Business 101: Avoid These 10 Startup-Killing Mistakes

Starting a business is never an easy task, and the path to success is filled with potential pitfalls along the way. The best, most successful companies in the world, are the ones that can recognize those issues before they become a problem and can be proactive in preventing them.

If you don’t want your startup to become just another tombstone in the business graveyard, you’ll want to avoid making these mistakes.

1. Don’t try to do everything yourself

Your business is your baby. You’ve planned and put your blood, sweat and tears into getting it just to the point where it can go live, so it’s natural that you’d want to be in full control of every aspect of it. While your intentions are good, you’ll likely end up doing more harm than good wearing every hat.

Bringing on people that specialize in aspects of the business that you may not be as proficient in may cost you monetarily in the short term, but the expertise they bring to the table will likely net you a good return in the long-run. The sooner you can make your business a team effort, the more successful it is bound to be, and the less stress you will find yourself under.

Yoav Schwartz, CEO of Uberflip, a cloud-based content marketing platform, said in an interview with Inc. that this was one of his biggest challenges when starting his company:

The Biggest Entrepreneurial Challenge: letting go. When you’re starting a business, and in general during the early days, it’s all about doing as much as you can on your own. Entrepreneurs tend to think they can do everything, and that’s likely a key ingredient (mixed with crazy) required to start your own business. But if you’re successful in getting your startup off the ground, one of the biggest challenges any founder will face is learning to let go.

2. Don’t start a business in something you’re not interested in

This sounds like a “well, duh” statement, but the more you enjoy what you’re doing, the longer you’ll want to keep doing it, and the better your content will be. It’s easy enough to say, “Well, this or that is the hot trend right now, and I know I’ll have a wide audience and make money doing this,” but if it’s not something you’re passionate about, you’ll fizzle out before you have a chance to achieve that “success” you envisioned.

Even if what you’re pursuing is in a niche market, the more enjoyment you get out of what you’re doing will ultimately show through and help you to stand out. As cliché as it is, there’s truth in the saying, “If you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

3. Don’t Forget To Set Clear Goals And Measure Results

Success is almost always going to be something that is arbitrary based on what exactly the business is. How a small startup company is going to measure success is different from how Apple would, for example. The most important thing is that you know how your company is going to measure it, and that the goals you are going to measure it against are not only attainable, but relevant.

A new company would likely be better off focusing on growing their brand, increasing viewership or followers, establishing good social media strategies, and perfecting how content is created than they would be trying to make a million dollars in their first year. The clearer these goals are, the better you’ll be able to measure how close to come to meeting or exceeding them and can more properly plan moving forward.

For Apple CEO Tim Cook, how he measures success is not about the dollars brought in, it’s about the amount of people affected. In an interview with Business Insider, Cook said that for him “it’s about people and products. Did we make the best product, did we enrich people’s life.”

4. Make Sure You Aren’t Mishandling Your Website Design

For really any company, a good website design is a crucial part of the success or failure or the business. How a user is able to find your content or products will ultimately determine if they’re coming back or telling their friends about you. Having the “perfect” website sound like a great goal to have but aiming too high can end up seriously hurting your online presence if you don’t properly develop your site.

Some common problems that companies face when it comes to websites is spending too much money on a website too early, waiting too long to make the website in the aim of making it perfect, and not making adjustments or fixes when they need to.

It’s great to have this beautiful, expensive website, you also need to make sure that your website can handle your logistical needs – don’t go extravagant just because you can. A functional website will help your brand grow and evolve down the road.

On the other hand, if you wait too long to make your website in order to “perfect” it, you’ll run the risk of setting yourself too far behind and missing out on potential customers and SEO optimization.

They key is a perfect balance. Thirty-eight percent of users will just leave a website if the layout and design is not attractive and easy to use, so invest in something functional and attractive, but know that you can always improve the design down the road.

