Put a few entrepreneurs in a room and you’ll find the topic of conversation will inevitably gravitate toward startup faux pas. I’ve been in that room enough times to know, after a while, it’s the same record all over again. I share with you below the 10 most frequent startup mistakes, which also reflect my own experiences.
1. Hiring Too Quickly
As an entrepreneur, you are naturally eager to move fast and build a big business. Not only that, but you are by nature impatient, no matter how fast you’re moving. That’s partly what makes you who you are and why you don’t fit into the normal routine of a corporate job.
Inevitably you make the mistake of hiring someone too quickly. Just don’t do it. Listen to your hunch. Take your time on hiring—it’s the single most important investment you will make. Do it carefully.
2. Giving Too Much Equity Too Quickly
Every entrepreneur has been there: you need cash imminently, and door after door gets shut in your face. Then someone comes along who is listening, but is a vulture. You’re so starved that the vulture looks like an angel (hence, angel investor). Believe me; they can sense your starvation, and they will use it to get as much equity as they can.
3. Ignoring a Hunch
I hate regret. I don’t normally regret things, but I do regret the times I didn’t listen to my intuition. Whenever I didn’t listen, I have always, always regretted it. The founder’s hunch is one of the most important assets of any startup or business. Use it, and be confident enough to stick by it.
4. Only Relying on Your Intuition
You need to complement a hunch with proper management discipline: looking at numbers and KPIs and formulating strategies and plans. Doing so goes against many entrepreneurs’ nature, but it’s important and will become easier with practice.
5. Listening to Outsiders Too Much
Having outsiders around you, especially smart ones, is great. It gives you fresh perspective. It helps you take a step back and see things in a new light. But it can also lead you down the route of destruction if you’re not careful. Nobody knows the business better than you do; you built it. So it’s all too easy for investors or successful entrepreneurs to blind you with their money or success. Make sure you take everything with a grain of salt.
6. Taking Things for Granted
Especially when it comes to investment, take nothing for granted. Investors have amnesia, and their money will often come before their promises. So make sure you have a contingency plan.
7. Underestimating Competitors
The best entrepreneurs are fiercely competitive and paranoid. They watch competitors with very little pride and a lot of determination. The losers are the ones who gloat about their own achievements.
8. Not Letting Go
Most entrepreneurs struggle at some point or another with letting go. They are used to doing everything themselves. They can be perfectionists and obsessively detailed, or focused on the bigger picture.
Amazing things can happen when you let go and hire people to work on your business. You will have time to think, play around, find things you would otherwise miss, bond with your team, check out the competition and meet people.
9. Working Too Hard
I work all the time. Even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about the business. Yet I’ve come to appreciate the importance of getting out and doing things that get my mind off of my work. That’s when most of my best ideas come to me.
10. Forgetting to Enjoy the Process
Last but not least: having fun is key, especially if you are a founder. People in your team will look at you and mirror you; some will emulate you. So if you’re miserable, your whole company becomes miserable. If you’re upbeat, they will follow.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Tobias Weidner