As a full-time business consultant and former commercial loan officer, I’ve seen businesses at every stage, from scrappy start-ups to companies going on 50+ years.
What I’ve noticed is that it’s much easier to thrive in business if you set yourself up for success from the start. The saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure comes to mind. It’s not that we can’t right the ship if you get off course, but wouldn’t you rather design a business you don’t need to fix a year from now?
Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when starting your business—and what to do instead.
Mistake #1: Ignoring your brand identity
I know, I know: every business “coach” on social media says you shouldn’t waste time on branding when you first start your business. “Just get out there and sell your services!” they wail. “You can worry about colors and fonts later!”
And while yes, your primary focus should be on selling when you first start out, ignoring your brand is a mistake for a few reasons:
1) Without a cohesive brand, you’ll always have to “show your face” on social media (and anywhere you market your business, really) because that’s the only way people will recognize you. As an introvert, I say: no thanks.
2) Every decision you make in your business is harder when you don’t have a clear brand. Deciding on your brand values ahead of time will save you countless hours later on. If you’re thinking to yourself: WTF are brand values?, I got you, boo. Brand values are the soul of your business. They’re the values that guide every decision you make about the direction of your business—from your pricing to your marketing to your customer service—and everywhere in between.
If you want to build a one-of-a-kind business you can be super proud of, enroll in my free mini-course. This is the same curriculum I take my clients through, and they call it a “game-changer.”
Mistake #2: Skipping the business plan
Even though I primarily work with established business owners, I very rarely encounter an entrepreneur who actually wrote a solid business plan before she started her business. The result? Things went okay at first. She made some money, built a solid reputation, and eventually got booked out.
But now she’s ready to grow her business, open her own studio, or add a new stream of revenue, and she’s lost. She always knew she wanted to take her business in this direction, but the vision was always a bit hazy—and it still is. She goes back to the drawing board, realizing some policies, prices, and decisions she made along the way weren’t right, and she gets to work untying the knots she’s made.
The next big step in her business takes longer than she thought as she ends up spending a lot of her energy making up for her lack of planning. She will succeed nonetheless (and, this is the point when she will probably hire me to help speed up this process), but my wish for you is that you become one of the few visionary entrepreneurs who craft a business plan from the jump.
Mistake #3: Waiting for the perfect time to start your business
Starting a business is like having a kid: there is never a “right” time.
But it does pay to be thoughtful about how, when, and why you start your business. There’s a subtle line between planning and over-planning, and it can be hard to spot. I tell new entrepreneurs this line is more of a feeling than anything else. If months go by and you catch yourself bouncing from one excuse to the next as to why you can’t launch your business just yet, there might be something deeper going on.
Starting a business is like starting a family: there is never a “right” time.Tweet
Often, people wait to start their business because they’re afraid to fail, afraid to succeed (yes, that’s a real thing), worried about what Sharon from accounting will think, or whether they’re good enough at what they do to charge people actual money for it.
If you have an inkling that any of the things I just said are true, you’re probably right. Take some time to explore where those feelings are coming from, and remind yourself that feelings are not facts. What are the facts here? What kind of evidence do you have that proves or disproves these thoughts?
Mistake #4: Not establishing a budget to start your business
Starting a service-based business usually doesn’t require much upfront money, but it’s not free either. Even if you’re working from your home office using a computer you already own, there will be expenses.
Things like subscriptions, memberships, and supplies add up quickly, and if you haven’t budgeted for any startup costs, these fees can eat into your profit and put your brain in scarcity mode. Getting caught off-guard by expenses can make even the most promising business owner feel uninspired, frustrated, and desperate.
Side note: don’t forget to include legal costs (like filing for your LLC, if you choose to have one) and liability or professional insurance in your startup budget, even if you’re a solo entrepreneur with no significant assets.
Mistake #5: Not defining your own version of success in your business
What does success in business look like to you? How will you know you’ve achieved it? Your knee-jerk answer might be, “when I make a lot of money,” but that’s probably because you can’t go 5 videos on TikTok without some “expert” flaunting her “six-figure” business.
Plenty of people with six, seven, and even eight-figure businesses are miserable. So yes, decide on a dollar amount that supports the kind of lifestyle you want to have, and make that part of your definition of success. But don’t stop there. What kind of schedule do you want to have? What kind of feelings will you experience on a regular basis when you’re successful? What things will you see, hear, and experience? You’re allowed to define success however you want.
Defining success on your own terms means knowing where the goalposts are. If you don’t decide ahead of time where they are, they’ll just keep moving further away, leaving you confused and frustrated.
Give yourself some grace if you make a mistake
If you’re reading this and realizing you’ve already made some mistakes, be kind to yourself. Mistakes are part of the entrepreneurial journey. In most cases, trying to avoid making a mistake will block your growth faster than the actual mistake ever would.
What do you think? Comment here (yes, we actually read these)!