It’s been almost 4 years since I started this ‘I am an Entrepreneur’ life. In this time, I have started a consulting business, helped other businesses raise money, started a website design business and designed over 20 websites, started a skills based training business, sold commodities/goods all while holding down a very busy, full time job. Needless to say I have made some mistakes; some which have been costly while others with no serious consequence.
In your early years as a business person, mistakes are expected and accepted and while I know failure can be good, I don’t agree you have to fail to succeed. The reason why we have others is so we can learn from their mistakes and failures and so minimize or eliminate ours.
So here are my mistakes, I hope you can learn a thing or two from them.
- Thinking I needed a business card, fliers and office space to start my business – when I started out on this journey in 2013, I drew up a list of things I needed to start and these were top of my list. I thought I needed them to be taken seriously in business; I felt like if I handed out my business card with a well-designed logo and office space to myself I would look like I knew what I was doing. However, I quickly learnt that while these are very important as perception is everything; substance can’t be faked or wished away. No matter how lovely your logo looks or how well furnished your office is; if you don’t know what you are doing, you don’t. I still don’t have a business card for my businesses or a physical office and I’m doing fine because I have been able to prove to my customers that I know what I am doing with a proven track record. Identify those ‘perception’ items you must surely have such as a website or online presence and invest in that and spend the rest of your time and money on developing your substance. So yes, they belong on the list but not on the top of the list.
- Not reviewing an invoice before sending it out – I had gotten my first payment and to look all professional, I wanted to send out an invoice. I’m a designer you see so I took my painful time adjusting the colors, fonts and symmetry of the invoice. I was so excited and thrilled that I was finally sending out an invoice that I didn’t review the details of the invoice itself before joyfully sending it out. I had sent it, clapped my hands before Oops, the date was wrong! As I said in Point 1 above, its not about faking it till you making it i.e. its not all about how well you look or how arranged you are as it is about the substance behind it. So yes, take your time and make it look good but don’t forget to make it functional. Review everything thrice if you need to before sending it out to anyone!
- Accepting all inquiries as clients – As a newbie entrepreneur you would be excited that someone even gave your website a look talk less of calling ti make an enquiry but you must quickly learn that not everyone that makes enquiries is going to or is even supposed to buy from you. Some people are just curious as to what you are doing and don’t exactly need or want your service, some are not totally sold on your abilities and would patronize you with a truck load of doubt making it almost impossible to please them. The thing about this bunch is that they drain your energy and waste time you can spend developing yourself or getting new clients. You need to learn quickly how to identity who is a potential client and who is just a fan. Read my article here for more on this
- Leaving my business unattended for prolonged periods of time – at every given moment in my life for the past 4 years I have been running at least 3 things concurrently and as you must imagine there were days, weeks and months when i neglected some or all of my businesses for something that was more urgent at the time (e.g. my CFA exams). While this is understandable as you are not superman and it’s not necessarily a horrible thing, but it must be done with the greatest moderation. If you leave your business alone for too long, especially when you are the only one manning it, going back may be very difficult. The clients you have turned down may not come back, you may have lost key contacts and the entire industry could have drastically changed since you left leaving you deficit in more than one area. The best thing to do is to get a business partner or employee that can hold fort during the dark busy days so that even if business is slow during this period, it doesn’t come to an absolute stop.
- Selling cheap – In the first year of my web design business, I accepted all and everyone has clients which meant reducing my prices by as much as 50% after clients successfully begged and pleaded. It wanted as many clients as I can get and so I bent and broke a lot of my business rules. I learnt my lesson, read all about it here.
- Overworking myself – I am naturally a workaholic; you don’t need to force me or convince me to work as long as I believe in it am putting my all in. There was a month I ran 3 programs simultaneously, I had no weekend or break in between; I fell terribly sick immediately and had to stay in bed for almost a week. You are not super human, rest!
- Not scheduling and prioritizing your tasks – In my early days, I handled tasks as they came along and didn’t plan or schedule anything; I was inefficient and didn’t cover all I needed to. I missed deadlines and forgot meetings and appointments. Integrity is the oil of business and one major area you want to maintain your word in is time. Time is a limited resource everyone has available to them; this means that everyone including your clients want to make the best use of their time and they would appreciate you more if they see that you care about their time as much as they do. Once I noticed that I wasn’t making progress, I took full advantage of the Google calendar app on my phone and now everything is scheduled with a reminder for what to do. It leaves a good impression when you deliver on time and you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.
Mistakes are useful only as long as we learn from them. You don’t need to make a mistake someone else already made; learn from mine!
If you need help with a business plan, financial model or website for your business; send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org