Starting a business has never been an easy task. It all begins from an idea to a viable product or service that you think can be sold to people to solve a problem. It doesn’t end there – you need to be sure the community or people will accept the solution by purchasing your product or service. That is, there should be a market for your products. You also have to scale your business, provide for answers and take critical decisions for the future of your business. Most of us have been critical of mistakes entrepreneurs make. We nail them for this mistake thinking it was just something easy.
On a personal note, when I started my first business in 2004, I had no specific business plan (road map). I can’t say I made any profit or I thought I was doing so until the business came crumbling. The mistakes were tremendous. I tried several other businesses and yet they failed.
There is no perfect entrepreneur – in other words, mistakes are inevitable for any one who wants to start a business or is running one. However, you don’t need to look at mistakes as a deterrent factor in your business. They can even help you become more cautious and wise. That notwithstanding, wrong decisions can be corrected as well as others can cost you money and time.
Here are 7 simple tips that can help you overcome some common mistakes entrepreneurs make when starting and running your business.
One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is trying to work alone. Do not be an introvert when doing business. Don’t depend on yourself a lot especially in things you know you don’t have the capability of managing. Seek for advice from mentors, family and friends.
The best thing you can have when running or starting a business is getting feedback from others. They are very valuable especially to new businesses and when it is coming from experienced business owners who have made it in your sector. When I started my present business, one of the best advise I got was from those who are in the industry.
By the way, not all who give advice have good intentions. Some can confuse you or even derail you since they may be your competitor. Take all advice but take time to analyze them before making big decisions. Taking time doesn’t mean you stay forever before making a decision. Staying long before taking a decision can make you miss the opportunity.
This is one of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make – getting feedback from customers. Getting feedback from your customer especially when you are starting a new business is very necessary. Be it positive or negative, it will help you to fine tune your service or product. At times what you think is a great idea is not what your market thinks. You need to ask your customer what they want or what they think it should be and you go ahead and provide it, then you are working / walking towards success.
For instance, before making changes, ask the opinion of the customers to make sure they really need the change or see it beneficial for them. If you want to design a new program or a new feature for your product or service, make sure you sample a small group of customers and test it.
Networking is the key that opens many doors in business. The other day I was talking about the mystery of Famla’a (Nyongo, munyongo, sect or secret society) to my students. I made them know that there it is nothing but a network and we should try to think like them and create strong networks. You can read it in 5 Entrepreneurial Myths Demystified for Aspiring Entrepreneurs in Africa.
Networks are like the veins in your body, if a vein has a problem, then blood will not flow well and you will be sick. When I talk of networking, it’s not who you know but those who know you? You may have a very busy schedule, but don’t hesitate to spend at least 30 minutes of your time for a networking event. It will pay you in the long run.
Networking makes you visible. To make build a strong network of yours, you can attending networking and pitching events where young entrepreneurs are. I joined business networking groups and that has paid off. Majority of the people in my network are referrals from people I met in networking sessions. That why I said ‘networking makes you visible’. It is very essential to see and be seen when you are promoting your business. So networking should not be one of the mistakes entrepreneurs make for it is a necessity if you want to succeed in your business.
One other difficulty entrepreneurs face is choosing the right team to work with. This takes more time and consideration. In Cameroon, many entrepreneurs will go first for family members or friends when they want to build a team to work with. One of the most recurring mistakes entrepreneurs make is that they usually take in friends or family not on the basis of what they can put in but on their affinity to them.
When hiring a close family member or friend, you have to think twice. Make sure they are the best for the job. Personal relationships can be destroyed due to difficulties that your business can face. We should always keep sentiments aside when doing business. Be sure all those you employ are capable, qualified, have strong work experience and are eager to learn.
The members you choose to be part of your team should be those that complement your weaknesses. Replace or train team members whose performance are not up to expectations.
Stay in constant communication with your customers as well as team members. One of the mistakes entrepreneurs make is that they always try to respect the needs of their customers but fail to do so to their team members or employees. Some don’t keep their word to both the employee and customers.
As an entrepreneur, make sure you respond to all emails, voice-mails or missed calls that you have. A reason you have to separate your business number from your private number. Vacation can be an exception in this case, but be sure to inform your customers when going for vacation or leave an auto-responder.
Apologize if you miss a deadline or forget to reply or return a call. Respect your word when you make a promise to a client or colleague. For successful growth, it is necessary to maintain a responsible reputation so as to be a reliable entrepreneur.
Trying to do it all yourself will do you no good as an entrepreneur. Our society celebrate those who achieve several tasks daily. There is no reward in trying to be always busy, stressed and overwhelmed with work. Such an approach will cost you a lot – your dreams, life and business. Everything should not depend on you. You need to grow beyond you.
You should think of yourself as a head coach. Your duty is to draft the game plan, recruit those to play, train and equip them to offer their best performance. Stay on the sidelines and watch them play. Don’t always jump in and start doing the tackling, blocking and kicking, else your business will never win.
Trying to do it all will hold down your business. Your job is to bring in the right people and help them to work together as a team. When you have done this, then stay out of their way and give them the chance to do what you instruct them to do.
Money brings in more money. Trying not to spend in marketing, people and training will not increase your income. You can limit your spending on other things but personal growth, people and marketing should not be one of them. One of the key mistakes entrepreneurs make is not investing in marketing. Marketing, especially content marketing is now one of the cheapest but sure method of selling your business today. You can read Why Your Business Needs Content Marketing
Investing in people particularly should not be something to joke with. Don’t go for the cheap low talented ones. The highly talented ones may be too expensive, but when you compare their productivity, you will realize that they are cheaper than the “cheap” low talented ones.
If a greater portion of your operating cost is on employees (salaries or wages), then you need to put in the right team in place. A wrong decision in hiring can bring down your business. You may think hiring a cheap but poor performer is going to reduce your business expenses. It is much higher than you think. Imagine the cost of training or replacing them, the cost of their non-productivity and the value of the opportunities that can be lost because of them.
Entrepreneurs fail not usually because of outside factors, but also internal issues. Some mistakes entrepreneurs make at times may be more internal than external. Most of the time these internal factors are more emotional than economic. These problems have caused many experienced entrepreneurs to close down their business. A depressed employee is unproductive. Being close to employees and knowing their problems even without providing a solution means a lot to them. You can workout programs that help boost the morale of your employees. Don’t make the mistake to think their problems are not your problem, because their problem will indirectly have an effect on their productivity.
Having in mind the above key key mistakes entrepreneurs make can help you carry on your business successfully. No one starts a business to fail. Implementing the above solutions to the problem can be seen as preventive measures to ensure full success in business.
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