Being an entrepreneur seems like the best job you can have. You have an amazing business idea, entrepreneurial spirit and confidence that things will work out right away.
New entrepreneurs need to have this belief to succeed, but too much naivety can come at a high cost. Unfortunately, only a few people who jumped into their own business succeed and become profitable entrepreneurs.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
We have asked 19 Business Owners to share with us the most common early stage business mistakes.
Amanda Thomas – Konstruct Digital
Having worked with a few hundred businesses over my career – ranging from Day 0 startups through to established billion dollar companies, there are some definite early stage mistakes I’ve seen over and over again.
- Too heavy handed with NDAs and/or being afraid to talk about your idea (because *gasp* someone might steal it): this increases the chance that you’re making an echo chamber for yourself with an idea that might not have legs. The reality is that it’s hard to execute on startup ideas. If it’s that easy to copy, it’s likely not intellectual property.
- Trying to mass market when you don’t have product market fit. Until you have product market fit, doing any marketing at scale is unlikely to have a positive ROI. Invest just enough until your customers are pulling the product from you, then go nuts.
- Not marketing enough early on. Contrary to my previous point, if you wait too long on some long term strategies (like SEO), it can take longer before you ever have traction with those channels.
This is most important for early stage companies that are opening to existing demand. If you’re a plumber – you already have product market fit and the day to start marketing is today.
Good luck with your business venture!
Jeremiah Smith – SimpleTiger LLC
Not using an operating system of some sort like EOS from the book Traction by Gino Wickman. There’s also Scaling Up, 4 Disciplines of Execution, E Myth and Great Game of Business, but we prefer EOS the most.
Mike Glozman – Lumigon
One of the biggest mistakes is starting a business with low margins or poor monetization opportunities. I find this more often with online content sites.
The content is great but there is no clear plan to monetize the content. IMO, early stage businesses should have build content with a plan to monetize it.
They should do research the potential ad dollars that content with being in.
Carlos Obregon – Bloom Digital Marketing
When we started our agency 15 years ago we had two clients. A couple months later we doubled that and from there on we kept getting new clients.
During the first two years we would take any work that came our way, because we felt that we needed the revenue, a kind of scarcity mindset. Sometimes the contract or even the clients were not really a good fit and the work was not enjoyable to our team.
We made the decision to take our chances and only started accepting work with clients that were a good fit four our team and on projects that we believed in.
Much to our surprise our revenue actually increased and the team morale improved. For the past 10+ years we have picked our contracts and clients and I don’t see us going back to taking on every single project that came our way.
Victor H – Unlimited Marketing Microtask Services
We are an early stage SME with multiple side projects going on, trying to find an edge among competitors without burning out. There’s not much you can really compete on paper, just cost of your service and quality of it.
Trying to find the right product/service market fit is difficult, especially if cashflow is tight. Cashflow should come first, before innovation.
Our struggle is we are a small team of 4 (+/- freelancers), spreading too thin trying to play catch up with industry leaders rather than securing our spot at what we are good at.
We disregard all that makes a business run profitably, from lead generation, sales and organic presence – just to get an edge.
I would say that’s my early business mistake.
And I would advise others against it.
Put your cashflow first for it to be sustainable, then innovate along the way.
Tommy Gallagher – TopMobileBanks
In my experience and the experience I have overseen, the most common early-stage business mistakes are:
- Going for a too broad or too narrow audience
- Launching the product too fast or too slow
- Underestimating competition
It is quite interesting that the first two are about balance.
Going for a too broad or too narrow audience
I’m sure is a mistake that can be easily avoided in most cases. It is a matter of putting enough effort into market research, defining the audience, calculating the audience size, and answering how the audience can benefit from your product.
Launching the product too fast or too slow
That is much less quantifiable than the previous one. So how can you determine what the minimally viable version of the product is? The answer to the question is depends a lot on the leadership and CEO experience.
That happens especially often when a company tries to enter the new market fast. There are a lot of not obvious factors which make the difference in every industry. Try to dig into your competitors’ business as much as possible and understand every detail of their business. Sure, there will still be missed factors, but the research has to be done to the maximum extent.
Keep in mind these three early-stage business mistakes, and I hope this will benefit your business!
David Bell – Diving Bell Creative
A lot of businesses make critical mistakes around launching or migrating their websites. The most common two issues are link structure and site indexation. These issues happen a lot when people are launching a new WordPress site.
