Every entrepreneur makes their fair share of mistakes as they work towards building a successful company. Luckily, the first-time entrepreneur can evade many of these by learning from those that have been where they are today. Here are eight of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make and how to avoid them:
1. Misaligned Beliefs
You may believe that your idea for a new product or service is just what the world needs. Unfortunately, few entrepreneurs can accurately predict how successful their idea will be. And while your gut may tell you that you have a winner, the best way to validate that you're going in the right direction is to speak with your ideal customers. There are many ways to do this, from setting in-person meetings and getting on the phone, to online surveys and user testing.
2. Building Perfection
First-time entrepreneurs often make the mistake of spending too much time building their product. They pack their product with every imaginable feature and try to get every detail just right. While perfection can be an admirable goal, aiming for this when you're launching a new business can cause all sorts of problems. Instead of adding every feature possible, start by offering only the features that are most important to your ideal customers. Put off polishing every piece of your product until you are confident that there is indeed a market for it and that people are willing to pay their hard-earned money for it.
The industry leader redesigned their website. Your number one competitor launched a new video series. A hot startup is using Google Adwords successfully. While common sense might dictate that 'if something works for others it's "proven" and should work for you' - unfortunately, that's not the case. Many factors influence what works and what doesn't. Your specific situation, marketplace, customers, values, history, offering, even time of year can cause different results. Rather than trying to duplicate what you see others doing, try to understand why it worked and which aspects might be most relevant for your business.
4. Holding On Too Tight
There are very few companies that launched their first idea and saw it become a success right out of the gate. Most entrepreneurs have to shift and adapt their offering to the marketplace until they find the right fit. This can be difficult for entrepreneurs that hold on too tight to their ideas and don't want to make any changes along the way. There is nothing wrong with believing you have a winning idea and being persistent to make it a success. It's a big mistake however, to be so stuck on "your idea" that you won't listen to others (including your ideal customers) when they provide you with feedback on why your idea won't work or what you have to change to make it work.
5. Weak Competitive Advantage
If everyone says the same thing, it can't be a competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs often think their company is special and better than its competitors because it has a better "quality" product, "best-in-class customer service" or a "lower price." These are weak competitive advantages. Every company says they have these, which means no one does. As an entrepreneur you need to figure out who your ideal customers are, what their biggest challenge is, and how your product provides a valuable solution for them that is different and better than the alternatives.
6. No Customer Acquisition Plan
How are you going to get customers? Many entrepreneurs don't give this question the attention it deserves. When you have a clear plan to acquire customers not only will your confidence soar, your path to growth and greater profits becomes crystal clear. Use your customer acquisition plan to guide your lead-generation efforts and turn those leads into sales.
7. Lack of Focus
There is a clear difference between successful entrepreneurs and those that struggle. Successful entrepreneurs focus almost exclusively on efforts that will make the biggest impact on their business. Considering most entrepreneurs have new ideas popping into their heads constantly throughout the day, maintaining laser-like focus is harder than it sounds. It's important that entrepreneurs are clear about their goals, ensure they are the ones that really matter, and then write them down. Next, they need to focus relentlessly on achieving them while blocking out everything else.
8. Knowing It All
The day that you think you know everything about your marketplace, customers and industry, is the day your downfall begins. The sharpest entrepreneurs are constantly learning from others, getting mentored and investing in themselves. If you're not growing, there's a good chance you're losing market share to your competitors who are continuously improving and evolving. The only thing that is constant is change.