In some cases, even as a large, successful company, you won’t need something flashy for a website. A great example of this is the website for Audi. As one of the largest car manufacturers in the world, they sport a sleek design, but not something that is overbearing on the eye. All the options and selections they offer are clearly stated and easily accessible,

5. Avoid Blowing The Budget

You have to spend money to make money, right? Well, not always. As a smaller startup business, you’re likely going to have limited funding, and how you allocate your money is crucial. As tempting as it may be to break the bank for a shiny splurge item, sticking to the budget you’ve set will help you focus on important needs – not wants – in the present and pay off down the road.

6. Don’t Hire Quickly – Find the Right Team Instead

When you’re getting started, you may want to hurry in filling all the positions you need. Doing this, though, will likely end up with you missing out on quality candidates, and cause a high amount of turnover. Spending a little extra time to make sure you find the right people will result in a higher-quality product and will ultimately pay off in the long run.

Entrepreneur Gabriel Shaoolian recommends asking tough, detailed questions and even putting potential candidates through mock tasks to ensure they can deliver the results you want, are up to the task of a particular role, and will be a strong fit for the entire team.

7. Not investing in a digital presence

As previously mentioned when talking about how you handle your website, having a strong digital presence across multiple media is – to quote D.J. Khaled – a major key alert. The most important thing to keep in mind when developing your digital brand identity, is who your key audience and demographic is.

If you are aimed at an older generation of people, you would probably lean more towards a presence on Facebook or reliance on email marketing, than you would on sites like Twitter or Instagram. Knowing what sites and outlets to utilize will help you maximize your reach the impact you will have with.

One of the most notable companies in the world, Tesla, is also one of the most active brands on social media. Between both the companies and CEO Elon Musk’s accounts on Twitter and Facebook, they have nearly 26 million combined followers.

When you boast that kind of following, something that admittedly can’t happen overnight, you know that you speak, people are listening.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

Listen, I know it’s hard to hear sometimes, but failure is a key part of life and business, and the most important thing is how you handle the failures you do incur. Will you bury your head in the sand and abandon all the goals you had for your business? Or will you take what went wrong, figure out what you need to do differently, and make the necessary changes to thrive going forward?

The sooner you can understand that failure is going to happen, and rather than trying to prevent it from happening, but have a plan for when it does, the more success you will have. I’m sorry, but you know I had to throw this quote in here: “Failure is the greatest teacher.”

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and businessmen and women in the world failed at first. The key was their ability to learn from it and keep persevering. One of the most notable failures was Steve Jobs, who was fired from his own company Apple, before returning to lead it to modern success.

9. Don’t Forget To Lead Effectively

As the head of a company, big or small, you will continually walk the line between needing to be the boss and wanting to be liked by your employees. It’s a fine balance to reach, indeed, but when you lead to far one way, your business will dearly suffer.

If you are only the authoritarian, completely prioritizing the business over your employees, you will likely lose a lot of respect and come across as heartless and cruel, and your employees will be more hesitant to help you and the quality of the work will likely suffer.

If you are only the “friendly boss” that essentially lets employees walk all over you and let them dictate what they do rather what you’ve asked them to do, that will create a culture that can be hard to get rid of. After so long of the group feeling like they can do whatever they want, knowing you won’t object to it, when the time comes that you have to crack down, they are less likely to take you seriously.

There is room for both compassion and toughness in business, and all companies’ ecosystems are different, so it is up to you to figure out where that happy medium is, and how to most effectively lead your team.

10. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

While it is no small endeavor to attempt to start a business, much less be successful in it, it is crucial to make sure that you and your team are still enjoying yourself doing it. Some of the greatest and most successful companies in the world are also some of the most enjoyable places in the world to work.

If your company is run so rigidly that there is no room for any expression at all, your team morale is going to severely suffer, and your product and staff will only become more and more robotic. Yes, running a business is a lot of work, but the more you are able to decompress from that work, the longer you will continue to enjoy what you are doing.