I’ve started, run, grown, and sold businesses long enough to know how much we can learn from the unsuccessful habits of entrepreneurs who don’t make it. By seeing the recipe for failure, we learn much about success. Here are seven destructive entrepreneurial habits you should watch out for.
- Playing the victim, rather than the victor. If you’re constantly whining “why me?” and focusing on all the bad things that are out of your control, you’re unlikely to be the sort of take-charge, positive person who flourishes as an entrepreneur. You question should instead be “why not me?”
- Favoring ideas over action. You’re far better off having a mediocre idea and putting in hard work to see it through than you are with a brilliant idea and no work ethic. Inspiration is the spark, but perspiration is the day-to-day practice of putting your nose to the grindstone and getting things done. You can’t feed your family on your brilliant ideas alone. You have to be willing to work.
- Raising money, rather than making money. Many small businesses need occasional infusions of cash, whether it’s for expansion or improvements. The danger, though, is in spending more of your time chasing down investors than you spend wooing customers. Revenue is the lifeblood of a company. Focus on increasing your sales, and you’ll need less investor support.
- Relying on your backup plan. It’s very seldom that you see great things achieved without risk. If you’re constantly hedging your bets, tinkering with your arrangements in case your new venture flops, then you’re not really all in. Commit to making your business succeed, rather than spending your energy planning for your failure.
- Hiring quickly and firing slowly. Good employees are worth their weight in gold, and bad employees can cost you far more than you’d ever imagined. If I could impress entrepreneurs with one single tip in terms of recruiting talent, it would be to slow the process down. Take your time, hire staff that’s a good fit your company’s climate and values, and if an employee turns out to be a poor fit, then cut that employee out. You can’t afford to let bad apples spoil a good bunch of employees.
- Failing to identify your target market. If you don’t know who you’re selling to, your efforts in marketing, collecting feedback, and making changes will be seriously inhibited. Successful entrepreneurs can clearly articulate who their ideal users are, and they frequently cater to a particular niche in a market.
- Doing minimum wage work. I can’t tell you how often I see brilliant entrepreneurs doing unskilled work in their companies. If you’re spending your time doing work you could hire someone to knock out for $10 an hour, you’re not doing your business any favors. Your time and your talent are more valuable than that. Put your energy toward the stuff you can’t hire people to do for you. Grow your business. Attract new clients. Leave the simple tasks for someone else.
Some of the smartest entrepreneurs I know are the ones who see and avoid the obstacles that have tripped up their colleagues. Success isn’t just about learning what to do; it’s also about learning what you should avoid.