We all know there is no one right way to start your business — certainly no failsafe blueprint to success. However, there are several common pitfalls that unnecessarily trip up many entrepreneurs on their road to success, a few of which I fell victim to myself while founding Educents.
Now, there is value in learning from your mistakes but here are some rookie mistakes that don’t need to be made. Trust me, we all make plenty of completely original mistakes on our own that we can learn from.
1. Know when to stop bootstrapping.
In the beginning it’s fun and exciting to do everything yourself but there will come a point when cutting corners and sleeping under your desk (yes, I did sleep under my desk at times) is counterproductive. Decide which tasks you’re going to outsource, find reliable people for the handoff and get a little sleep.
At first, we tried cutting corners with our programming and got a subpar product. When we eventually invested in a more quality service, we saw huge returns. Consider hiring a graphic designer, a bookkeeper or an office manager. Think hard about where your time is best spent.
2. Don’t go it alone.
Grab a co-founder, a like-minded friend or find a group of fellow entrepreneurs that meet regularly. It is almost impossible to maintain clear focus and an intelligible vision after too many late nights at the office. You’ll need someone to bounce ideas around ideas with, someone to give you a different perspective and someone who will give support when you feel like you’ve hit the end of the road.
There have been countless times when my co-founder has stepped in when my brain is fried, and vice-versa. You’ll need to identify the people who will support you early on if you want to succeed.
3. Don’t let expectations snow you under.
Let people know what you need from them and what they can expect from you. Your spouse, your family, your mentor — everyone expects something from you. Make sure you’re managing those expectations. I once told my Mom, “I’ll be at the family reunion in June, but I might not leave my office until then.” It was April. Make sure to manage expectations concerning your availability.
Related: Learn to Survive Setbacks
This is particularly important for women in leadership. There are strong opinions out there about how women should conduct themselves at work and in their personal lives. Make sure you’re crafting your own narrative and have it on repeat — expectations are set and then met. Be clear about who you are, what you’re standing for and why you’re standing for it (and if you’re going to make that family reunion).
4. Don’t assume your team “gets it.”
As a founder, you have to be the cheerleader, the HR lead, the bad guy and sometimes the janitor. Having a team that is talented and understands the bigger picture will help push your goals and objectives into motion.
Make sure you’re playing your part in helping them “get it.” It’s important to convey your passion for what you’re doing. My co-founder and I spend a lot of time talking about the educators who benefit from Educents, even sharing love mail on a regular basis so the team can celebrate our impact. That kind of transparency inspires and aligns the team to our vision.
We also prep our teams when a hard week is coming. If they know we’re going to be out of the office or particularly stressed, they step up in really extraordinary ways.
5. Don’t underestimate how long the road can be.
Every time I think, “six months from now” I am gravely mistaken. Companies are not born overnight. It takes months, maybe years, of hard work to get off the ground. When you think the long nights are over, something else will come along that’s worth staying up for.
This also applies to your salary (sadly). I had some pretty grand ideas about how fast I was going to get a return on the investment I made in my education when I got my MBA. Educents became successful quickly but when we began making money, we invested it back into the company. Hopefully, we’ll have the fancy cars in retirement.
You may end up stepping on one of these entrepreneurial landmines. When you recognize that “thing” just isn’t working, find a way to recover. You are going to make mistakes, lots of them, but find a way to make them work for you instead of against you. Then write your own list of rookie mistakes.