When you set off for a hike in the woods you’ll want to take a map to ensure you end up at your final destination. Wouldn’t it be nice if entrepreneurship came with a similar blueprint? Or a startup GPS that could reroute your course when you get a little lost or confused out there … where the wild things are?
While most moving parts within a business can demonstrate proven roadmaps, the trajectory of your individual entrepreneurship journey will invariably be unique. But I’ve learned that our diverse startup experiences, and growing a successful brand, can underpin our understanding of challenges that we all encounter.
It’s in these differences (and commonalities) that we find ourselves.
After listening closely to both first-time founders and seasoned startup vets, I’ve observed several underlying themes that are woven into the fabric of many startup journeys.
Mistakes First-Time Founders Make
Here are five common mistakes, that as a first-time founder, you don’t want to make:
1. Fear of criticism, leading to inaction.
“I don’t want people to poke holes in my idea,” an acquaintance once said to me as he mentally considered starting a business.
Little did he know that it is good to receive critical feedback; to point out the flaws or fallacies in our best laid plans. I’m not referring to ill-conceived and misplaced criticism (i.e. in layman’s terms: “haters gonna’ hate”), but instead constructive feedback and hidden truths that can make us all better entrepreneurs.
Do you know how many of us have heard the crazy things people say to entrepreneurs? I’d wager that 99.9% of us have been on the receiving end of this type of nonsensical feedback. The key is to know how to discern what you need – reinforce and sure up your weaknesses – and leave the rest behind.
In fact, according to Harvard Business Review contributor Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D, “Studies show that people who are experienced in a given domain — people who already have developed some knowledge and skills — don’t actually live in fear of negative feedback. If anything, they seek it out. Intuitively they realize that negative feedback offers the key to getting ahead, while positive feedback merely tells them what they already know.”
2. ‘Go Big or Go Home’ Without Validation
I like quantum leaps in business as much as the next guy, but the missing ingredient that leads many first-time founders to stumble is a lack of validation. In other words, don’t fail to chart your course before you cliff jump.
Every successful venture commences with some measure of customer validation. In its simplest form this means getting people what they want and developing a repeatable scalable business model around that ‘want’.
Customer validation is a critical step prior to growing your small business. Steven Blank in his book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany, offers entrepreneurs a glidepath to developing these insights. Blank suggests that customer validation can be instituted in four phases: preparing to sell, selling to visionaries, determining your positioning and verifying your process.
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