When you are an entrepreneur, the chances are that you don’t always think before taking action. Well, nothing new here because this is an expected result of your entrepreneurial spirit, so any judgment is out of the question. Also, first-time entrepreneurs don’t always have the opportunity of having a mentor to listen to which results in dumb moves on the market sometimes.
But let’s not focus on the bad part here. Instead, let’s learn from them.
I gathered 23 things entrepreneurs say they would have done differently if they could go back in time (including some mistakes of my own) and I transformed it into the right actions. The antidotes. That way, you can have in advance every action an entrepreneur considered a mistake when going on his own entrepreneurial journey, so you can make your journey a little bit easier.
Here we go!
PS: There’s a very interesting video in the end of this article
#1. INVEST MORE IN DESIGN FROM DAY ONE
Design matters for a business. The subconscious part of people will judge how professional you are and how high-quality are your products just by its design because that appeals to more money invested. Which in case you don’t know, translates to “this company has a lot a money to invest, so they may be successful”. This is how people think so invest more on design from day one.
#2. DON’T SCALE TOO FAST BEFORE RAISING SALES NUMBERS
Don’t go hire people whenever you grow a little bit on sales. Try to squeeze results from what the structure you have and then try to make things bigger. And don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong on putting faith in your business and take a few steps ahead first without seeing the end of the road, but don’t go all out and try to scale too quickly. Hire and buy more structure at a pace that you guarantee you can reverse any debts or problems. Be wise.
#3. MARKET YOUR BRAND AND YOUR PRODUCT LESS BUT WITH A LOT MORE HEART
Do less but do it better. Don’t try to focus only on every marketing aspect trying to reach out to every person of your target audience. Make things more precise and aim to transmit the right voice about your product and your brand. People need to be impacted, not spammed.
#4. DON’T ASSUME YOU’LL DO ONE THING AT A TIME
It’s wrong to assume — and I’m here to confirm it — that you’ll follow that nice “step-1-then-step-2 plan” for your business because in the real world it doesn’t work like that. When a company is rising you can’t first focus on raising money to then focus on building your product to only then, focus on sales.
You got to do it all at the same time! You must build your product WHILE you are raising money and WHILE you are focusing on sales. After all, you can sell a product that it is yet to come, right? Movies do that and books do that too, they make you keep thinking and waiting for the launch date, but they are already selling it.
That’s why you need to understand that when a company is starting out the process to growth it’s just the same as a company which is already there. You must manage what you have and try to grow it at the same time.
#5. SEE YOUR PLATFORM AS MULTIPLE PRODUCTS NOT MULTIPLE FEATURES
People prefer to group solutions as they like instead of buying what they don’t need, that’s why you should also aim for the multiple products approach. Aside from that, a single product which solves the exact problem of a client will fit more perfectly for him, making his mental buying barriers fade away because he won’t have to check the other features and see if those might bother him. What you are selling should be several products with one great solution each, not a bunch of solutions wrapped up in one single product. Try to make it tight.
#6. TRY TO SELL TO ONE PERSONA FIRST
Don’t go out selling the piece of gold you took time to build to every persona that exists inside your target audience. When you are selling, marketing gets involved and you need to learn from the feedbacks, from the experiences you are getting in return for your strategic actions. That’s the process. And to learn all that feedback at the same time for all types of personas is almost impossible if you want to grow faster and better. Focus on one persona, master the sales process and then, expand your reach.
#7. TRY TO SELL ONE SOLUTION FIRST
Same thing here. Don’t try to sell every product at the same time because you need feedback and you need to understand how the market actually works first for that type of solution. The right marketing, the right design, the right features and everything else must be taken into account to create the best version possible of your product because the competition is not playing games here. So, try to sell only one solution as well when you are starting.
#8. MAKE A PARTNERSHIP THROUGH AN OPERATING AGREEMENT
Partners are only partners when a lot to lose and a lot to win is involved. If you don’t have to do any math when you get a partner then you both have no value and you can’t sell anything. For example, if Google was about to make a partnership with Apple you bet that a lot of math would be involved.
Who has made more sales in the last 6 months? Who has more brain power? Investment power? And what about the operational costs? And how many clients do each of them have? Those are numbers that matter. So if you are aiming to play the big boys game you better put all that in an operating agreement because once you get to a certain level of success, those numbers WILL be the reason why a fight between you and your partner is happening. There are no friends or family in business. So put it all in the paper first. Fast. Don’t compromise the future.
