9 Highly Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal the Biggest Startup Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
'Wantrepreneurs' have Swiss-cheese mindsets with too many holes in their thinking.
What separates the entrepreneurs who make it from those who don’t? These uber-successful business founders and Advisors in The Oracles share the most common mistakes they see from aspiring entrepreneurs and explain how to overcome those mistakes. Here’s why some will never make it — and how you can.
1. They believe everyone’s advice.
Entrepreneurs often struggle because they listen to others’ advice instead of their instincts. Everyone has opinions. When you’re getting started, you’re going to hear a lot of people tell you no because “That’s a bad idea,” “You’re going in the wrong direction,” or “You should do this instead.”
For example, when we started Bluemercury, I wanted to create retail stores to complement the online business. Everyone said we were crazy, that pure e-commerce was the only way to go. But we became the first omnichannel retailer to go from clicks to bricks in the late 1990s. Today, we have almost 200 specialty stores as well as a thriving digital business. To succeed requires your own opinions and vision, along with the fortitude and persistence to act on what you think is right. —Marla Beck, co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury, which was acquired by Macy’s for $210 million; creator of M-61 Skincare and Lune+Aster cosmetics
2. They don’t put in the ‘work after the work.’
Fifty percent of businesses that fail should have never been in business. Passion, a great idea, drive, and ambition don’t guarantee success. Starting the business is one of the easiest steps of entrepreneurship; the separator is putting in the “work after the work” — stuff outside daily operations for your business to grow and endure the inevitable business cycles.
Learn your numbers, understanding the benefits and pitfalls of tax strategy, so you don’t waste the net profits your business will desperately need at some point. Learn leadership and management skills, so you don’t waste valuable time on employee churn and the hiring process. Learn negotiation tactics to get the best pricing from vendors, and more importantly, know your margins down to the penny.
—Matt Mead, founder and CEO at Drivonic; co-founder of Mead Holdings Group, The Epek Companies, and Grayson Pierce Capital
3. They ignore their finances.
It takes three things to be successful in business: the product or service, sales, and accounting. Most entrepreneurs are naturals at developing their product or service and are on the front lines of sales, especially in the beginning. But too often, they ignore (or avoid) the numbers or are afraid to admit they don’t understand them. The result? One day they’re in business, and the next, they’re not. But the thing is, the solution is simple: admit what you don’t know and put the right person in place to get the information you need. If you want to bring your vision to life, you need operational partners who can take care of the details and execute, especially when it comes to your finances. —Bill Gerber, co-founder of AccountingDepartment.com, a virtual accounting service for small businesses; connect with Bill on LinkedIn
4. They fixate on the dream instead of doing it.
Many entrepreneurs get too caught up in what they do because it’s their passion. But if you want to scale, you must be just as passionate about who you do it with and how. Entrepreneurs can fixate on their creation and become overly controlling to protect it. They get bogged down in the dream instead of developing the strategies, systems, processes, and people necessary to grow. This creates tunnel vision, and they can miss the bigger picture.
When these entrepreneurs reach a point of stress or even initial success, they double-down on their perspective and dismiss helpful insights from others. Believing that they are the only ones competent enough to do the thing, they eliminate their chance to scale through others. —Brandon Dawson, serial entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Cardone Ventures; founder and CEO of Audigy; host of “The B Dawson Show” podcast; connect with Brandon on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
5. They don’t surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs.
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. We all have different personalities, capabilities, and DNA. The No. 1 quality you need is the ability to influence people. A great idea isn’t enough. Can you sell that idea to others? It also takes courage, drive, determination, and a gut feeling that says, “I have to do this, and I’m going to pull it off,” even when others tell you not to. You also need a fire in the belly that says, “I will not work for someone else,” while still being able to work with others.
Many entrepreneurs get stuck when they run out of money, energy, or passion. They strive for perfection, which is the enemy of performance, and get lost in the details. Surround yourself with others who have achieved what you want to achieve. Success is difficult to accomplish — unless you follow someone who already has. —Mike Calhoun, founder and CEO of Board of Advisors; connect with Mike on Facebook and LinkedIn
6. They listen to too many people.
We live in an age where everyone believes the more data, the better. But in reality, the more relevant data you have, the better. Many aspiring entrepreneurs never gain traction because they continue to get data and coaching rather than go with the workable advice they already have. They take advice or mentorship from too many influencers or “gurus,” most of whom haven’t achieved real results and are offering bad advice. My rule of thumb? Find one mentor who has actually done it, and go deep on their information. You don’t need 50 mentors; you need one. —Corrie Elieff, co-founder and chairman at YESA
7. They lack grit.
Many would-be entrepreneurs are too idealistic and grossly underestimate the time commitment required to build a business. Without the coping skills or resilience, they crumble in the face of inevitable challenges. They can also get stuck fixating on the wrong things instead of assessing what will entice their target audience to part with their cash.
When hiring, I look for someone with a PhD — they’re Poor, hungry, and Driven. Regardless of their financial status, I want someone humble who lives below their means and is willing to do any task, no matter how small. That’s a sign of strong leadership. I love the quote “Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” That’s what separates a true entrepreneur from everyone else. —Gail Corder Fischer, co-founder and executive vice chairman of Fischer & Company, a leading global corporate real estate firm that provides consulting, brokerage, and technology solutions
8. They don’t want it badly enough.
In a world of complacency and mediocrity, it takes a special person to thrive as an entrepreneur. You need an insatiable hunger. The ones who succeed see business as a game. It’s not about the money. They do it because they love it — the challenge, the growth. That’s what separates them.
“Wantrepreneurs” have porous mindsets like Swiss cheese with too many holes, such as limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and worry about what others think. They aren’t realistic about what it takes to build a successful business. At least early on, the failures and learnings will seem to outweigh the successes. Wannabe entrepreneurs let excuses and stories stand in their way when the going gets tough. Successful ones continually develop their mindset, so they have the courage to move into fear and take action. —Yuri Elkaim, founder and CEO of Healthpreneur, former professional athlete, and New York Times bestselling author; read how Yuri went from making $80 a week to building million-dollar businesses, and connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube
9. They don’t show up every day.
“Making it” has nothing to do with skills or star quality, though they help. It has everything to do with whether you show up and do what you need to do, even if you don’t feel like it. While talent and leadership skills can help you, many talented leaders finish their time on Earth without achieving what they came to do.
In the end, it’s black and white. You either took a deep breath and did today’s work today and every day, figuring it out as you go (which is the only way), or you listened to the fear telling you that you aren’t good enough or don’t know how to begin. Appoint yourself, take action today, live as though you believe in that appointment, and take it seriously. — Katrina Ruth, founder and CEO of “The Katrina Ruth Show,” a multimillion-dollar online coaching business for entrepreneurs; read Katrina’s story and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube
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