Let’s talk business mistakes. Full disclosure: I made some cringe-worthy mistakes when I first started my journey into entrepreneurialism.
But I have turned over a new leaf. Since starting this blog, I promised myself that I wouldn’t make the same business mistakes that I did when I founded my first business. Hopefully you’ll heed my warning and try to avoid these mistakes, too. They’re completely avoidable, especially when you have confidence in your capabilities.
Here are five business mistakes I personally made during my first year as an entrepreneur…
1 – Not making a business plan.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started was not making a business plan. “Winging it” simply doesn’t cut it when you’re starting a business. The plan doesn’t even have to be complicated.
What should a business plan include?
• Your mission & objectives
• Your target market
• Your products & services
• Your marketing strategy
• Your legal requirements
Unfortunately, I didn’t make a plan at all. So when brands started approaching me for my services, I was scrambling to create packages that seemed somewhat organized and professional.
This method left me feeling so drained and overwhelmed. I began offering services that I never imagined I would offer, and in turn, I became really disenchanted when I wasn’t getting the results or compensation that I wanted.
2 – Not signing a partnership agreement.
Earlier this year, I ended a failing business partnership. It felt a lot like a breakup – suddenly I wasn’t on speaking terms with someone who had been a close collaborator and confidant. But I don’t regret the move. In fact, it was the best business decision I have ever made. You know why?
Because it corrected a mistake I made in the very early days of founding my first business. I had invited a partner to help me build my idea, but I never set out the ground rules for how we would work together or *gasp* divide our assets should we separate. (Doesn’t this sound a lot like a divorce?)
I should have done two things:
• Specify that I had a majority share (51% of my business), and/or
• Clearly outline a fair exit strategy for one or both of us.
3 – Not identifying the target market.
There are many aspects that fall under the umbrella of market research. But today we are just going to touch on the concept of target market (who you are creating for). After all, how can you sell to customers if you don’t even know who they are?
Though I did have a target market in mind when I started my business, I should have implemented a stronger research strategy. For instance, it would have helped me in the early days to know more about my audience’s needs and struggles. In my opinion, it’s not enough to know just the “who” … it’s also incredibly valuable to know their “why.”
So how do you find out this crucial information?
• Personal Interviews – yes, start canvassing your friends and family!
• Surveys – send out confidential questionnaires to anyone who fits the bill!
• Competitor Analysis – take a look at your closest competitors… who are their customers?
• Case Studies, Books, Internet Articles, Libraries – bet you haven’t heard that last one in a while 🙂
4 – Not having difficult discussions right away.
Have you ever tried to will a problem out of existence? As if you could make it go away simply by just wishing it didn’t exist? That was my number one tactic for solving problems. In the face of conflict, the old me would close her eyes, swallow her frustrations, and wish it never happened.
In my experience, a conflict worsens the longer you ignore it. That’s why it’s crucial to solve problems as they arise, even if it means feeling uncomfortable or nervous. If you solve your issues while they’re hot, there will be less resentment in the long term.
What happens when you solve problems as they arise?
• You set boundaries for how you want to be treated
• You clear the space to welcome new opportunities
What happens when you procrastinate and let problems fester?
• You build up resentment and one day explode in a giant ball of anger
• You never solve said problem and it looms overhead forever
5. Not setting SMART goals.
It’s one thing to write down your personal goals in a journal or on a vision board, but business goals should be a little bit more specific. Plus, it’s actually easier to attain your goals if you set standards for what they’ll include and when they’ll be completed. I didn’t do this at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
I didn’t have a trajectory for where I wanted to be in 30 days (or weeks or minutes). I thought I would be happy with any improvement (and I was) but imagine how much more organized I would have been if I had set strategic goals. Because, truly, how can you measure “improvement”? Does that mean I would feel fulfilled if I made $1 in 10 years? Let’s make a pact to set SMART goals. Are you in?
What does SMART stand for?
• Specific – what exactly do you want to do?
• Measurable – how will you track your progress?
• Attainable – can you actually attain this goal?
• Realistic – are you willing and able to achieve this goal?
• Timely – when do you want to achieve your goal by?