We asked eleven entrepreneurs to share some of their business mistakes and advice on how to avoid them; this is what they had to say:
Q: What were some of the mistakes you made starting out with your business and if you could start over what would you do differently?
As entrepreneurs we all make mistakes, and with every single one comes a life lesson. Some mistakes can be fatal to our businesses, but in some cases, they can also be the driving force behind our successes.
So I ask myself, with two different possible outcomes, how do we guarantee a positive one? Well, one thing is for sure, your attitude after the mistake itself, may decide your fate.
If you’re making mistakes, FEAR NOT – you’re certainly not alone. We asked eleven entrepreneurs to share some of their top business mistakes and advice on how to avoid them.
Lack of focus | Too much information | Lack of decision making
I tried too many ideas at once, hoping one would “hit”. It really takes focus and energy towards one project to make it successful. I read way to much, and didn’t take action on enough. Because I read way to much about everything, I didn’t know which way to turn. It was hard to make a decision when I was gathering so many opinions. I didn’t want to make a wrong move so I didn’t decide.
— Jaime Tardy | Founder | Eventual Millionaire
Spend more money on R&D | Iterate quicker | Always engage the experts
In the beginning we focused too much time on finding the most affordable methods for tech development. In hindsight, we should have spent more money on R&D from the beginning and begun iterating as quickly as possible. Initially, engaging external expert support seemed expensive, but it soon became obvious that getting it right the first time can save a lot of money. Expert and willing advice, even if it’s more costly, is always the best way to go.
— Liz Salcedo | Founder | Everpurse
Undercapitalised | Wrong industry | Lack of ambition
When we started Mint we had no funding. Initially this was a benefit, as it meant that we learnt how to run a business turning over $6k a month before aiming higher. Over time, this started to hold us back, and we were lucky to run into an investor at just the right time. For along time, we focused on the TV industry, despite being web entrepreneurs. Things really clicked when we forgot about TV and focused on the web.
— Andy Bell | Co-Founder | Mint Digital
Doing everything on my own | Not using a team & Outsourcing work
A mistake and lesson learned starting out was trying to do everything on my own. Even things I wasn’t good at. It’s taken time to realize that it’s more beneficial to focus my energies on what I’m great at and either work with others or outsource tasks that don’t fall in my zone of genius. Though this can come with an expense, I’ve learned that the opportunity cost of spending time doing things I’m not great at is far greater.
I’ve also learned that no one accomplishes anything great on their own. Though the myth of being a solo-preneur sounds sexy, it’s lonely. Especially for a social guy like myself. I’ve come to a realization that I’m at my best when working with a team. Just me and my computer is drudgery and no fun. Much of my efforts now are on building a team to enhance and add value to all THINQACTION offers moving forward.
— Antonio Neves | Founder | ThinqAction
MVP | Engagement then Virality | More A/B testing
When you’re a product company don’t try to do too much out of the gate. Keep it simple at first with a minimal viable product and then iterate with data. For the app world focus on building a great product, get users engaged and virality will come. Test as much as you can and continue to improve.
— CJ Macdonald | Co-Founder | Gyft
Launch with an international focus | Learn faster (especially in marketing) | Focus more on efficiency than Modern
We launched a German platform first – believing this was the market we understood best. Our product is most valuable when we connect businesses internationally, so that’s where we had to go. If launching an innovative product you have to learn marketing. Your whole team has to – so you can come up with a strategy and improve it together (don’t believe hiring someone will solve the problem). For strategic decisions: don’t always try to innovate, but use what other had success with (email marketing for example still works).
— Jonathan Gebauer | Co-Founder | Exploreb2b
Raise enough funding | Recruit only top level employees
Since Pluralis is already the second company I am founding, I have learned to avoid many mistakes.
Nevertheless, there is one mistake that I want to share. It relates to two different issues and the mistake is that founders don’t always give those issues the level of importance it deserves:
1) Raise seed funds enough to reach a milestone that will take you to the next founding round in regards to scaling and traction. POC milestone is not sufficient today.
2) Recruit ONLY A level employees. They cost more, but it is something you can’t compromise from day 1.
It is not easy to avoid it, but without it your chances to reach your goals are much lower.
— Hagi Erez | Founder | Pluralis
Persistence is key
Every idea and business evolves over a period of time with constant iteration. This is made possible by being persistent and sticking with your vision. I started up four times and failed thrice. In the three times I failed, the one factor that stood out and mattered most was “persistence.” If I had been persistent, I probably would not have failed in any of those ventures. Now with the fourth venture, Arkenea, no matter how many unique challenges come my way, being persistent with my goals has helped me run my business successfully for over two years.
— Rahul Varshneya | Co-founder | Arkenea
Delegate tasks and stay Focus
Don’t always assume you know your audience from the very start. There’s a huge chance you could be canceling some of your best customers you least expected to use your service or product. Delegate tasks to others so you can focus on your strengths and know that you can’t do it all by yourself.
—Ashley Bodi | Co-Founder | Business Beware
Decisions with no data | No long-term plan | Wasting time fundraising.
Upon launching our website, we made way too many decisions based on what we “thought was right” or wanted. Instead we should have surveyed our customers and made decisions based off data. We also launched without a strategy for monetization and we decided to go with the flow. We should have created a plan going as far as 5 years ahead. We also wasted too much time looking for investors and funding even though we didn’t need it. Funding from investors should be one of your last resorts.
— Jeet Banerjee | Co-Founder | Statfuse
Focus on What Matters… Getting Customers
Most entrepreneurs focus on the wrong things when starting… logos, business cards, their website or social media. All of those are a waste of time at the beginning. The only thing that matters early on is solving the pain your customer experiences. When you focus purely on the customer’s pain, you’ll discover customers buy from you… even if you don’t have a website, business cards, a fancy logo or (gasp!) even a product yet.