Starting a business is hard work. There’s no way to ensure your company will last, but learning from entrepreneurs who are enjoying the success you want is the best way to get ahead.
GOBankingRates spoke with several entrepreneurs with thriving businesses to find out what mistakes they’ve made along the way. Use their advice to avoid making the same missteps.
Heeding Advice From Non-Entrepreneurs
Early in her career, Dawna Jarvis, a former salon owner turned business strategist, made the mistake of listening to advice from people who had never owned a business.
“Although their intentions were good, their lack of experience often clouded my judgment,” she said. “I’ve since learned to primarily seek feedback from those who have first-hand experience in similar business ventures or who have reached the level of success to which I aspire.”
Forgetting To Celebrate Little Wins
When he first started his company, Jason Jani, an entertainer and owner of SCE Event Group and Snapshot Photobooths, spent the first several years working more than 90 hours per week.
“Days became weeks and weeks became months, with little downtime outside of my work priorities,” he said. “Things that I rarely did in the early years of growing SCE Event Group were to stop to breathe, incorporate balance into my life and celebrate the small wins that led to big opportunities, that have become highlights on our company accolades.”
His advice to new and prospective entrepreneurs is to take the time to recognize and acknowledge your team and their accomplishments to create long-lasting, loyal relationships.
“As I continue to build new businesses, this particular piece of advice is a priority for me,” he said.
Misaligned Business Partnerships
“I can count on three fingers how many partnership arrangements I regret,” said Lakesha Cole, founder and CEO of she PR. “Our vision, values and expectations weren’t aligned, and it leads to misunderstandings, conflict and even financial loss.”
Beyond that, she said it’s also important to consider a partner’s ability to contribute their fair share to the arrangement, whether that means time, resources or expertise.
“It’s not just about shared business aspirations and ethical alignment,” she said. “It’s also about their capability and commitment to fulfill their roles and responsibilities effectively.”
If you’re in a partnership that lacks transparent communication, shared values, reciprocal respect and equal contribution, she said it’s time to exit.
Not Firing Someone Soon Enough
Letting an employee go can be awkward, but dragging your feet can be detrimental for several reasons, said Peter Wasmer, managing partner and CEO at Pure Coastal Development LLC, a business management platform for small businesses.
“An underperforming or disruptive employee can negatively impact team morale and productivity,” he said. “If team members witness someone consistently failing to meet expectations or behaving inappropriately without consequences, it can breed resentment, demotivation and a sense of unfairness.”
Additionally, he said an underperforming employee can cause customer satisfaction levels to decline, which may lead to a loss of business and tarnish your reputation.
Beyond that, he said a less-than-effective employee hampers the growth and progress of the company.
“It prevents the organization from filling the position with a more qualified and competent individual who can contribute to the company’s success,” he said. “Furthermore, it can impede the development of a high-performance culture where excellence and accountability are valued.”
He also noted that keeping the wrong person on staff can lead to increased costs in terms of training, supervision and potential mistakes.
“Overall, not taking decisive action to remove an unsuitable employee can have far-reaching negative consequences for the business, including a decline in performance, employee dissatisfaction and a hindrance to growth,” he said.
Choosing the Wrong Supplier
“When we were initially looking into partners, we found that $100,000 was the minimum quote for a manual mold in the United States,” said Amanat Anand, cofounder of SoaPen, a hand soap pen for kids. “Going with this supplier would have been a major misstep and a huge blow to our finances.”
After doing a little more research, they found the right fit.
“Once we expanded our search and utilized platforms like Alibaba.com, we were able to identify a supply partner who was able to create the manual mold for only $3,500, helping us to maximize our finances and invest in other aspects of our business,” she said.
Overlooking Research and Development
“One of our first iterations of SoaPen actually had a squeezable tube as the packaging, and we had placed a large order to try and hit the ground running,” she said. “Once we received the order and got it in the hands of some kids, we realized that they were just squeezing out all of the soap at once and the packaging had to be rethought.”
She said this taught them the importance of the research and development phase.
“A little more time testing the product with kids would’ve told us that the squeezable tube design was flawed, before we placed a large order,” she said.
Not Setting Boundaries
“The biggest mistake I’ve probably made in my business so far is not setting boundaries,” said Haley Slade, CEO and founder of the digital copywriting agency Slade Copy House. “Boundaries as a small business owner are huge. “
Early on, a lack of boundaries caused her to go above and beyond for clients, including changing prices to accommodate their needs and communicating with them after work hours, because she wanted them to feel important and know she cared.
“This eventually led to a feeling of burn out and people taking advantage of me as a business owner as well as unsustainable business practices,” she said.
Since then, things have changed for the better.
“I had to learn to set hard boundaries and follow them and learn that that is the only way to scale and grow and actually give your clients the right experience while maintaining a healthy business,” she said.
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