#9. BALANCE WORK AND LIFE
We were built to help people and to have a family, that’s what this is called LIFE! A person who is only working is not living so don’t try to go “work mode” all that time because burnout will get to you very fast. Very fast.
Although I do preach that you should try to make your way to success faster, you also need to know how to balance things too because THAT interferes on how fast you’ll go. We are not machines and we need a recharge from time to time. You need to experience life and you won’t get back the hours you are investing in your business, because once these hours are invested, there’s no return policy. So balance your work and your life, my friend.
#10. LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE MORE
Sometimes there is something you want to do but you just KNOW you shouldn’t do. Yes, that inner voice is correct, you shouldn’t do it. Why? Because that inner voice was built for YOUR personality, your abilities, your skills and everything else that involves YOUR way of doing things. So if you are an entrepreneur, you must listen to yourself if you want to express your way of helping others.
#11. LISTEN TO YOUR TEAM MORE
An entrepreneur is a leader, and true leaders listen. A great book by Simon Sinek called Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is an awesome piece of content that emphasize the team as an important part of a business. A team can give you diversity and teach you a lot, especially if you hired people from different countries and cultures. The team can also help you by thinking as a customer because they too had experiences as a customer. That’s why you should listen to your team.
#12. IGNORE THE COMPETITON A LITTLE AND FOCUS ON YOUR OWN WORK
Stop peeking what other people are doing and focus on making YOUR product better. You don’t have time to keep comparing yourself with the competition all day long, you must put work into your own business and build something people will be happy to use.
Live by this rule:
And that’s it.
#13. DESTROY PERFECTIONISM
There are no perfect people, we are all flawed. So why do you think you can create the perfect product? The perfect book? And the perfect business? You can’t because none of us can’t. There will always someone who will have something negative to say about what you are doing, always. So stop worrying about perfectionism and launch the best version possible you have created with the amount of time, money and energy you’ve invested.
Nothing is perfect. Launch what you have and learn from the feedback.
#14. IF YOU WANT TO RETAIN CONTROL DON’T TAKE OUTSIDE MONEY
Some entrepreneurs think that because they have the bigger share of a company — like 51% — it gives them the power of making all the decisions, no matter what happens. They assume they’ll have total control just because they got the bigger share. No. That’s not how things work. Every person in the board must be considered before taking a decision because if the board disagrees and a decision is made without any agreement, the company will crumble. You might have 51% but in the end, if you want full control then don’t use other people’s money. Never.
#15. FOCUS ON LEARNING THE KEY SKILLS FOR THE MOMENT YOU ARE LIVING NOW
With focus, you can do more in a month than you would do in a year so try to always be learning the necessary skillset that you are needing RIGHT NOW to keep playing the game. Do sales bother you? Go learn how to master sales. Don’t know how to manage your own company’s finances? Time to learn that instead.
Never try to learn everything at the same time if you are not needing those skills right now because that’s not necessary. If you focus only on what you are needing to change at the moment, you’ll grow much faster. And much better. And you’ll have more time to study in the future as well.
#16. YOU ARE NOT SUPERMAN. DELEGATE.
Entrepreneurs often think they can do everything by themselves and they need little help to accomplish things. Not true. We all need help and at a certain moment you’ll have to trust on others to keep growing your business, that’s why you must delegate.
A simple designer might have the key concept for improving your brand or website. An investor might have the right view of how to monetize things. A manager might know better the target audience than you do, for example. So don’t be arrogant, stay humble and delegate. Just choose the right people to work with and trust they will do what’s necessary.
#17. FORGET ABOUT A PLAN B OR A JOB TO RETURN
There are no other options to get back to if you fail. You must record inside your head that failure is not an option. Success is what you WILL get no matter what happens or how much work is involved. You must go all in and spend every resource and energy you have to succeed because if your business fail, you must assume there isn’t going to be a second chance. And you’ll breathe mediocrity for the rest of your life. No backup. No jobs waiting for you. Forget about options and move forward. Go all in.
This mindset will help you get more clients, get more money from investors and put more hours of work too. You’ll understand how it is to be a lion in business.
#18. FORGET THE MONEY APPROACH. FOCUS ON SERVING OTHERS BY THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE
Money might make your eyes pop from your head once you start getting it, but you can’t be in love. Forget about money, it’s NOT the final goal. Instead, you must remember the “WHY” you started all this and stay truth to yourself. That’s the goal: the expression of how you can help people. And your business needs this to survive because a company based only on profits is not a company that serves others anymore, not really. On the other hand, a company that is always focusing on serving others will always have financial success.