If you forget to untick the WordPress setting “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” or redirect old urls to new ones, it could spell disaster for the launch. That one simple setting can kill traffic at an important time when Google is indexing your new site.
The best way to avoid these issues is to spend time prior to launch reviewing the URL permalink structure. Did you add or remove important subfolders like /blog/? Are you simplifying your e-commerce structure?
Pull your current sitemap (often yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml) and ensure every page has a new home or that the URL structure hasn’t changed. Once you’ve mapped out the changes, be sure to add redirects from the old URLs to the new ones.
This way both Google and site visitors will have a good experience and not pesky 404 dead pages.
Eric McGehearty – Globe Runner
Vampire Clients Can Suck you Dry
As an early-stage entrepreneur, it’s tempting to say yes to any requests that could possibly bring in revenue.
Unfortunately, that often leads to unhealthy vendor-client relationships. While it may be necessary to remain opportunistic while the company is young and in need of new business. It’s important to keep your eye out for vampire clients in my experience vampire clients commonly offer the karat of large opportunities while pushing you to over deliver for a little money upfront.
This starts a vicious cycle where the service provider is forced into an unprofitable relationship in hopes of landing a larger deal that will probably never come. these relationships are costly and can be damaging to your team’s morale.
Colin Ma – Online Courses Certifications
One of the biggest mistakes by an early stage business is not having the right training for its employees.
Employees of starts have to move at 100 miles per hour, but they are also doing a thousand different things and won’t have expertise in everything they are doing.
Investing in online courses and training allows employees to quickly gain skills that they need to better execute various tasks for an early stage business.
Bowen Khong – ForexToStocks
Customer feedback, whether positive or negative, is critical to every company’s success. However, many entrepreneurs neglect to solicit input from their target audience throughout the early phases of their business.
This error wastes time and money and prevents you from starting to create relationships with your consumers. When you establish your own business, you are often given an inflated title such as CEO. It’s important to remember that your clients still employ the CEO, even in well-established enterprises.
Too many entrepreneurs overlook this, believing that they can foretell the future and, as a result, pushing their vision while ignoring their clients. You must be willing to confess when you’re incorrect and handle your business as if it were a scientific experiment. Always keep in mind that the consumer, not you, is the company’s visionary.
Maintain regular communication channels and force yourself to listen to critics. It takes time and effort to learn how to interact with people. However, if you don’t know how to communicate, you’ll ruin your customer relationships.
Kas Andz – Kas Andz Marketing Company
One common mistake in many early-stage businesses is the owner, especially a less experienced one, underestimating the complexity of digital marketing.
Many startups are overly fueled by passion, often neglecting essential realities and requirements like time, specialized expertise, and technical planning.
Many overly optimistic business owners think they can do digital marketing in-house with a fresh-from-the-box team, forgetting that its managerial requisites can steal crucial time from the backbone work, i.e., production, operation, and development.
They end up stretching themselves and dulling the quality of their products and marketing at the same time.
In the worst-case scenario, the entrepreneur might not be expert enough on the product itself. As a result, this lack of integrity often leads to customer dissatisfaction and clamor that permanently damages the brand’s reputation, including the entrepreneur’s.
Early-stage business owners have to remember that marketing is an entirely separate world that requires total focus. SEO, CRO, email marketing, content marketing, PR, web development, copy, multimedia production, and other crucial marketing methodologies will need expert and detailed work and care.
And marketing is aside from the very crucial quality management and the rest of the business’ internal machinery.
It would be best for an early-stage entrepreneur to partner with someone who can do digital marketing right. Outsourcing an expert marketing team will do anyone good because, with an extra hand, a business owner can focus on foundational work.
Brett Downes – Haro Helpers
The biggest mistake for me was to over-develop and overthink the SAAS product we plan on launching. Wanting all the bells and whistles before I show it to the World and it’s judging eyes.
I know the word MVP (minimum viable product) but I treated it like the MVP in basketball, expecting it to be pitch perfect before unleashing it.
One I put my pride in its place I decided to put it in front of the target customer in order to determine product-market fit and identify any teething issues with beta testers.
The feedback from this has been invaluable and helps the business MVP turn into the NBA MVP.
The rule is you should always second guess your decisions and/or bounce them off some people. But limit the feedback in testing because the real improvements come when you enter real life situations.
Alex Magnin – Alex Magnin
Don’t expect your family and friends to fund your business. This may work for part time jobs, side hustles or little business like nails, hair & beauty etc, but if you want to be a big bad wolf in the real business world then your success will rely on people you’ve never met.
