Avoid These Common Mistakes To Succeed! (written October, 2002)

Part of the great American dream of many people is to own their own business. What must people do to become a successful entrepreneur? The answer is quite a challenge. People start and run successful businesses doing everything you can imagine and some things you cannot imagine. So as often happens, the best way to answer this question and the best way to succeed is simply to avoid failure. Entrepreneurs fail for a number of reasons and if these can be avoided, success moves from possible to probable and becomes likely.

#1) Entrepreneurs must examine the three “T’s”: Time, Temperament and Talent. You must honestly assess yourself or better yet have friends, colleagues and family members who know you best help you. Some people who have a 60-hour-a-week “day job,” who coach the Little League team and are on the PTA Board feel they have enough time to start a new business. As many ventures are begun part time, you must be realistic about how much time you have to invest. Our own temperament is difficult for us to evaluate because in our mind we always act logically and reasonably. You must ask people with whom you have worked if you really have a temperament to be in business for yourself. The third “T” is talent. It is very easy to underestimate the talent it takes to create a new venture because talented people by their very nature make everything look easy. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods seem effortless when they are at their best. But don’t underestimate their level of talent.

#2) Find your market niche. The whole key to entrepreneurship is to find a need and fill it. You must assess if there is really a demand for your product or service. You may love chocolate chip waffles or tofu bagels, but is the world ready for these new products? Never underestimate the importance and the power of market research. This must go far beyond asking friends and relatives what they think of your idea. Even people in a blind survey are much more positive with their casual responses than they would be if they’re spending real money. The best market research goes beyond interest vs. no-interest and delves into levels of commitment and willingness to make a buying decision.

#3) Make sure you have enough capital. The cardinal sin in operating a business is to run out of money. Money smoothes the highway before you and helps you overcome mistakes. If you don’t have enough operating capital, you may have to do everything perfectly the first time. This simply never works. For example, if a person is totally blind and a huge baseball fan, that person may believe they could get a hit off Roger Clemens if you would allow them as many strikes as they wanted. Eventually the person will figure out the timing and pacing and actually get a hit off of one of the greatest pitchers of our time.

#4) Get out of the corporate mentality. Many would be entrepreneurs come out from mid-level corporate America. They have had tremendous advantages due to the resources of their employer. These advantages will simply not be there in a start-up venture. In the corporate world, your assistant may have an assistant, but in Entrepreneurland, get ready to do it yourself. Corporate mentality says, “Do your job.” Entrepreneurial mentality says, “Do what needs to be done.”

#5) Don’t underestimate the amount of work and passion required. Starting a business may be the hardest, most difficult and most rewarding thing you do. Many sacrifices will have to be made – particularly in the beginning. If you don’t have the passion for your new venture or if you have grossly underestimated the work require, you’ll never make it.

If you can avoid these pitfalls and you have a product, service or concept that the marketplace wants, begin now and simply never quit. If you’re not sure, enter into a time of study, planning and research. Eliminate as many of the barriers as possible before you start. Find mentors in your field of endeavor and in business general. These people can save you a lot of time, effort and money. They may not be smarter than you are. They may have simply already made the mistakes you’re getting ready to make. Often times in business, we get frustrated and say, ”If I had known then what I know now…..” Mentors and those who have gone before you know the things you will wish you knew later.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.