‘An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down’ – Reid Hoffman.
You may have never heard of Reid Hoffman, but I bet you’ve heard of the billion-dollar, business-oriented social media platform he co-founded, called LinkedIn.
His interesting description of an entrepreneur is probably the most fitting because it vividly captures the feelings of both terror and exhilaration that one experiences when they embark on a start-up venture. What this (now infamous) quote doesn’t tell you though, is that successful cliff-jumping entrepreneurs don’t simply launch themselves into the Abyss of Hopes and Dreams with nothing but a prayer and a positive attitude, but they in fact equip themselves with critical knowledge of how to construct this metaphorical aeroplane. You wouldn’t attempt a MasterChef dish without following a recipe, just as you shouldn’t attempt to start a business without a basic idea on how to achieve your goal.
These are five common mistakes entrepreneurs make which can sabotage their start-up success:
1. Not setting goals
There is an inspo quote somewhere in Google Land that says ‘A plan without action is just a dream’ – and this is absolutely true – however, there should be a second part of this quote that says ‘and action without a plan is simply a nightmare.’ Having vision, and knowing where you want your business to go is important, but knowing how to get there is crucial to Destination Success. Tracking your progress on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and even yearly basis, provides you and your team a framework in which to operate and stay on track to reach your targets. Remember: ‘what gets measured, gets done.’
2. Doing it solo
You can do anything… just not everything. As an ambitious entrepreneur, you take pride in your start-up, and know that nobody could love your ‘baby’ like you do. But wearing too many hats will only keep you busy rather than productive. Your quality of your work will also be severely compromised. Despite what your mum may have told you, you are not the best at everything (sorry!), and allowing other professionals in to assist you will ensure the work quality is exceptional, and free up your time to actually manage your business. Having a ‘can-do’ attitude is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘can-do-it-yourself’ attitude. Be smart. Delegating is a job, too! Just be sure you are hiring the right people for your business. While the ideal recruit should bring skills to the table you don’t have, it’s not just about their talents – the most important thing to look for is alignment of values, shared vision, and the motivation to make it happen.
3. Holding on to dead-end ideas
Stephen King coined the term ‘Kill your darlings’ to describe the act of abandoning cherished ideas and/or work that you’ve invested a lot of yourself into, if they no longer align with the greater good of the project. The same concept applies to start-ups. Listening to your intuition is an important part of the creative process, but ignoring the data because you’re too in love with your original idea is a one-way track to failure. Don’t let your ego distort the evidence. Data doesn’t lie. If Stephen King can throw away gold nuggets of work and still dominate the industry, you can too.
4. Thinking money solves everything
Sure, you do need to spend money to make money, but throwing wads of cash at every problem that arises is ignoring the fact that there may be a fundamental issue you need to address. Instead, reassess your business model. Is it sound? Have you set realistic goals? Spending a little bit of time rather than money could not only save you thousands, it could make you thousands. This is one instance where sense is more valuable than dollars.
5. Fear of failure
Let’s get one thing straight: nobody wants to fail. It’s a dirty word. Fear of start-up failure directly corresponds with fear of judgement, financial loss, feeling worthless, and oddly enough, self-sabotage through fear of success. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 95% of start-ups fail – that’s 19 out of 20. But that means 1 in 20 succeed. If someone told you there was a 1 in 20 chance you could win 10 million dollars, you’d consider those odds pretty good. It’s all just a matter of perspective. So change your mindset. ‘Failing’ implies a lack of success; no benefit, but you don’t have to have something tangible to have gained benefit from your experience. Measuring success is not just about measuring dollars; each time you ‘fail’, you have simply conducted an experiment and learnt something you can take with you to improve your next business.
So if you’re currently standing on the entrepreneurial precipice without a parachute, don’t be afraid, all you need is a little bit of guidance and a whole lot of guts – so go ahead and jump!