Market shifts, unforeseen circumstances, and running out of money are some of the most common excuses we hear when a startup sputters and fails to take off.
All those may be true, but I believe most businesses fail because of our own flaws, as owners. To me, excuses are easy, addictive, and designed to shut things down. We tend to justify our failures with excuses, but have you ever thought about looking in instead of looking out?
Many of us look to become entrepreneurs for a number of reasons. In fact, according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, 27 million working-age Americans, nearly 14%, are starting or running new businesses. Starting your own business takes enormous leaps of faith and there’s no “secret sauce” for success, but you must avoid these mistakes if you want to keep your business afloat.
Mistake #1: Spreading yourself too thin
When you start a business, you spend every waking moment fine-tuning every point, whether it’s your message, your logo or your brand’s identity. Once you start getting clients, it’s very tempting to over-promise, and that’s when it all starts going south.
Avoid this at all costs because it creates additional pressure for you and your staff (if you’re big enough to have a staff). In the end, you always end up overpromising and under-delivering. This isn’t good in any business setting, but as a start-up, this would be a crucial a mistake you can’t afford to make.
A common way entrepreneurs spread themselves too thin is when they try to be the CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO, social media manager and receptionist all at the same time. You can’t. The day-to-day activities will take most of your time, if not all of it. You must prioritize your tasks, and if social media is high on your list, then start slow and take the time to learn one platform at a time. No two platforms are interchangeable.
Related: 3 Leadership Traps to Avoid
Mistake #2: Taking shortcuts
Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t be fooled into thinking a one-size-fits-all model for everyone. Just because a certain strategy worked for one company, it does not mean the same strategy will work for yours.
If you start the race playing catch-up, you’re already at a disadvantage. You need to learn how to work smarter, not harder. Believing you’ll be able to catch up by taking shortcuts isn’t the best way to start a business, or maintain one.
Rather than taking shortcuts, create a process — a step and repeat of sorts. Think about McDonald’s – when you walking into any of their restaurants, in any country in the world, it feels and looks the same. Your company may be small now, but you must think long-term. Do you have processes in place that can be easily replicated? If not, it won’t be so easy to grow and expand into new markets.
Mistake #3: Getting cocky
If you’ve had a taste of success, it’s very easy to get a little cocky and think you’ll keep on riding that wave – until you crash. Success is great, but once you start believing your own hype, that’s where it gets dangerous.
In my book, Think Big, Act Bigger, I talk about cleaning your own bathroom. As a small startup, you might have to do things you normally didn’t do at a Fortune 500 company, like cleaning your bathroom or taking out the trash. While some people let pride get in the way of such menial tasks, don’t be one of those people. Why? Because this goes beyond performing these tasks. It’s meant to serve as a reminder to stay humble and connected with every aspect of your business, no matter how small.
As a former chief marketing officer at Kodak, I cleaned the carpets for no other reason that we had no budget to do so. On weekends, I rented the equipment and got to work because that’s what needed to be done. Getting all high and mighty will only affect the cadence of the company you worked so hard to develop.