When you are starting your first business, there are a number of pitfalls that can stand in the way of your success. By knowing about these common mistakes in advance and deciding how to deal with them before they become problems, you can increase your chances of being one of the entrepreneurs who prevails.
1. Plunging forward without adequate research
One of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make is having an idea and just plunging in. But, no matter how enthusiastic you are, if there isn’t an audience for your idea or if someone else has beaten you to market, it’s unlikely that your business will succeed.
To improve your odds, do copious research before you start. Look at what your potential competitors are offering. Listen on social media channels to identify unsatisfied needs. Consider doing surveys and market research to find out what people want. Armed with this data, you can better adapt to the market and deliver a product that fills a need.
2. Imitating a successful idea
There is no “the next Facebook.” There is Facebook. Likewise, you will not make the next OkCupid, Salesforce or Twitter. Any other idea for a product that offers a largely identical experience is bound to fail.
Instead of attempting to go head-to-head with a big name in a market that already has a clear winner, ask yourself what that company doesn’t offer that you can. By creating a product that answers an unsatisfied need, you can create a unique offering with better odds.
3. Not adjusting your plan
You’ve gotten deep into the planning stage and have discovered a serious issue. Maybe one of your vendors has increased their prices to a point where it cuts deeply into your profits. Or, someone else has just launched a product that is very similar to what you were working on. Instead of just trudging forward, you should take some time to regroup and decide whether it’s time to pivot.
4. Not enough marketing
Too often, people who are starting small businesses don’t dedicate enough time or money to marketing efforts. They think that they can get away with ostensibly free options like promoting on Facebook, their site blog and Pinterest.
What those entrepreneurs fail to realize is that you need to dedicate many hours to those and other platforms to get visibility. You may discover that you do not have the technical know-how to make the most of your online presence. Content for blogs, ebooks and articles takes time to write, and writing is not a talent every individual has. Make sure that marketing efforts have one or more dedicated people working on them and enough funding to back them up.
5. Failing to put the customer first
You’re excited about your product, and you feel like everyone else should be, too. However, this perspective fails to take into account the ways that the market has become more and more consumer-centric. Customers have more options than ever for researching buying decisions. Every person with a smart phone has the ability to look at reviews, search online for multiple vendors and read thousands of words of content that inform their buying decisions.
To adapt, always think of every product and marketing decision from your customer’s point of view. What sort of content would they like to see on your blog? How does your product solve a problem that they have? Being customer-centric means that you are more likely to win today’s informed consumers’ business.
6. Starting with too little funding
Many people just starting out are afraid to invest too much in their idea. But, lack of investment can mean that you are putting together a sub-standard website on your own instead of hiring a skilled web developer or completely neglecting tasks. Be reasonable when estimating expenses and be willing to spend what is necessary to make your company a success.
7. Hiring the wrong people
Starting out by hiring your friends? This can be a big problem if they are not the most qualified people for the job. While the idea of going out and finding the right talent can be intimidating, it’s crucial to your start-up’s success. Make sure that the people you pick for your team have the necessary skills, vision and temperament to get your new business through the stressful and important early months.
8. Trying to do everything yourself
One-click blog installs, turn key e-commerce, free and instant access to social networks make it easy to create a presence for your business online. But, just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean that you should. First, you will find yourself stretched too thin if you try to take on too many of your business’s functions on your own. Second, smart entrepreneurs know that it’s better to know how to delegate than to try to be a super start-up runner and handle everything yourself.
Make a list of your core competencies and stick with them. Everything else should be delegated. Don’t have the funds to hire full-time staff? There are more options than ever for those who want to hire contractors to complete the work instead.
9. Not having a plan for set-backs
At any given time, things can go wrong that can threaten the health of your business. Websites get attacked, suppliers go out of business, search engines change their ranking algorithms. To ensure that you get through the rough spots, try to anticipate every likely scenario. Make a list of what can happen and create plans for coping. This way, your business stays operational and your customers are happy.
10. Not focusing enough on your company’s culture
Companies that are rated great places to work don’t become that way on their own. The founders go out of their way to create a great corporate culture. From the beginning, think about what sort of experience you want the people who work under you to have and provide it. Give your workers the best tools. Give credit for great ideas and frequent public praise. Create a benefits package that includes expected items like healthcare and retirement funding but also less tangible perks like flextime.
Starting a new business takes dedication, tenacity, planning and creativity. Many small businesses fail, but, by facing potential pitfalls and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure that your business is one of the ones that survives. Ever wonder how colour can impact the kind of customers you attract? Check out our last post on what your brand colours say about your business to find out.