Being an entrepreneur is so en vogue right now. As a result, many who are getting into the startup game come from corporate environments and have never even worked in the startup world. Because of this, there are a lot of the same mistakes made over and over again. Here are some of the big ones we see working with first time entrepreneurs.
1. Being too focused
There’s something called “founders goggles” that almost every entrepreneur gets, and while the blind determination and belief that your product is the next big thing is helpful in pushing through those tough times, you also have to be realistic. Set reasonable goals for customer acquisition, revenue, and funding, then make sure to constantly test and measure those goals. Recognize that not everyone is going to love your product…and that’s ok.
2. Bootstrapping absolutely everything
You simply can’t do it all. The best way to decide what your main role is (or will be, once you have room for more than a team of a few) is to look at what makes up your core skill set. You’ll need to do more than this in the beginning, but if you’re socially awkward and have a hard time talking to people, it would probably behoove you to outsource sales. If you’re a marketing person, don’t try to learn to code along the way. If you can build a simple MVP or splash page on your own, then go for it. But if you’re building a product, talk to a pro–we build “minimum lovable products” for our clients in a variety of budgets.
We have written an entire post on bootstrapping, and the pros and cons. Take a look at it here.
3. Thinking you can build a successful company as a side-hustle
This one is tough. So many people want to be entrepreneurs, but unless you’re building your business full-time, you’re not likely to have much traction. Many entrepreneurs do some consulting on the side at the beginning to help pay the pre-funding bills, but if you’re in-house at another company, you likely do not have enough focus on your own product to really build it to be a fully formed (and successful) venture.
4. Not relying on data
Once you’re making some traction, you need to measure everything. And measure again. Knowing all of your numbers–how much you’ve spent to get the customers that you have, how many website visitors it will take to get someone to sign up or download your app–is the lifeblood of your business. These numbers determine whether or not your idea is viable. Do not trust anecdotal evidence even though that’s the feel-good stuff. That’s basically your friends saying, “All my friends love your business.” Until you’re making them a user and/or making money off them, those words are encouraging, but shouldn’t be the voices guiding you when making business decisions.
5. Getting into it for the wrong reasons
The rise of the Chicago startup scene has made way for some big tech company growth–and cashouts–over the last few years. But if your motivation for starting a company is getting in and out quickly, you should stop. Huge payouts are far more uncommon than startup failure. The work that goes into making a successful company takes dedication, passion, and a sticktuitiveness that most do not have, especially if they’re expecting a few years worth of work to become a quick payday.
We have a ton of experience advising startups at the earliest of stages. Want to chat about how to prevent some of these–or other–mistakes? Let us know! We would love to offer some advice.