3 critical mistakes new founders make
The life of an early founder is filled with blood, sweat, tears, and a whole lot of failure. The great news is that there are a number of mistakes most early founders make that can be spotted from miles away. Hindsight is 20/20, but here are a few missteps that several founders say they wish they could “re-do.”
Mistake 1: Focusing on things that don’t really matter.
When you are just starting out, it’s so easy to get distracted. From wanting to redesign your website to checking out the latest growth hacks on Quora, we easily get teased by the shiny objects all around us and lose sight of what matters most. To make things even worse, there is an infinitely growing to-do list that keeps us “busy,” but ends up pulling us away from our most important tasks each day.
At the beginning of each day, identify the one thing you need to accomplish that will make the biggest difference for your company. Not two, not three, just one. Once you have identified the one thing, check in with yourself every other hour throughout the day to make sure you are staying on track to accomplish it. It is imperative to prioritize your tasks.If you get it done early, rinse and repeat for the next “one thing.”
Mistake 2:Taking money too early.
You may have an idea that’s so so awesome you’re able to secure funding even before you’ve built an MVP (minimum viable product) or solidified a functioning business model. Don’t do it — this can be a mistake.
Money doesn’t come without expectations, and investors usually have high ones. Accepting money from sources that expect a significant managing stake in your business early on can put pressure on your fledgling organization.Expectations have been fatal for startups multiple times over. One of the benefits of funding your own business — or relying on investments from friends, family, or sources that don’t have a direct influence in the running of your business — is that you can set the pace for your startup’s growth. That’s everything from your product roadmap, organizational growth, to market expansion, to partnerships.
This is a special time for your startup: it’s likely the only time you’ll have to think about or test where you want your product to go and how you want your organization to grow. Several startups that take Angel or VC investment early on face pressure to build, expand, and monetize rapidly, sometimes before the founders were able to test or iterate their products and ideas or before the company established an operational style.
So when should you consider accepting funding? The best gauge is when you have some degree of traction in the market, and those funds would help you take advantage of the opportunity.
Mistake 3: Not thinking long term.
The emotional roller coaster that most early founders have to ride can lead to impulsive decision making and short term thinking. In other words, the never-ending ups and downs founders face can cloud our judgment, making it hard to think long term.While it is important to meet short-term goals, no founder worth his salt has ever started a business without long-term goals.You don’t want to end-up missing the forest for the trees.
Take one day or at least one half day each week to focus on a project that might not pay off in the short term, but can have huge results in the long term. This could be going to a networking event, building your personal brand on YouTube, sending 50 emails to people you would like to connect with, or even learning a new skill. For example, I started writing Quora answers and was able to get over 120,000 views in just two weeks from this simple exercise. And while this doesn’t contribute at all to the business right now, it can make a huge impact 5-10 years from now if I were to keep going.
You will make mistakes.
If you are an early founder, there’s no other way around this. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lower the number of mistakes you make along the way. The truth is, success stories are celebrated much more than failure. And while it’s good to learn from those stories and take advice from the successful, it can be much more powerful to learn from those that failed. Take a look around, see what other mistakes other founders are making, and then create a strategy to avoid them.