Make people smile and you will smile, that’s the rule. Stop building your business based on earnings possibilities and start building it based on human needs.
#19. MISTAKES ARE NOT A REASON TO BE EMBARASSED. THEY ARE A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE.
I am going to quote uncle Bill here to make things a little bit simpler, my friend:
A life without mistakes is not a life where you are trying something actually new or a life where you’re expressing yourself to the world with your own personality and your unique abilities. In order to be creative and put your voice out there, you must risk failing, judgment and other bad experiences and that’s ok. Mistakes are made by people who are following what they want to accomplish on Earth, whether that makes sense or not.
Also, you know that creativity can’t be executed without any failure. It’s impossible.
Imagine if people like Thomas Edison would worry about failure….
He wouldn’t have built the Airplane.
(Just kidding. I know it’s the lamp. This was just to see if you’re paying attention).
If you are afraid of making mistakes, you won’t explore all your creativity which makes putting ideas into practice a very difficult task since you are worrying only about the outcome, and not paying attention of what can be born from your actions. So don’t worry. Test things. Even stupid ideas are valid to try it.
#20. ALWAYS TRY TO BE WORKING WITH THE BEST
The more people you admire inside your company the better. Try to work with the best from day one so you can growth as fast as possible. Don’t put people inside your company that are “kinda what you need” because that approach WILL backfire, sooner or later.
#21. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FIRE YOUR CUSTOMERS
A stressful type of living doesn’t worth any amount of money at all. Never! The days and hours you spend trying to please someone who doesn’t understand basic human principles like holidays or the value of hard work doesn’t worth your time or attention. And on the market, some clients are experts in making your life……worse. Seriously. So BELIEVE me when I say this in advance to you my friend:
What is a bad customer? The type of customer that takes away your hours of sleep for some reason. You must feel good when working with someone, period. That’s the basics. A good way to validate if a customer is good for you is to:
- set the terms that you’ll be working on and see if he respects them (off-work calls, weekends)
- check if whenever you talk about money he is trying to get a discount from your hard work
- check if he is respectful, honest and transparent when talking to you
Those are at least my red flags. A discount or two is no problem. And of course that I’m always here to help my customers and I have no problem with answering a phone call on a weekend every once in a while, but when things start to take a form of a routine…….
You should fire them.
Remember that your life, your family and how you enjoy your days on Earth comes first and you must preserve all that. Besides, a bad client can affect how you treat other clients because he made you change your normal mindset to the stressful mindset.
Don’t be afraid to fire them. Just go find someone else to work with.
There will be people willing to work with you. Promise.
#22. DO NOT REST ON SALES
Always keep selling your business. Always. The marketing effort you are doing today might bring you a client tomorrow. Aside from that, you might pitch a company that doesn’t want your product but that will forward your presentation to someone who might want. You never know what is going to happen, so stay steady and strong in your marketing efforts because one day your brand can be remembered and a contract can be signed without you having to pitch someone.
#23. MAKE YOUR MIND AS STRONG AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE THERE WILL BE TIMES WHERE THE “BUSINESS WAR” WILL HIT YOU
There will be times where your business will be tested against the fire and your mind too. Maybe your business model is not perfect yet and you need to perfect it or maybe your market share is getting smaller due to a new startup, but the main point is that you can’t let your mind get weaker.
You can’t doubt yourself or your actions. Never. Because you’ll reach a critical level where YOU ARE THE LEADER and it is YOUR responsibility to make things keep going forward! And if the Team around you realize that their leader is falling down into pieces and if they see that you don’t know what to do next, you’ll lose at least part or maybe even ALL of your business structure. And that will start with people’s trust and their synergy.
Your mind must be steady, strong and prepared for the worse. All the time. So when the bad days come, you already have the “fightback approach” ready to unleash against whatever is coming your way. Make your mind stronger. Remember that.
An entrepreneur can pay attention to all these topics but he will make his own mistakes. And that’s totally ok. And you know why? Because a limited set of the future generations of entrepreneurs will LEARN from your good and bad experiences. You’ll teach those who identify with you, your style, your way of doing things.
And those guys need a mentor, they will need someone to help them get through and that someone is going to be you. That’s how you are going to contribute to the world. Your own mistakes will be portrayed in your story so others can have a source of motivation.
Yes, we can minimize the bad steps, but we can’t minimize them all.
And to enhance this content, I got you a nice video from Guy Kawasaki where some of the points that I wrote above were extracted. It’s awesome!