Steering a startup to success takes a rare combination of drive, talent, perseverance, and at least a little luck. However, no matter how gifted you are as an entrepreneur, you can increase your long-term prospects by learning from mistakes that others have made before. Here are 11 things entrepreneurs should never do if you want your startup venture to thrive.
Mixing Business and Personal
Think twice before going into business with family or friends. No startup ever runs entirely smoothly, and the inevitable tensions can flare up even more disruptively if there’s a personal element involved. If you do go down this route, be sure to get everything written down in a legally binding contract first, so everyone knows precisely where they stand.
Taking on Too Much
Trying to wear too many hats is often fatal for a startup entrepreneur. Few people can combine solid business sense with innovative product development, stellar marketing, and financial wizardry. Never be afraid to delegate so that you’re free to drive the business forward from an overview perspective.
But don’t hire people unless you have a proven need to. Is a vice president of sales a commercial necessity just yet? Keep your staffing lean and mean, controlling costs and making management easier. Outsource new functions until it’s clear that taking them in-house makes sense.
Image Over Substance
Don’t waste money on fancy offices or expensive branded merchandise when you’re starting off. A strong image is vital for long-term success, but don’t put the cart before the horse. Branding without a solid business is simply building castles in the sand.
Unnecessary Investor Involvement
Avoid shackling yourself to investors too early on in your venture’s development. Startup funds will always be necessary, but until you’re sure your business model and direction of travel are working out, you need to stay agile. You may need to pivot your entire operation, which is difficult when you’re deeply in hock to third parties.
Risking Too Much Personal Wealth
However, don’t sink all your personal wealth into a business. There will inevitably be tough times where it’s stressful enough just keeping things running. You won’t need the threat of losing everything hanging over you when you’ve got big decisions to make.
Overwork and Burning Out
Don’t think that success depends on working hundred-hour weeks for months on end. Burning yourself out isn’t a long-term strategy. Always focus on developing systems and processes that take the load off you. You’ll last longer, get more done, and be happier, but you’ll also be building a more stable business along the way.
Complacency with Success
But neither should you become complacent once success starts to arrive. You’ll always have more to learn, and new opportunities to seize. By all means, take a step back from the daily grind, but make sure you have competent and trusted people in place to keep the company moving forward.
Losing Sight of Customers
Don’t pursue growth at the expense of leaving your customers behind. If your service levels drop because your infrastructure can’t handle the new business you’re generating, then it’s time to step back and rethink your strategy. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of a successful company and should always be the number one priority.
And on a similar note, don’t lose focus on your core business and what’s needed to drive it forward. A restless entrepreneur will always spot new opportunities that other people overlook, but aim to master your current operations before taking on a shiny new distraction.
Lastly, never lose heart. Every successful entrepreneur has had to call time on struggling projects along the way. But if this happens, treat it as a setback and a learning experience, not a personal failure. Most successful entrepreneurs experience a string of misfires before discovering their goldmine.
Building a successful business isn’t easy. But if you make the most of your entrepreneurial flair while avoiding these traps, your startup has a great chance of surviving for long into the profitable future.