If ambition, business savvy and hard work were all you needed to successfully launch a company, practically every startup would be a success. In reality, getting a business off the ground—and keeping it there—requires more than good ideas, gumption and some funding. It also means creating fewer challenges for yourself and dodging the forces that threaten to tear your startup apart.
5 Entrepreneurial Errors
Here are five mistakes to avoid while on your entrepreneurial journey. If you find yourself veering headlong into them, relax and calmly steer your company back in the right direction.
1. Focusing on the wrong things
For some entrepreneurs, the problem is not coming up with one good idea. Rather, there seems to be no shortage of them. Pursuing them, or constantly changing course to implement them, can slow down a startup.
Buddy Media co-founder Michael Lazerow, spells it out in this LinkedIn post. "Successful entrepreneurs focus exclusively on efforts that matter and are able to tune out the rest. People who focus succeed. It's that simple," he writes. (Former Denver Broncos GM and team-building expert Ted Sundquist would agree.)
Find three specific priorities for your company to accomplish in the next six to 12 months and pursue them relentlessly with your team.
2. Hiding behind an NDA
Brandishing a non-disclosure agreement before you're even willing to discuss what your startup does or has planned is a surefire way to keep potential partners and funders at bay.
Don't go around spilling the beans about the technological wonders that make your widget tick, but don't be afraid to discuss your idea for a business at meet-ups and industry events. "While you're busy shoving non-disclosure agreements and clauses into the faces of all the people who want to help you, someone somewhere is building and executing that plan. So, please, talk to someone," advises Gyan Lab co-founder Abhash Kumar.
A business idea, he argues, is worthless in and of itself. And keeping it squirreled away in a bubble will only ensure that it will wither there.
InstaEDU CEO Alison Johnston argues that letting folks peek behind the curtain a bit does more good than harm. "Discussing your start-up with others will give you greater insight into where there are holes, what does (or doesn't) resonate with people, and the strategies you could utilize as you're getting started," she advises.
3. Building a fortress of solitude with technology
Echoing New York Angels chairman Brian S. Cohen's advice about attracting early investment for your startup, business is about relationships. To foster them, expect to spend less time tapping away at a keyboard and more time engaging in face-to-face discussions.
"Business is done in person and over the phone, not in the safety your multi-LCD screen fort. We make fun of our parents' technological ineptitude, but we're becoming a generation of entrepreneurial wimps, who devalue social skills and real human relationships at our own peril," says Docstoc CEO Jason Nazar.
While mobile technologies and social media tools make it easy to connect and stay connected, nothing beats a good handshake while trying to raise funds or land a deal.
4. Buying a server and software
On the other hand, don't completely avoid technology, especially cloud computing.
In many of my interviews with entrepreneurs and small business technology pros, a common theme keeps popping up. "If I were starting a business today, it would be in the cloud," they tell me with regularity—or something to that effect.
For startups and small business owners, the days of devoting a huge chunk of the budget to stuffing a server closet with servers, storage and networking are practically over. Today's cloud services market can take care of practically every IT service and business application that fledgling firms need. The best part is that most cloud offerings let you take them for a spin with little to no upfront cost or risk.
If you like it, just pay a subscription fee to continue to use it. No servers to buy, no software to configure. Don't know where to start? Check out Small Business Computing's guide to small business file storage, sharing and syncing, a must for data backups and team collaboration.
You're all set up, bringing in nice revenues and perhaps some profits. By all accounts, your startup is a success. Guess what? Your job's not done.
Don't settle for good enough, advises Sundquist. Don't kick back and expect the good times to continue without a little extra effort on your part. He calls it striving for excellence, and it's a pursuit worth taking.
Why do people flock to Apple and other premium brands? More often than not, they deliver excellence in the form of great customer service and products that delight. Set the bar higher, and success will follow.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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