As recent reports have stated, the past year has seen a record number of people turning to entrepreneurship to fund their dreams and basic needs.
Many people discovered that they had to do something during a time when jobs and employment opportunities were drying up. Companies shuttered down. Shops laid off employees.
However, as those of us who have been in business for years now are aware, there are a lot of harsh realities to starting a company. The practical challenges of starting can quickly interrupt dreams of and visions of rapid growth and burgeoning profits.
Author Stephen E. Gerard offers four tips for entrepreneurs launching new businesses.
“Launching a business requires deliberate actions and full accountability, versus hope or luck,” says Gerard, who penned Stuck in the Middle Seat: The Five Phases to Becoming a Midcareer Entrepreneur . “While we can all use a little luck, I generally find that luck and hope in the early days are earned and don’t just happen upon us. They are earned through an unrelenting drive and sweat to make things happen.”
He adds: “Unfortunately, even hard-working entrepreneurs determined to leave nothing to chance can still make mistakes.”
Here are four common mistakes Gerard says they make and that you should avoid:
- Being unwilling or unable to adapt. Times change, but the question entrepreneurs face is whether they can change with them. “The catchword for adapting in this internet era is ‘pivot,’ ” Gerard says. “The idea here is that you come to market with an idea for your business, but when necessary, you pivot that idea so it fits into the vision and market you are either trying to create or compete in.” After all, the economy can change, consumer habits can change and new competitors can emerge. Sometimes pivots involve small tweaks. In other instances, they require profound changes. Gerard cautions to be careful with the latter. “Don’t ever ditch the core ideas of your business and what you love to do,” he says.
- Becoming too fixated on failure. Entrepreneurs need to understand that they will experience failure, but they must keep moving forward regardless. Gerard sees this as “failing forward.” “When you fail forward, you use it as a learning experience to advance things,” he says.”You do it quickly, and you bounce back up to your feet almost before you hit the ground.” Failing forward doesn’t mean charging blindly ahead without regard to what’s happening around you, Gerard says. You are learning lessons as you go and making use of them. The opposite of that, he says, is “failing backward,” where you spend too much time dusting yourself off, wondering why the failure happened, feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others. “There’s no time for that,” Gerard says
- Being too quick to forge partnerships. Strategic partnerships with other companies or people can be worthwhile, but not usually in the early going, Gerard says. “When it is still early, focus on what you, and you alone, can control,” he says. “Someone may come to you with an opportunity to do joint product offerings or join forces in some other ways. Almost all the time, I found these to be a waste of time, especially in the early days where you are trying to survive and grow your business.” Often, he says, what these potential partners really want is access to your clients, to do consulting work for you, or to get a job with you. “There will be time for partnerships later,” Gerard says. “Once you have success and a great client base, you can pick your head up and see if partnerships offer anything.”
- Neglecting to hire enough support personnel. As a new business grows, so should the workforce. But too often, Gerard says, entrepreneurs only want to hire salespeople or other people who deal directly with customers. “They seem loath to spend money on what some may call back-office support staff, such as administrative help, analytical staff, tech support, accounting support, and so forth,” he says. “I have found that the right support staff makes the frontline folks’ jobs more productive and enjoyable because they don’t get dragged into administrative tasks that aren’t a fit for their skills.”
Take these lessons and go forth as you launch your new ventures!