The 3 Biggest Mistakes I Made as a Student Entrepreneur and How I Learned From Them
As a student entrepreneur, I was prepared to make some missteps. After all, I'm still just getting the hang of this entrepreneurship thing. But I've made some whopping failures too.
Sure, making mistakes is something to be avoided. But the worst thing you can do is stumble and not learn from it. With this in mind, here are three of the top mistakes I've made that consequently taught me a lot about entrepreneurship:
1. Trusting without verifying.
I’ve always prided myself on having a strong ability to judge personalities very quickly and accurately. It is foolish, however, to rely solely on instinct when choosing vendors, employees and business partners.
In an interview, when a candidate is at their most composed, he or she might give off a hard-working vibe, but later that can very easily morph into aggression or stubbornness. I learned quickly (maybe still not quickly enough) that all first impressions need to be verified.
At the very least, get a second opinion: Have the candidate go through two rounds of interviews. To be more thorough, go beyond a basic Google search and follow up with references to understand how the candidate performed at previous jobs and why they no longer work there. You never know what you might dig up.
2. Waiting until senior year to take an accounting class.
While I am a huge advocate for hands-on learning, there are some subjects in which the basics are best learned in a classroom. Accounting is definitely one of them.
Student entrepreneurs are in the unique position of being able to take courses that both enhance general knowledge and supplement the business. It is crucial to take advantage of this.
Though much of our accounting work is delegated to the CFO or outsourced, I wish I had taken Accounting before I ever started my business. Having an understanding of the numbers helps shape the entire business, from operations to hiring to vendor choices.
3. Thinking I can do everything.
To some degree, I do believe this. I believe I can do anything I set my mind to, and that I am genuinely more productive the busier I am. There is, however, a limit to any one person’s abilities.
Furthermore, even if you can do everything, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It’s often more productive to delegate responsibilities. It gives employees a chance to show leadership and to grow within their role, and frees up your time to spend on tasks that require your specific skill set.
What was the biggest (but great) mistake you've made in starting up? Tell us what you learned from it in the comments section below.
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Sarah is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where she studied systems engineering and entrepreneurship. During her junior year she opened Green Bean, an eco-healthy salad restaurant. She is now in the midst of launching her second business, a line of performance-focused men's business socks: Unfettered Socks. She was a finalist in the Entrepreneurs' Organization's Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in 2012. Find more about her on her website.