The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are some common mistakes young entrepreneurs make?” is written by James Geier, president and cofounder of 555 International.
Do your pushups.
After nearly 30 years as an entrepreneur, this is my best advice to anyone who is called to follow the entrepreneurial path.
No, I’m not telling you to work out more. Doing your pushups is my shorthand for making sure you are in shape—psychologically, emotionally, and financially—for the hard work of entrepreneurship.
When I started out, entrepreneurship wasn’t “cool.” It was a necessity—for me, anyway—because I wanted to make something that didn’t yet exist. An artist and designer by training, I took the bricks-and-mortar route, founding a manufacturing company from the ground up on the southwest side of Chicago. Here, I learned the real meaning of the word entrepreneur: You are on your own.
No matter how many mentors, advisors, investors, and partners you gather along the way, you must rely on your own fortitude and willpower, something many entrepreneurs don’t do. Here are some other mistakes you need to avoid if you want to be successful in business:
Only focusing on money
Many years ago, when my company was still new, we were approached by A/X Armani Exchange to help with retail labeling and merchandising products. We made meeting the company’s expectations the priority, and still work with the team 20 years later. Had we focused on the financial projections of that first job alone, we wouldn’t be working with them today.
Doing “gut checks” all day allows you to keep track of priorities and hold yourself accountable for how things are going. It’s so easy for entrepreneurs to get distracted. When there’s a question or challenge, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees will turn to you for answers. You can delegate, but your “gut checks” will remind you who is accountable to everyone.
I review my calendar first thing every morning, read over my lists, and set priorities for that day. During the day, I take copious notes as projects are reviewed and new issues arise, and then review and reprioritize at night. Each step is a “gut check” of where we are on a project, proposal, or problem to solve.
Ignoring the process
It’s great to push the envelope of what’s possible in design, functionality, efficiency, and so forth. When it comes to business practices and processes, however, conservatism rules.
Do your homework, learn from past mistakes, and get your staff, facilities, and production lined up. Once you have established a foundation of solid, proven practices and processes, you’ll have the time to innovate—well beyond where you were before. Sticking with your process will give you the confidence that you’ve taken the steps required to proactively approach your projects, providing the best solutions for your customers and your business in interesting and even unexpected ways.
Biting off more than can be chewed
With a proven process, you can take a “big bite” of new business, but only if you have the capabilities to “chew” it. This is where growth can really accelerate, so long as you take the proper measures to be prepared.
Fifteen years ago, my firm worked on the original “Packers Pro Shop” for the Green Bay Packers football team. Then, a couple of years ago, the Packers came back to us with a proposal as part of the renovation of Lambeau Field: Design the space and fixtures within, then produce fixtures, display units, and features for an all-new 25,000-square-foot Packers Pro Shop —more than double the size of the original. Confidence in our process allowed us—a small firm—to take another big bite of brand-name business.
Not being innovative enough
There are countless careers easier than being an entrepreneur. With so much time and energy involved, the rewards have to be intrinsic. Make cool stuff. The best reward is stepping back and saying, “Yeah, I did that.”
Entrepreneurship is hotter than ever these days, but the old-school lessons still apply: You have to be ready for the hard things that take time to manifest. So while you’re revising your business plan and honing your elevator pitch to investors, don’t forget to do your pushups—every day.
James Geier is cofounder and president of 555 International, a Chicago-based, award-winning global design, development and fabrication firm. Launched over 25 years ago, 555 boasts over 300,000 square feet of studio, warehousing, finishing, and manufacturing space and is comprised of an average of 130 employees with various backgrounds, including designers, engineers, artists, craftsmen, architects, and project managers, allowing the firm to provide a wide range of services and expertise in retail and hospitality design and manufacturing.
Read all responses to the Entrepreneur Insider question: What are some common mistakes young entrepreneurs make?
Yes, it’s Okay to Ask for Help When Starting a Business by Suneera Madhani, founder and CEO of Fattmerchant.
Why the startup world is nothing like Shark Tank by Joy Randels, CEO of New Market Partners.
How slow decision-making can ruin your business by Karl Martin, founder and CTO of Nymi.
This is why so many startups end up in financial trouble by David Smith, founder of Vexti.
This is where most startups go wrong by Stephen Lake, CEO of Thalmic Labs.
Doing these 3 things will destroy your startup by Michael Gasiorek, editor-in-chief of Startup Grind.
The avoidable mistake every entrepreneur makes by Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike.