The 7 mistakes that I learned from hundreds of entrepreneurs

Paul Myers MBA

A spotlight on Entrepreneurship

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I speak with entrepreneurs all the time — Startup founders — Innovators.

We talk about successes and failures. We talk about their journey, their vision, what worked and what didn’t. I talk to both established founders and newbies in equal measure, plus everything in between.

I love my job.

Something that often comes up during these discussions is the mistakes that they’ve made and lessons learned by starting businesses, common mistakes that elicit retrospective responses like:

  • “I should have …”
  • “What I should have done differently is ..”
  • “I wish I hadn’t…”

The opening statements above indicate the learning process at work, hence the reason for this article. A piece that will discuss the 7 mistakes learned from conversations with hundreds of start-up founders.

Enjoy reading!

1. Not solving a problem

If your Startup solves a problem then it will be easy to find customers and easier to scale. To reinforce this statement I’d highly recommend reading a recent article written by Stephen Moore about, entitled: This Is What It Takes to Go from $0 to $1 Million in Less Than One Year.

As such, the opposite is true — Startups fail because they try to solve problems that nobody needs or cares about. Michael Sherman (Letterdash) found a niche and in doing so discovered that he is building something that people care about and need.

So if you launch your product or service and nobody buys it, you should work on solving a more important problem, a niche problem, as opposed to focusing on acquiring a bigger audience.

“By far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.” — Paul Graham

2. Obsessed with perfection

Taking too long to launch a product or service is magnified in the pursuit of perfection.

When you start a blog or podcast series aimed at building an E-commerce audience, you can get stuck on the content curation. Spinning the “hamster wheel” for too long — months or years — without selling anything.

One reason why this happens is that Entrepreneurs are pursuing a magic audience number, “1,000 subscribers” for example, or “10,000 site-visitors”. Many Entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to do this to gain confidence, buy-in from others, in order to increase the chance of making a sale from their tribe.

In contrast, some Entrepreneurs can’t find the time to blog, make videos or podcast while building a Product or Service at the same time.

It can be a double-edged sword — it’s a rough ride.

Others talk themselves out of creating a product or service because of fear, afraid that no one will buy from them. Fear of failure after investing so much time creating content.

“You’re damned if you do and your damned if you don’t.” — Bart Simpson

This is a fatal trap.

If you’re building a business, you must face the risks head-on. You must also develop key skills. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll create something that no one will buy.

If so, start again — Pivot.

Furthermore, everyone needs to practise at building and launching a product or service, so don’t waste this valuable experience, paralysed by fear.

Your first attempt(s) might well fail, the likelihood is that it will. So the sooner you put something out in the world the closer you get to generating revenue, even if its Zero to start.

“If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.” — Robert Kiyosaki

3. Not listening to customers

Are you solving a problem? How do you know for certain? Listen to your audience — I mean really listen to them.

Listen to those customers who critique a feature, score 1 out of 5 on Trustpilot or buy your product but don’t use it. Listen to the consumers who say they won’t buy your product or service and ask why.

Don’t just listen to the customers who provide validation and approval — this will only stroke your ego, adding little value for continuous improvement.

“Who do you listen to? Who are you trying to please?” — Seth Godin

So remember to pay attention, don’t just pay lip service to your customers because they have all the answers. Without customers, you don’t have a business.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

4. Choose something that you're passionate about

Whatever you choose to focus on, you need to have a deep subject knowledge on your topic, product or service, coupled with an abundance of creativity and unwavering stamina.

Follow your passion because, without it, your Startup will starve when it needs you most.

For many Entrepreneurs, their Startup begins as a side-gig and scales from there.

Entrepreneurial writer, George Ziogas, said: “It’s certainly a lot easier and more enjoyable to write about something you’re passionate about” (George Ziogas, 2018).

“Imagine sitting at your desk in the morning, typing away and making a great living while everyone else is fighting traffic or their boss.” — George Ziogas

This doesn’t mean your Startup has to be your Number 1 passion in life or even your life’s work because most Entrepreneurs, most people for that matter, have more than one passion in life. The point is, don’t make the mistake of choosing something that you don’t care about.

“Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

If you’re passionate, stamina won’t be a problem. If you truly love your topic, product or service, creativity will flow and influence will unfold in time.

5. Overthinking ... or ... thinking too much

Don’t dwell on your lightbulb moment, take action.

Remember, nothing will happen without action, so 80% of your time must be doing and 20% on thinking and planning.

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” — Thomas Edison

Initially, you have to spend most of your time working IN your Business as opposed to ON your business. Just make steady progress each week.

Enough said.

6. The lone ranger approach

Most Entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to told me that their friends, family and colleagues wouldn’t let them quit. Honestly, they said “I felt like throwing in the towel” more time than they can remember but they wouldn’t let me. “They convinced me” otherwise.

Going it alone is a mistake.

No one succeeds in business alone. You need people, it’s Human nature.

People are everywhere — Your colleagues are people, your customers are people, your service providers and suppliers are people. Lean on them.

Most importantly, many Entrepreneurs get support from other entrepreneurs, those who’ve walked a mile in your shoes, those with more experience.

Connect more and connect often. Meet and get to know other entrepreneurs because you’ll no longer feel alone, crazy or insane. There’s solace in talking to others who face the same obstacles that you’re facing.

“The low points in a startup are so low that few could bear them alone.” — Paul Graha

So reach out to other entrepreneurs and ask them to meet or chat. Share your thoughts, your struggles and your goals. Measure your progress too.

So ask for help.

Try it — People are inherently good — you’ll be surprised by how many people are willing to help.

“People are nicer than you think, but it’s only by daring to dream that you can give them a chance to show you.” — Brian Pennie

Don't be shy, ask for help.

7. Not starting at all

This is the biggest mistake of all. Don’t be that person who talks about ideas, talks about starting a business for years and does nothing. This is the only way to guarantee failure.

“If you don’t start, you will fail.” — Seth Godin

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Final thoughts

No Startup is a sure thing.

In fact, most fail.

It takes courage, guts, resilience, heart and intelligence to try.

The good news is that you can only get better.

From personal experience, I always remind myself of 5 basic rules, laws even:

  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake(s)
  • Mistakes are part of the process
  • Just dive in
  • Fail often
  • Fail early

When you fail, which is guaranteed, give yourself a pat on that back knowing that you’ve learned valuable lessons.

After you pick yourself up and dust yourself down and start again.

Why? Because the world needs you, yes you, the inventors of tomorrow.

Ádh mór!

Which translates to Best of Luck’ in Irish.

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Innovative Entrepreneurial thinker & Dreamer. I write about Leadership, Startups, Business, & Personal Growth. Connect with me here:


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