Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

The Biggest Communication Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Avoid these costly communication mistakes by heeding the advice of 15 successful women founders and CEOs.

By Jill Schiefelbein

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

LaRue PR

Communication makes or breaks a business. Savvy leaders understand the importance of communication to employees, customers, investors and beyond. So how can you make your communication better?

I gathered insights on the biggest communication mistakes that entreprneurs make from 14 female founders during the recent Create & Cultivate conference in New York. Learn from the advice from these successful entrepreneurs who were asked:

What is the biggest communication mistake that entrepreneurs make?

Not communicating across teams

"Communication is essential to driving collaboration in business. We work cross-functionally on a daily basis, and the strong communication between our teams is what keeps our company moving forward at such a rapid pace." -- Kendra Scott, CEO of Kendra Scott

Keeping employees in the dark about the company vision

"Sometimes, high level strategy conversations about the big picture happen behind closed doors. When leaders don't communicate those larger goals with their teams that are going to be executing that vision, it can create frustration and a lack of unity and clarity. You can't assume that employees will connect the dots from the lofty vision to their day-to-day work. I think it's really important to share learnings, celebrate wins big and small and give people a broader perspective of what's happening in the industry, in order to help everyone feel connected to the business and mission and their place in executing against it." -- Piera Gelardi, co-founder and executive creative director of Refinery29

Assuming others already understand

"Not being thorough enough and assuming people understand what you mean. It's safe to assume nothing, and to over communicate or over." -- Jaclyn Johnson, founder of Create & Cultivate

Keeping the vision too under the radar

"Never assume that others know your vision and your brand. Always ask questions, give information and make sure that your vision is ultimately the one being communicated when starting your company." -- Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of Rebecca Minkoff

Not being transparent about mistakes

"I think transparency is absolutely critical for our company culture and we hope that bleeds over to the way we love and engage with our customers! We have found that when you can own up to your mistakes and have an honest conversation about it, people are far more forgiving and understanding than if you try and scoot around the issue." -- Mica May, founder and CEO of May Designs

Not scaling communication as business grows

"Communication needs change as the size of the business changes. Especially in high-growth businesses and those with remote staff, it can be even more challenging. Early on, I realized the importance of communicating well, but didn't realize the importance of communicating often. I wondered why staff didn't 'get it' and why decisions weren't made logically, in my perception. The problem was me! As I became more comfortable wording my vision through practice and critique, I shared it more often, communicating measurable goals and listening to the team in how we can accomplish those together, my perception changed entirely." -- April Foster, founder and CEO of Inked

Larue PR

Communicating too loosely with structured personalities

"Entrepreneurs are usually looser communicators by nature, and don't always take the time to make sure everyone is 100 percent on the same page with expectations, and then we change our minds a lot. I've seen that this can be a big pain point when you bring in seasoned employees from more structured environments as they are used to the opposite." -- Iva Pawling, co-founder of Richer-Poorer

Relying on digital communication too heavily

"I think the biggest mistake is relying upon digital communication (text messages and emails). A lot can be lost in translation. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or schedule in person meetings. People are more complex than work and it serves everyone well to feel as if they are a part of something bigger. This can only be achieved through in person meetings or over the phone. Some signals can be misconstrued via email or text." -- Claire Sulmers, author and entrepreneur of Fashion Bomb Daily

Not directing new employees clearly about their roles

"In early stage companies, entrepreneurs may be the product visionaries, but they're often inexperienced when it comes to managing people. Clear communication with early hires about responsibilities, expectations, and goals -- both short-term and long-term -- is critically important to success." -- Mary Orton, co-founder and president of Trove

Not communicating AT ALL

"I think a real challenge for entrepreneurs is not communicating at all. When you wear a multitude of hats and are used to using sheer will and determination to move things forward it's easy to put your head down and just focus on getting things done. Whether is brainstorming, delegating, or planning for the future the best ideas are often seeded with one person but brought to life by a group. Remembering to take the time to talk with your team and get their input will allow untapped ideas to flourish." -- Jessy Fofana, CEO of LaRue PR

Letting the wrong information run wild

"Not communicating! When there is a lack of communication it can lead to assumptions, which in turn creates perceptions, or misperceptions, and thus a cycle of misinformation and misunderstanding has begun. That creates bad employee morale, poor productivity and can be financially costly to a business. Another mistake is not articulating what you need to for the style of your audience. Your audience can be your employees, your investors, your stylists, or even your clients. It's important to adjust your communication style to your stakeholders' particular style so they can get a clear understanding of what you're communicating to them, while you stand a better chance of getting your point across." -- Maile Pacheco, founder of beGlammed

Not allowing enough feedback

"I think for many entrepreneurs, it is easy to focus on crafting communication on behalf of your brand, but it's also important to allow customers to communicate back. We pride ourselves on maintaining an open conversation with our customers through customer service. Whether it is positive or negative, we truly take their feedback to heart. After we receive customer feedback, we work to make adjustments to the business to ensure the customer experience is the best that it can be. We have even taken it a step further, and brought our customers into the design process. Based on feedback, we make adjustments to upcoming products, and will even add new colors that our customers express interest in. This has always proven a successful way of working for us, and our relationships with our customers are stronger for it." -- Karla Gallardo, co-founder of Cuyana

Not asking for help or support

"Not communicating enough, or bringing people in early enough. When you need support, it is easier to get it if you've brought people in along the way." -- Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of Minted

Thinking you know all the answers

"I believe the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make as it relates to communication is the idea that they know all the answers. Being a founder does not necessarily mean you are always right. I like to say, 'talk once, listen twice.' Meaning, speak your truth, but listen to what other have to say, as they may be just as helpful. Also, never be afraid to ask questions and stay open to hearing answers -- even if it means hearing something you do not necessarily agree with." -- Erica Domesek, founder of PS I Made This

Jill Schiefelbein

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Professional Speaker and Business Communication Expert

Jill Schiefelbein is a former professor, professional speaker, and business communication expert. From analyzing documents obtained from military raids of terrorist camps to dissect jihadi communication strategies, building an online education office serving more than 60,000 students, to her own award-winning entrepreneurial ventures, Schiefelbein loves a strategic challenge. Her business, The Dynamic Communicator, creates and executes communication strategies that help companies solve problems, retain talent and produce revenue. Pre-order her new book Dynamic Communication (Entrepreneur Press, March 2017) today.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

Did OpenAI steal Scarlett Johansson's voice? 5 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs in The AI Era

Did OpenAI steal Scarlett Johansson's voice? OpenAI has since paused the "Sky" voice feature, but Johansson argues that this is no coincidence. In response, Johansson delivers a masterclass for entrepreneurs on navigating the AI era successfully.

Business News

Apple iPhone 7 Users May Be Owed a Slice of a $35 Million Settlement — Here's How to Claim Your Share

Previous (and current, no judgment) iPhone 7 users may be entitled to up to $349. The deadline to file a claim is June 3.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.


How Corporate Investment Helps Startups Deploy Technology Faster Than Ever

Financial resources, strategic alignment, access to expertise, market validation and operational support make this deployment possible.