As a child, you were always told never to talk to strangers; nobody mentioned that you couldn’t sell to them.
Of course you should utilize your family for some branding and awareness, as they will be the first to like/share your posts and send you nice supportive messages. Mates don’t pay your bills, Money does.
Earning the trust of strangers and showing the value of your product or service will be where your success lies.
James Lee – Monetized Future
I think that one of the most common mistakes early-stage online business owners make is not focusing their efforts nearly enough on product sales.
When your business is also a product, it can be easy to spend the majority of your focus creating and polishing the “perfect product”, when in fact there is no such thing.
Getting too wrapped up in product development often leads to a lack of focus on sales, which are necessary to keep your business operational (and if you have investors, to keep them happy).
Let’s face it, revenue is the lifeblood of any business and if you aren’t laser-focused on making money early, your business probably won’t have the legs to survive.
A secondary benefit of making sales is that you are getting the product into the hands of actual users. These users can provide your company with direct feedback, which is something that is also necessary for early-stage growth.
Mohit Tater – BlackBook Investments
One common mistake founders make is hiring too early. Founders should wait until they’ve done their research and the market has been tested with their product or service before hiring.
Another reason not to hire too soon is because it’s costly. Firms spend on average 17% of payroll on benefits; which is more than most other costs in a given month, according to a 2015 study from the employee loyalty firm Kronos.
If they hire before they need them, firms then have to periodically conduct expensive layoffs as well as recruit and train new employees when an uptick takes place in the growing business, which also incurs costs!
The bottom line? Don’t hire until you’re ready! It can all be for nothing.
Justin Hering – YEAH! Local
A common mistake businesses make is not taking the time to understand their market or customers. An early stage business’s success can be heavily contingent on the market and customers they’re building for.
Many companies are so focused on their product/services they forget to talk to their potential or current customer base and also not understanding where their customers are at (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). Don’t think you need to be on every platform or use every marketing tactic. Go where your customers and market are at.
There is no way of knowing if the business is headed in the right direction without feedback from your target audience. It’s important not only to recognize this issue but also to take steps towards fixing it by constantly getting input (and making necessary changes) from prospective customers.
The ability to build a great company is being able to recognize when you need more research before proceeding forward – this will boost your success rates tremendously!
Gaurav Dhir – Lights Pick
One of the challenges I have struggled with as a business owner is the “”shiny object syndrome””. It is the pursuit of every opportunity that comes your way, and before you know it, you already have spread yourself too thinly across different projects.
Juggling many projects would slow down your productivity and performance, so your result will suffer as well. I’ve started many websites in the past, only to realize that I couldn’t catch up with the endless to-do list. My time for each project was very minimal. I was so stressed and was operating outside my “joy state”. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that we didn’t get much success out of the websites we built. All of them are half-baked projects and didn’t grow as planned!
We took a step back and reflected on our decisions. Right at that moment, we realized that our inability to focus on one project killed our productivity. So, the following year, we changed our strategy. We decided that we won’t start a new project unless we reach our set milestones for the current projects. It was only then that we hit our six-figure exit plan.
Garrett Nafzinger – Garrett Digital
My early-stage business mistake was not putting all of my leads and contacts into a CRM. It’s not about figuring out all the bells and whistles of the CRM. It’s about keeping track of every person who contacts you, knowing how many you close, and having a database with all this info.
I now use the free version of Hubspot to capture these details. Having leads in a CRM helps create follow-up tasks, emails, so no one gets missed or forgotten. You are also building an email database you can use to reach out when launching new products or services.
Kevin Dam – Aemorph
I believe one of the biggest mistakes businesses make early on is not finding a coach or mentor, especially one that’s been down the same path before.
A coach or mentor is someone who can give you the shortcuts, the feedback, the guidance you need to get ahead. They can be there to mentally support you as well and prevent you from self-sabotaging.
Olympic athletes all have coaches and they’re preparing for years before they get onto the world stage and business now is no different, we’re in an era where business is done globally even if you’re placed locally, and if Olympic athletes can have coaches why shouldn’t someone who’s planning to get into business and dominate?
Success leaves clues so you want to find the right mentor for your situation and point in time. As you grow and surpass that mentor or your situation changes you can always find another mentor to help you, but never forget where you came from and those who helped you get to where you are.
About the author
Shaurya is a blogger specializing in Online Marketing. He loves to discover new Marketing Tactics and tools and sharing them on his site.