Needless to say, but there are various mistakes startups make. Startup mistakes entrepreneurs make, although common, is avoidable.
So you have decided to start a business. You have an idea. Let’s say you want to be a carpenter. You print some brochures and business cards and take out an ad in your local community newspaper. You pay R15,000 for a website and a domain name that tells everyone about your amazing credentials and experience. You distribute your fliers at a local grocery store. And then you wait. And wait. And wait…
Nothing happens. But that’s what everyone starting a business does, isn’t it? Print out some brochures, tell everyone how great you are, and wait for the money to roll in. Stop right there.
You have just made several of the Top 10 Mistakes Startups Make when starting a business.
Mistakes Startups Make #1:
First, being a “carpenter” is too general. There are thousands of carpenters worldwide, but the only successful ones have a niche they concentrate on. Wood carving, house renovation, specialised pieces. The old saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Focus on your niche. What makes you unique from all the other startups?
Mistakes Startups Make #2:
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. An idea is not a business plan, a marketing plan, or even a goal. It is simply an idea. Although the planning process may seem long and tedious now, it will benefit you more than you could imagine in the future.
For example, when you are seeking funding, joining an association of professionals, when your goals change, when your business changes, or when you take on a partner or investor. Your business plan should guide you but not constrain you. If something in your plan doesn’t fit just right, change it. Your business plan will never have a final draft. Startup mistakes can be avoided. Avoid falling into the trap of not planning.
Mistakes Startups Make #3:
Brochures and business cards are garbage to startup businesses! You will spend far more producing them than they will produce for you. Ignoring the high cost of printing these materials and the costs associated with designing them if you aren’t proficient yourself, most startup businesses change too quickly for these materials to be effective for more than a short period, sometimes as little as days. If it costs R4,000 to print these the first time and R8,000 to design them the first time, imagine how much you will pay if your brochures beat statistics and last two months.
If alterations to design cost R2,000 and your business changes every two months, you can expect to spend at least R12,000 that year on changing your brochures and business cards [excluding printing]. Yes, that is Twelve Thousand Rand in lost revenue over something less effective than graffiti. Don’t waste your time or money on brochures and business cards until you can keep your typical sales presentation the same for at least six months. Otherwise, for business startups, these things aren’t worth the trouble.
Mistakes Startups Make #4:
Okay, Online Business Directories. Let’s look at one of the many Online Business Directories and see how many other hundreds of carpenters there are. Which ones stand out? Not the tiny ad in the corner. Probably not the one-liner. And as a business startup, that is all you would be able to afford. For the one or two clients per year, this would bring you, it is better to wait until your marketing budget can afford to buy large, extravagant, eye-catching ads.
Mistakes Startups Make #5:
R8,000 for a website and domain name? A website and domain name before a marketing plan? This scenario is already causing headaches for those of you “in the know”. The best idea for a business startup; design your own website for free if you can use one of the many free web tools. The second best idea for a business startup, get a friend or relative to design it for free.
The third best, pay a minimal fee for the complicated stuff; the rest can be done by yourself and a relative. Only if no one in the world can help you do you want to hire a professional to do the whole thing for you. If you pay R8,000, it had better be a good website – because your entire marketing budget just paid for it.
Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make #6:
Wow! A carpenter who went to John Doe Carpentry Academy! Is that what your customers say? Most likely, they won’t even think that. Most customers think, “Wow! Look at his work. It is just what I need.” And that is what you want your customers to think. Don’t promote yourself; promote your solutions. Everyone who comes to your website has a problem that needs to be solved. If you figure out that problem and can tell them how to solve it using your website, you have just hit a marketing gold mine.
Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make #7:
What is a carpenter doing at a grocery store? And why is he handing out fliers anyway? If you do hand out fliers, do it where it counts. A carpenter should hand out fliers at a lumberyard or furniture store. Even a department store selling nails would be a better location for a carpenter to hand out fliers. Think about it.
Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make #8:
You stopped marketing. This is probably one of the biggest startup mistakes for a new business. Even if you do exactly the opposite of everything you have read so far, you are bound to get at least minimal results if you keep doing it. You probably won’t get much if you stop when you run out of new ideas. The key to marketing is repetition.
Make sure people think of your name when they have a problem. If they have only seen your name once, but your competitor just sent them the third flier, your competitor will get their business. We’ve all heard that it takes more than once for a customer to buy, which has never been more true. With the information available to your customers today, you want your name to be in front of them as much as possible.
Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make #9:
When nothing happened, you didn’t try again. Nothing says failure like someone who quits. Motivate yourself! Get up and say, “I’m going to get hits to my website.” Or “I’m going to get a client this week!” If you build it, but nobody knows it’s there, nobody will come. When starting a business, you must try, make mistakes, learn, and try again. If you try, make a mistake, and give up, you will never be the success you know you can be.
Startup Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make #10:
You assumed that what everyone else does would work for you. Wrong! What everyone else does takes them a long time to figure out, and they have been tweaking it to make it work right for them. If you copy part, but not all, of what they do, you will never get the same results. People strive for individuality, and businesses should too. If you copy your competitor in every aspect, your prospects might as well flip a coin. Do you want 50 per cent of the business you could be getting? No, you want it all!
The bottom line with a business startup is to stay motivated. Starting a business is one of the hardest things anyone can ever do because of the uncertainty, the lack of a support structure and the complete and total disregard for your typical safety zone. It is all part of starting a business. But the rewards are far greater than the sacrifices. And in the end, when you are financially secure and independent from the corporate world, it will be more gratifying than you could have ever dreamed. Don’t ignore the startup mistakes. And if you make a mistake, learn from it, and move on!
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