The old saying about “learning from mistakes” is especially true for those who have launched their own company. Even the most accomplished entrepreneurs have experienced their fair share of embarrassing mistakes and unexpected problems when they first opened their business! Fortunately, many business owners are able to laugh at themselves, resolve their past mishaps, and then share the lessons they learned with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
If you have ever felt unsure about effective business strategies or growing your business, taking advice from other entrepreneurs can help you avoid common mistakes while expanding your company. To start, we compiled 10 of the most important lessons that successful entrepreneurs learned while developing their own startups:
Let Go Off Perfectionism
New York Times bestselling author Lewis Howes writes that, “Perfectionism cripples a lot of entrepreneurs. They won't launch their site or put their product up for sale until they think it's perfect, which is a big waste of time. It's never going to be perfect." This is one of the most problems that aspiring business owners face, but it can be overcome by simply sharing your ideas with others.
It can be nerve wracking to ask for feedback on something that doesn’t quite meet your own standards, but this way you can gain valuable insights, receive constructive criticism, and immediately understand how you can improve and fine-tune your idea. Remember that there will always be room for growth and innovation, so don’t focus too much on creating a “perfect” product. Sol Orwell, an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience, gives aspiring business owners the following tip: “The advice is simple - just do it. Do a minimum version, talk to some friends, and see if they would be interested in it. If so, make a quick version, and go from there."
Strive to Help Others
In order to stay motivated when running your business, keep yourself focused on making the world a better place. Don’t choose to start a certain business simply because it appears to be a promising trend; instead, ensure that your company offers solutions that you are personally passionate about. To find a useful idea that can make people’s lives a little easier, take the advice of CEO and co-founder of Postman, Abhinav Asthana. He writes that, “A startup idea usually begins with a pain point, frequently one experienced personally by the startup's founder.”
When you begin looking for solutions and focusing on improving the lives of others, you will truly stay motivated and excited about your business for the long run. Writer Kimberly de Silva agrees, saying that, “When you focus your business on that priority, you will find yourself willing to overcome any obstacle to reach the goal.”
Don’t Underestimate Networking Opportunities
CEO and Business Growth Strategist Roland Frasier has provided countless entrepreneurs with valuable insights about how they can improve and expand their companies. Frasier’s years of experience in the highly competitive business world led him to recognize the power of networking and partnering with other companies. He says, “Strategic partnerships with the right companies can truly make a world of difference . . . Contact them and propose opportunities for working together.”
Co-founder and CEO of UrbanSitter, Lynn Perkins, also stresses the importance of connecting with other business leaders. For years, she has regularly met with a tight-knit group of fellow entrepreneurs to share their experiences and ask for advice. Perkins writes, “Our businesses and our careers are in various stages, giving us each unique expertise and advice to share. We've become trusted sounding boards for one another, learning from each failure and celebrating our successes together.”
Write (And Update) Your Business Plan
Matt Feldman, CEO and Co-founder of Case Escape says, "Many times, I see first-time entrepreneurs start their businesses without really understanding the total scope of work that's going to be required. This could relate to the overall investment that's necessary, the detail in your plan of action, or most importantly, personal capabilities and time." These miscalculations could lead to entrepreneurs becoming overwhelmed, discouraged, or even cause their business to fail.
In order to prevent these challenges, entrepreneurs can better prepare themselves for the future by creating a solid business plan and editing it as their company continues to grow. Successful business owners recommend including the following items in every business plan:
- Executive summary. Briefly explain your company, your ultimate goals, and describe the solutions that your business offers.
- Business description. In further detail, describe your business, products, values, and put some serious thought into the future of your business. Consider the demand for your solutions and ask yourself if demand will likely increase or decrease in the future. How will your business adapt to the changing consumer demands?
- Target market. Identify what type of people are most likely to purchase your products and think about how you can specifically market to the individuals within that demographic.
- Accurate budget. Be brutally honest with yourself in this section and consider all areas of your business when estimating your overall costs.
