Everybody makes mistakes. However, most people don’t hold the fate of a product, brand, or entire company in their hands. Welcome to the world of startups.
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Three out of four individuals experience speech anxiety, which can severely diminish your effectiveness as a business owner. After all, it’s up to you to communicate your vision to your team, and often to your customers.
Besides lacking any skill as a public speaker, the following are four common entrepreneur mistakes to avoid as you learn how to start a business.
1. Being a Solution in Search of a Problem
This is one of the most common entrepreneur mistakes. When you’re creating your product and developing your business, it’s imperative to have a customer-first mentality. And when you’re just starting out, that means finding a real problem to solve, and then creating a product to solve that problem.
Most people go about this backwards — they have a product idea, or they discover something they’re uniquely gifted in. Then they go about developing a product based on that idea, all along assuming that people will actually want it.
Sadly, it’s not always the case.
Unless you start with the problem you want to solve, you can’t be sure that the solution you develop is going to really benefit people (and thus be profitable).
So instead of asking yourself, “What am I good at?” or even, “What can I do to help people?” Ask yourself, “What problems are people in my niche experiencing, and how can I solve them at scale?”
2. Going at it Alone
It’s almost a cliche, but it’s true: people thrive and work better with friends. That may be truer in the startup world than anywhere else. This leads us to another of the most common entrepreneur mistakes: trying to go solo.
Of all companies worth over a billion dollars, roughly 85% of them were launched by at least two founders. It’s fairly uncommon for a business to see massive success when it’s driven forward by just one person.v
It’s not fun to think about, but launching and scaling your business to profitability is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. There are going to be days—weeks, even—when all you want to do is quit. Without a cofounder, coach, or at least an accountability partner, you‘ll most likely give up.
3. Never (Really) Getting Started
This is a more elementary mistake, but it’s a very common one among budding entrepreneurs.
Many would-be entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being busy doing nothing—attending seminars, watching lectures, reading books, and taking copious notes, without ever really putting themselves and their ideas out there for the world to see.
Business development is a public process—if you don’t launch a campaign, talk about what you’re working on, and get other eyes on it, you will not have a business.
This is usually a side-effect of fear. Sometimes the antidote is education—you need to learn about your field, and how to manage your own success when it comes. Just as likely, you’ve done enough learning and it’s time for action.
4. Assuming You Have No Real Competitors
Let’s be honest: when you’re a product developer or startup founder, you’re as proud as a new parent. And like a new parent, you’re pretty much convinced that your baby can do no wrong and that no one in the world could possibly replace it.
This assumption is another of the most common entrepreneur mistakes. It’s natural for new founders to feel this way, given the excitement of the startup process. However, it can lead them into believing that their product is so superior to everything else that’s out there, that they have no direct competitors.
In actuality, it’s incredibly unusual for a product or business to have no direct competitors. Unless you’ve invented something absolutely original (hard to do, and even harder to sell), there’s absolutely someone out there with an alternative product that people are already using.
It isn’t always necessary for a product to be ten times better than the competition to be profitable, but it’s still a good goal to shoot for. In any case, you must do your due diligence in finding the companies already serving your target audience, and discovering how you can differentiate yourself and your business.