing gimmicks, people will buy whatever you have to offer. Startup founders are usually so passionate about their ideas that they often coax their investors into believing that if they build their new, amazing product, users will come running for it.
But that can be just a fantasy of a madman who believes too much in his dream. That being said, we are not discouraging you from dreaming or believing in your ideas passionately; rather we are asking you to be practical and rational in your expectations. Your users are less likely to come and buy anything from you unless they really need it. The “Market Pull” of your startup is a rather challenging thing to create. It usually follows a frequent and intense period of product design, ‘Product/Market Fit’ into your target market, and customer development.
Your glorious Market Pull won’t come without dedication and hard work. You need to make people notice your product and care of it. Personally engage with your early users for feedback and suggestions. They might come to you, but for that you need to focus on the Product/Market Fit as well as recruit and engage actively with your early adopters.
If you have already made this mistake, it’s time for you to learn the lessons now. You need to understand the concept of Technology Push and Market Pull as well as focus on customer development. There are several articles on effective product and customer development by a lot of successful entrepreneurs and eminent business bloggers; make sure you invest some time reading them.
Chances are you have taken every possible precaution to save your back and your startup from almost all types of legal or financial hassles. Despite that, you might mess up things and get screwed, sometimes due to your own fault and at times due to no fault of yours. Your co-founder, partner, investor, employee, competitor, or anyone can mess you over by violating a verbal and/or written agreement, breaking trust, or stealing your ideas. Even if the incident doesn’t destroy your whole company, sometimes they are more than enough to scuttle your best laid plans.
All these are inevitable and you need to accept that. The sooner you accept it, the faster and better you can steady yourself for the oncoming blow and make sure you are in a position to at least reduce the damage as much as possible.
Running a startup means you have to trust a lot of people including your co-founders, investors, tech people, employees and others. You have a set target and probably a desired path to achieve it and a few of your people might share your views. But not all would be on the same page. In fact, it is quite likely that some will view the path differently and worst still, have a different set of goals. This is where friction starts. In most cases, it is the power balance that decides who wins and who loses out.
For victims of such mistakes, it is very natural to lament over their misfortune and advocating the concept of ‘having trust-issues’. But that will hardly take you anywhere; instead, accept that the damage is done already and see the whole incident on a more rational light. How did you land up in this situation? If someone else is to be blamed, you still need to ask yourself why you agreed to do business with this person in the first place. Where were your due diligence? Did you overlook any foreseeable circumstances? Did you trust this person blindly?
The lesson here is simple. Be more careful in future and avoid doing business with someone you cannot trust instinctively. Remember, you can’t get fooled twice and if you do…
If there is one thing you need to erase from your dictionary as an entrepreneur, it is the word ‘revenge’. It is our human nature to bite back when we are bitten. When someone wrongs us, the only reflexive urge is to pay back by wronging the person in some way or other. In fact, there are so many flicks and best-seller novels out there based on this concept where the protagonist rights a wrong by self-justified wrong-doing and becomes a millionaire in the process. But remember they are nothing but fictitious characters and the stories are far from reality.
The reason why you should never think of ‘seeking revenge’ in the business world is that there’s an overwhelming chance you won’t be successful. In most cases, nothing will happen and even if it does, it is more likely to boomerang on you. Besides, you will only feel cheap and bad if you fail to take a meaningful revenge. However, we are not saying that you should just let someone wrong you and get away with it. Of course, you should take proper legal action against the offender and let the court of law deal with the matter.
What we mean is that, you cannot right a wrong by doing something wrong in turn. The best option is to move on. Think of the purpose of your startup. You wanted to win and you will win only with hard work, and not by dwelling on the past. Consider this experience as a motivator, an additional driving force to prove to yourself, to all who wronged you and to the world. This should fuel your burning desire to perform and achieve better.
Often new entrepreneurs keep their venture in ‘stealth mode’ for long fearing that someone will steal their idea. This also happens if you are not confident enough to convince others about the usability of your product/service. Either way, it is your insecurity and you cover it up with the new fad in town: “Stealth Mode.”
The best thing you can do is avoid this mistake as everyone in the room will interpret it as your insecurity – the very thing you wanted to hide from them. This will affect your credibility in the long run. Besides, when someone asks about the status of your startup and you reply it is in ‘stealth mode’ it only indicates that you don’t trust that person enough to share information about your business. It is a negative feeling.
Making this mistake also means that you are not using your own network to your advantage to shape and advance your new business venture. The person asking you about your startup is not necessarily making small talk; she might be genuinely interested in your venture as an investor or potential customer and could become a key to your startup success. So why miss the opportunity?
Our advice therefore is to be pro-active without being an enthu cutlet. Plant seeds of curiosity strategically, tell them what market you are planning to target, and talk about your potential territory. When you tell people just enough about your startup, it helps you pique their interest as well as get early feedback.
As a startup founder, you will make a lot of mistakes – some minor, some major and some fatal. But a state of melancholy is not for entrepreneurs. We are practical people, we know there are risks involved, yet we dive in without blinking. The secret is to move forward no matter what; make mistakes, learn your lessons, and then just move on. In the process, it is equally important to balance confidence and humility without leaning too much towards either side.
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