In my opinion, one of the most helpful things to do when you are an entrepreneur is learning from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs. So in today’s article, I’m going to be sharing with you five mistakes I made in my first year as an entrepreneur in hopes that you can avoid making these same mistakes when they come up in your entrepreneurial journey.
Mistake 1: Being way too perfectionistic
Ultimately, everything breaks when you put it in front of a customer. And when I was working on my very first official business, I obsessed about the product and service that we are providing to our customers. So much so that I spent so many months in beta testing, that I was actually eating into the busy season of our business.
And so what I realized in looking back is that I was being way too perfectionistic before actually shipping my product or service out to prospects and customers. If I had just actually shipped my product in that situation, then what would have happened is I would have been able to get feedback from those customers on how to continue to improve my service. And then from there made an even better product or service for my next set of customers.
So this is something that I think anyone that has perfectionist tendencies, or just as obsessive about different things is going to struggle with especially when they start out as an entrepreneur. Instead of focusing on how that one little subsection is bulleted or formatted, you need to focus on getting your minimum viable product out. Get it in front of enough prospects that you get the feedback you need to then make the next version of your product or service.
Mistake 2: Not scaling my team fast enough
I had a co-founder at that time and we were the two people that were really working on the business full-time and we had a team of interns that pretty much were just helping us out voluntarily, but it wasn’t something in which we actually have scaled out a team in a more formal process. Our interns were largely just responsible for gathering interest into our business and the local community and whatnot, but they didn’t exactly have clear strategies, tactics, or standard operating procedures as to what they should be doing.
So the reality was that we honestly just had a team of part-time interns that didn’t really help us all that much because we didn’t set them up for success with clear standard operating procedures. And then as a result, me and my co-founder were left doing all the bulk of the work feeling super stressed, super overworked, and not getting the results that we needed. This is something that I think every single first time entrepreneur is going to struggle with. Is just learning how to set something up for success then delegated to somebody on their team so that they can start to move on to the next challenge that they need to take to grow their business to the next level.
Even to this day, over a decade later. I still struggle with this. So this is something that you just constantly have to work at in terms of getting something to the point where, again, it’s a minimum viable product, but in this case, it’s a minimum viable process for your team to then delegate and then begin to continue to scale out and improve from there.
Mistake 3: Not focusing enough on creating scalable systems and processes.
Something that’s pretty cool if you think about it, is that if you go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the country and ask for 10 McNuggets, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. And that is only possible because McDonald’s has made a scalable system and process to delivering a pretty consistent experience for customers. And so similarly for you, when you’re building your business and your first year as an entrepreneur, what you want to think about is how do you create some sort of system so that you pretty much get that same result nine times out of ten.
And then hire people and set them up for success to delegate that work to them. So an example, in some of the sites that I run is I have a virtual assistant that essentially takes my keyword research and then prepares the article briefs from my writers. And she’s trained on all the different ways to actually prepare these article briefs to set up the writers for success.
And then on the other side of that, the writers are trained to take the article brief and create a meaningful article that’s going to fulfill the search intent for that particular long-tail phrase. So it’s only by creating these repeatable systems that you’re then able to scale beyond yourself and make a bigger impact in whatever it is that you are creating.
Mistake 4: Not doing enough customer development.
I got really lucky because with my very first official company, I was actually the target customer previously. So I knew exactly what I was building towards, but I got lucky in that situation. If I were to do it again, I still should have probably done some more customer development because what I ultimately ended up building was very much what I solve for if I were the only target customer without considering that there might be other subtypes of personalities that would still be interested in the service that we were offering at that time.
Ultimately, I knew what the key pain points were in terms of what I was solving for, but I didn’t necessarily know the different ways that I could have potentially phrased my pitches to actually cater to the variety of different personalities that would still be in my target customer group but just didn’t reflect the bias of my own individual perspective.
This is something that I’ve learned from other entrepreneurs and working for other businesses as well over the years in which the best entrepreneurs will always work in customer development, as they are continuing to improve their product or service.
This means spending several hours, every single quarter talking to customers, talking to prospects about what exactly made the difference in terms of why they did upgrade or did not upgrade for a product or service. And then working to incorporate that feedback into the next cycle of development.
Mistake 5: Not taking enough calculated risks.
Now this is a nuanced point because at that point in time, I had very little money to actually support this new venture. So I had to be really strategic in terms of how I invested my resources. And I also had though a lot of pride. And at that point in time, I was too prideful to actually ask friends or family for assistance in starting my business.
In reflecting a little bit more here, what I should have done was leaned on my network, leaned on people that I knew trusted me to try this thing out and get results for them. So I had to little confidence in myself at that point in time to take a bet on myself. And that’s something that I still regret to this day. But I think that that just comes with age as well and experience in which it’s until you actually start to get some successes as an entrepreneur that you will then start to feel confident enough to take bigger swings the next time around.
Entrepreneurship is a combination of taking the wins and taking the losses and strive. It’s something which you just have to be comfortable taking calculated risks, because if you never take that risk, then you’re never able to actually see the true extent of the potential of the idea that you’re working on.
If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning the five mistakes I made during my first year as an entrepreneur.