Understand Modern Marketing Strategies
Some entrepreneurs underestimate the technicalities and intricacies of marketing in today’s modern world. Traditional sales methods like cold calling are becoming less and less effective, while techniques like social selling and SEO are on the rise. If you don’t fully grasp the newer methods of marketing or assume you can hire someone with marketing experience, your company could face a serious disadvantage. As Kimberly de Silva states, “When starting your business, you’ll be doing the work of every department. That means you need a basic understanding of digital marketing, including SEO, mobile marketing, and paid advertising.”
Invest In Your Employees
Creating a solid company that offers high-quality solutions won’t mean anything if you don’t have a reliable team of employees on your side. Entrepreneur John Doherty says that, “Oftentimes, weak leaders will hire people who aren’t as good as they are because they feel threatened by people smarter than them. On the flip side, great leaders hire people who are smarter than them.” However, building a great team goes beyond hiring the right candidates.
In addition to hiring the most promising interviewees, you will need to do your part to create an environment where people want to work. Emphasize your company values to help form a cooperative work environment, regularly hold team meetings to quickly resolve any issues, and stay open-minded to suggestions. Make sure that your employees are knowledgeable about your products and can effectively handle customer complaints and answer any questions. Remember that your employees can make a big impact when it comes to customer retention, so don’t neglect employee training and development.
Develop Time Management Skills
Entrepreneurs usually work an average of 52 hours a week, according to writer Kimberly de Silva, but poor time management skills can lead to even longer hours. No matter how much you love your business, you definitely don’t want to be stuck in the office so often that you miss out on family activities and other commitments! Start creating your own schedule by gauging what items take you the longest to complete and what times of the day you’re most productive. For example, do you tend to accomplish the most during the morning hours? Are there any tasks you can delegate to your employees or business partners? Have you had trouble with procrastination in certain areas? Start to view your time as a valuable resource and you’ll quickly see areas where you can improve your efficiency.
Create a Great Sales Pitch
Entrepreneurs sometimes believe that they personally don’t have to be good at sales in order to grow their company, and this is unfortunately why many startups go under. Startup founders have to practice selling their business idea to potential investors, employees, customers, and other companies they may want to partner with.
If you don’t think you’re good at sales or simply assume you can hire someone to take care of it for you, you may want to consider the following advice from Vasil Azarov. He states that he frequently sees entrepreneurs hiring salespeople too soon after launching their business and that this can be a big mistake. Azarov says, "Ultimately, your need to become your startup's best sales person and best marketer before hiring." You don’t need to be a full-time salesperson, but you do need to create a compelling sales pitch in order to make people interested in your products. Before your company can start growing, you will have to show others that your solutions are worth being shared.
Always Prioritize Your Customers
Did you know it costs up to three times more to find new customers than it does to sell to an existing customer? When you build up a loyal customer base, you can save a significant amount of money in promoting and marketing costs. In order for your business to attract repeat customers, there are a number of things that CEOs suggest:
- Host an “Ask Me Anything” webinar for customers and curious potential clients.
- Take customer requests and feedback to heart. When a customer notices your business is willing to make a change to satisfy them, they will be much more likely to return and tell their friends about your business.
- Create a customer loyalty program. Roland Frasier, CEO of War Room Mastermind, states that an attractive loyalty program can help you retain customers, gain new clients, and improve your profits.
- Resolve customer complaints as quickly as possible. Be active on your company’s social media pages to see what people are saying about your business, questions they may have, or other issues that need to be addressed. Customers today expect businesses to interact with them quickly and directly, so if you take too long to respond, you may end up losing a customer.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
UrbanSitter CEO Lynn Perkins has personally dealt with immense amounts of stress from launching her own company and emphasizes the fact that entrepreneurs need to take time for themselves. She says that running a startup can “...create and contribute to chronic stress, leading to physical and mental exhaustion, lowered immunity and inability to focus on tasks at hand. These detrimental effects, and many others associated with stress and burnout, ultimately impact both your health and business.”
To create an outstanding business, entrepreneurs first have to invest time in maintaining their own health and prioritizing their personal needs. CEO and Co-founder of Bizzy, Jen Kessler, says, “If you are exhausted and 100% monopolized by work, you won't have the perspective and insight that you need to guide your venture in the right direction. Sleeping, exercising, and having a life outside of work is critical for your endurance as a human information processor and decision maker." Once you’re feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, you can be sure that you’re putting your best into company.