12 Sure-Fire Reasons Your Startup Will Fail

When you master these things, you’re in a powerful position to succeed in life and business.

Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer
Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer

Startups fail for a number of reasons. Weak management is chief among them.

Leaders are managers. Most importantly, managers of “self”. As a leader, it’s important to know what works. As you scale you’ll find that it becomes increasingly important to quickly learn what doesn’t.

Self-assessment plays a key role in the lives of thriving entrepreneurs. Knowing what “not to do” distills the narrative and can truly benefit every emerging leader.

So, here’s a look at twelve things you can single-handedly do to ensure your company’s demise — lessons that are better learned from others.

After all, it’s the little things that’ll trip you up.


  1. You’re too single-minded to be effective.

    Often, we start a business because we know something really well. However, knowing something isn’t akin to knowing everything. Knowing when to exercise your genius, and when to seek counsel is important. Why does this matter? Here’s the thing. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You could be hammering away at things that look like a nail, all the while driving problems deeper into the surface. Instead, step back and look closer … perhaps through a different lens.

  2. You’re a slave to your emotions.

    Have you ever heard the adage, “Money is a good servant, but a terrible master”? The same can be said of our emotions. In business, emotions ignite your passion and fuel creative vision. In contrast, when misappropriated, the same emotions that served you well can undermine progress. Emotions left unchecked can lead to escalated tensions, erratic emotional outbursts and irrational decisions. These things don’t bode well for business—ever.

    Photo: © Kaponia Aliaksei
    Photo: © Kaponia Aliaksei

  3. You take too many shortcuts.

    You want results, but have little understanding of the cost. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge proponent of working smart. But there are some things in business that, though you may work smart they will, in fact, be hard. You’ll encounter learning curves. And in some cases, taking a shortcut can cost you down the line. You will quickly find yourself back at square one if you insist on the easy way instead of the correct way.

  4. You let your problems define you.

    Successful entrepreneurs are committed and relentless problem solvers. When you run into a problem that can’t be solved overnight, how do you respond? Do you define your entire journey by one bump in the road? Or do you take a practical approach, though frustrated, to stay solution-minded instead of problem-focused? Entrepreneurs that are defined by their problems, instead of catalyzed by them, are one problem away from updating their resume.

  5. You expect someone to hand it to you.

    If you’re always looking for a handout in business you are missing a really huge point. Most people who need to cross a river are steadily looking around for a boat by the shore. In some cases, you may be able to buy a boat, or hitch a ride on a ship – but largely, more often than not, you’ll need to build your own. This means grabbing a saw, a drill, measuring tape, wood and so on. Most importantly, making sure you can swim before you catch some wind in your sails.

  6. You fail to prepare.

    There’s a biblical parable that goes something like this: Two farmers desperately need rain. But only one of them goes out and prepares his fields to receive it. Which are you? Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

    Photo: © SolisImages
    Photo: © SolisImages

  7. You don’t trust your own vision.

    Inspiration is one thing, plagiarizing the work of others is quite another. There’s a fine line between admiration and being too lazy to spark your own ideas. Generally speaking there are no “new” ideas; there are mostly remixes – and that’s okay. But don’t forget to be true to your own vision. “An original is always worth more than a copy” (Author Unknown).

  8. You care too much about what people think.

    Successful entrepreneurs are skilled at forming their own thoughts. Yes. Inputs and perspectives are often needed; information is currency. However, at the end of it all – you’ll have to become comfortable thinking for yourself; without second guessing or devaluing your own ideas. Remember: when you buy someone’s advice, you also buy their lifestyle. Invest wisely.

  9. Your ego needs a separate carry-on.

    We all have an ego; some of ours are quite larger than others. But for your business to really take off you’ll need to leave your ego at the door. A poorly managed ego can be detrimental to any business – leaving in its path collateral damage of mismanaged finances, poor leadership choices, and missed opportunities – all in the name of “Me!”

  10. You’re all over the place.

    One minute you’re doing this. The next minute you’re convinced it’s that. When you lack singular direction and focus you’ll find yourself being mediocre at many things and excellent at none.

  11. It’s everyone else’s fault, really.

    When things go South who do you blame? Sure, your new web developer took you for a joy ride and left you with empty pockets. But did you vet them first? Did you set up a payment structure that mitigated risks? Did you outline the scope of work, clearly and in writing? Ultimately, things will go wrong in business, but don’t be fooled – the buck starts and stops with you, my friend. For the good, bad and in between successful entrepreneurs take responsibility for what goes wrong and what goes right.

  12. You want to be popular instead of profitable.

    Headlines don’t pay bills. Ironic isn’t it? Coming from a founder who runs a successful media company. You see, I’m in a uniquely qualified position to explain why this mindset is a non-starter. I have seen a lot of startups come and a lot of them go. The successful one’s are focused on product, their market and turning a profit.

    Photo: © Africa Studio
    Photo: © Africa Studio

    The others … Well, they don’t yet realize that attending every conference under the sun won’t improve margins. Tweeting until dusk may not be the most effective use of time. Happy hour isn’t so happy with a negative bank balance. Sure! It’s really cool and novel to get press, but don’t mistake press for a paycheck. Those that grace our glossy digital pages have earned it!

Let these principles serve as guideposts in business. We’ve all made mistakes. Successful entrepreneurs learn to leverage them. So, do your best to steer clear of these behaviors and quickly course correct when you take a wrong turn. When you do, you’ll save time, money and preclude headaches down the road. The best part? Mastering “self” puts you in a powerful position to succeed in life and business.


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