Eight Mistakes We Make As Entrepreneurs (And How To Rectify Them)
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It’s been well documented that most CEOs or business owners didn’t establish themselves as the pop-culture business gurus of today by being born successful, or by inheriting a fully functioning large and established business. Along the road to “becoming successful” are many trials and tribulations, and an abundance of mistakes that will shape you into the person and entrepreneurial leader that you desire to become.
I challenge you to ask Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or Jeff Bezos how many mistakes they made on their way up to becoming the people they are today. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs alike were infamously ousted from their own organizations- in fact, this occurred to Jobs before he returned to Apple and oversaw its resurgence in the market!
However, these life experiences of mistakes that led to failures aren’t exclusive to them either. Your favorite local restaurant, the salon you go to, the place where you get your car fixed- they all have their own leaders who make executive decisions on their business operations. Ultimately, they will all face the same tests and make the same mistakes as the mythical CEOs and entrepreneurs of this world.
So, to my fellow CEOs, SME owners, board directors, and so on, here’s a look into some of the mistakes I and many others have made, which in turn have shaped us into the leaders we are today.
1. Being too attached to everything within the business When you’re at your early stages of life in business, it’s natural for the CEO or the founder of the company to find themselves preoccupied with doing the everyday necessities. That means if there’s an invoice to be delivered, a new business pitch to be prepared, or the communal coffee supply is running low, you have to do it! However, there comes a stage in every entrepreneur’s life when that incubation and initial operation phase is over with. You can’t be overly attached to every moving cog in your self-made enterprise machine. As your organization improves and expands, it’s imperative that you put your efforts into the most pressing matters. This segues me perfectly into the next mistake. Not delegating.
2. Not delegating tasks to your team members and staff You have to remove yourself from believing that, because you are the owner and leader, you have to do everything yourself, or be involved in every task. Similarly to the remedy for becoming attached to all the moving parts of the business, you need to move away from this mindset and understand that there are potential employees out there that share your vision, moral values, and work ethic. The challenge is that you need to find them. After all, Jeff Bezos doesn’t run that Amazon ship alone! Delegate to your employees, and trust them. At the end of the day, you’re the one that hired them. Learn to manage rather than dictate, so they can become empowered and grow, and you can focus on the bigger picture.
3. Saying yes to everything and everyone In my experience, CEOs can often find it hard to turn down an opportunity. If there’s potential in something, usually the CEO wants their organization to capitalize on it, and not miss out. However, in the long run, saying yes and jumping at every business opportunity will leave you thinly spread and exhausted. Understand that not every business opportunity will develop and transpire to be what you’re imagining. Sometimes you just have to pass on things, and focus on what you have in front of you. To reference an exemplary example of this we have to look back to 1997, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple after an 11-year hiatus from the company. This is one of my favorite stories of Jobs, which often isn’t at the forefront of people’s memories of him. Apple’s holiday sales took an unexpected downturn, which Jobs attributed towards “working in 18 different directions.” To negate this, Jobs completely overhauled Apple’s product line and reduced it massively so that their efforts were concentrated onto a handful of the company’s specialist products. Lo and behold, Apple very quickly recovered from its financial problems, and experienced an innovative rebirth through the 2000s. However, this doesn’t just apply to business opportunities. It’s across the board. Partners, stakeholders, clients, and even employees sometimes need to hear “Sorry, that’s not possible.” Focus on what you’re good at, and become an expert in that field; this will lead to greater opportunities further down the road.
4. Thinking for the short-term, not the long Owners of a business in its infancy may fall victim to chasing quick pay-outs that secure the monthly turnover required to cover overheads and business operations. Instant gratification in business doesn’t usually equate to long-term success. By all means, CEOs should take responsibility of their quarterly forecasts and have a target for Q1 and Q2, but to optimize your strategy, you should be taking into consideration how Q4’s results can set you up for the following year, the year after that, and so on. If you don’t have a long-term vision, you’ll begin to churn out work routinely. As an organization, you’ll feel like a production line, manufacturing the same things over and over for a quick win. Establish your long-term vision, and you’ll suddenly see those short-term goals achieving themselves.
5. Taking too long to terminate a contract It’s not pleasurable, there’s no enjoyment in it, but it goes with the territory. Unfortunately, even more so in the world of startups and SMEs, no staff member can be a passenger. The early years of developing a company is where sleep is lost, weekdays boil over into weekends, and holidays are on the back burner. With this in mind, if an employee only seeing their job as a typical 9-5, then they can’t remain part of it. Businesses aren’t inherited (for the most part anyway, including mine), and there’s no divine right of being employed at a startup or at any organization for that fact. The sooner you act and rectify an issue, the better off your company and the remaining staff will be.
6. Being scared of failure In life, sometimes we just come up short. It’s no individual’s fault, and sometimes, it occurs even when you put your best foot forward and tried your hardest. You don’t need a scapegoat or a specific reason why you didn’t earn that contract, or didn’t make that investment, or chose route A instead of B, when A turns out to be Yahoo and B is Google. Almost every single successful entrepreneur has had massive failures before they “won.” My advice to those business sharks that think the only option is success, is to embrace your failures, think about them rationally, and then devise a plan on how to avoid making those mistakes again. If you don’t taste failure, you’ll never appreciate the taste of winning. There’s no shame in failure, as long as there was a valiant effort behind it.
7. Relying on existing skills, and reducing networking It’s reported that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates alike read up to 50 books a year, while Mark Cuban is on the record for claiming he reads several hours a day. Although running a business is timely and tiring at the best of times, expanding one’s horizons is something that you should do continuously. Never stop learning, never stop reading, never stop trying to evolve and improve. This mistake extends to networking events. Earlier in my company’s operations, I was too thinly spread doing the day-to-day, and there was no way I had spare time to read on new trends, try workshops to develop more skills, and attend networking events that I was regularly invited to. I wholeheartedly give credit to how I’ve adapted and combatted my old mistakes, which in turn has led to me having more time to better myself as a serial entrepreneur and business woman.
8. Putting business before health I intentionally saved this one for last, as it is undoubtedly the most important. If you are not actively paying attention to your physical and mental wellbeing, you cannot perform to your optimal self. I’ve been victim to this over the course of my business-life, and from time to time, I still do. I cannot stress enough how your personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of your staff matters more than any big deal or achieving an illustrious career. Those things are amazing, and I too wish to leave a successful legacy behind me once all is said and done. However, business empires, entrepreneurial legacies, and all of the money in the world won’t give you back your health.
When things appear to not be going your way, it almost feels as if making a mistake is almost as natural as breathing. Sometimes mistakes are blindingly obvious, and you feel ridiculous for doing it, and that you’re inadequate. On other occasions, you may feel as if you made a fantastic business decision in the present, which later proves to not be the case, and my final and favorite case of making a wrong-turn is when a mistake ends up leading to a new avenue. The business world is cutthroat and harsh at the best of times, so the least you can do is not be so hard on yourself, your team, and the people around you. Learn from your mistakes, grow from them, and miraculously enough, you’ll end up stumbling across amazing results.