Starting a business is both exciting and challenging. Even though I completed an entrepreneurship class in college, when I started my company, Flashnotes.com, my lack of experience undoubtedly led to mistakes. But all of my startup mistakes were invaluable learning experiences on the path to success.
If you are just beginning your entrepreneurship journey, or perhaps still in school, there’s some critical advice at this juncture that will help you build a successful business. From pitching your idea to hiring employees with relevant skill sets, I have learned a lot on my journey as a 20-something entrepreneur.
Here’s a look at five mistakes to avoid as you build confidence to make your vision a reality:
Mistake #1: Thinking age matters.
If you are willing to put blood, sweat and tears into building something truly great, the only thing that will matter is that you execute. Don’t be timid about expressing your business ideas because of your age. It is new and fresh ideas that shape our future — so don’t wait and miss out on your turn to create change. Also, don’t blame age or lack of experience when you lose a deal. Chances are it wasn’t your age, it was the fact that you didn’t convince potential partners or investors on the value of your idea.
Mistake #2: Failing to focus.
Create a clear set of goals and objectives — and stick to them. Some ideas, even if they sound great, might need to be put on the back burner to prevent you from losing focus. Avoid chasing shiny things and stay the course. If something doesn’t directly help you achieve one of the goals and objectives on your list, just say no.
Mistake #3: Trying to do it all yourself.
Instead of trying to wear ten different hats and insisting you can do it all as your business grows, hire a great team to help you. Empower them with your vision — it will be necessary for success and help you to create an environment where everyone is working toward a unified goal. There’s also no shame in asking for help or advice. Be willing to learn from those who have expertise you might lack.
Mistake #4: Being afraid of copycats.
Don’t be paranoid that someone will steal your ideas. When I first started Flashnotes.com, I hesitated pitching it at conferences because I thought someone would just copy it. But the reality is this: not everyone has the drive to really see a business through. And how are you supposed to grow your customer base if you are secretive about your great idea?
Mistake #5: Hiring your best buds.
Don’t just hire a friend because you like hanging out with them. Hire a friend if they have a relevant skill set, and if it’s the right move to help grow your business. It’s also important that everyone — including you — can work together effectively and accept constructive criticism, without it being misconstrued as personal.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Mike Matousek is the founder of Boston-based Flashnotes.com, a student-to-student study materials marketplace which empowers smart students to make money from their own study material while helping other students study smarter to get better grades. He founded the company while a senior at Kent State University in 2010, later graduated with a degree in Finance and Entrepreneurship and recently raised Series B of funding. He is passionate about the fact that 42% of today’s college students don’t graduate and is on a mission to help more students succeed. Connect with @Mike_Matousek on Twitter.
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