Kona Impact has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs over the years. Many of these have been seasoned veterans of the business world, and many are starting their first business. We have been able to learn a lot from both.
This post will focus on some of the big mistakes new entrepreneurs make.
- Getting stuck in the details and missing the big picture. We have a lot of new business owners that overthink their logo, obsessing over making what they perceive as the perfect logo as if that is the most crucial thing in their small business. It’s not. Hire a professional, get something done right and move on. Likewise, for business cards: there is no need to spend weeks on them. Spend an hour on them, but then move on to the issues that matter
- Failure to identify the big picture items. These include funding, product/service development, a marketing plan, and sales. These are the things that will make or break your business, so focus on them. Plan. Plan. Do. Do.
- “I exist so therefore people will buy” mentality. For those who remember the movie “Field of Dreams” this is the “build it and they will come” idea. Few products or services are so compelling out of the gate, so new entrepreneurs need to get out, connect with people, and sell, sell, sell.
- Trying to do it all alone. I get it that entrepreneurs are very self-confident–if not a bit arrogant–but the most successful ones we have seen know what they don’t know and get help when they need it. Time and money are the most valuable things any business owner has and wasting time doing something ineffectively or incorrectly wastes both. At Kona Impact, we have a staff with diverse talents. We aspire to offer “A level” results on all our products and services. I don’t do some jobs because I have “B level” skills and my staff have “A level” skills. I also hire a bookkeeper, a tax professional, a mechanic, professional repair person to keep my time focused on what I do best.
- Failure to understand the market. Every entrepreneur loves what they sell; they think it is the best thing since sliced bread, but sales in the marketplace will also be the ultimate truth serum. I often hear, “everyone loves my idea”, “everyone needs this”, “we don’t have this in Kona.” Much of the time, it’s clear that “everyone” is a spouse, family member, or friend. While Kona may not have that now, it probably did in the past in some form or another. Research. Talk to potential customers—research more…and more.
- Believing that everyone thinks like you. This, of course, is an issue for most people. We cannot look at things from different perspectives, walking a mile in their shoes. This is where a team, market research, and sales come into play. Without them, your business is just an idea. Go out and get some evidence of what people like, don’t like, and to which they are indifferent. Your opinion matters little if it is based on no evidence. There’s a great saying: “the data don’t care what your opinion is.”
- Not being all in. There are few ideas for businesses that don’t require tremendous effort by the owner. When I see the owners of all the companies near my office working on Saturdays while their employees enjoy the weekend off, I am reminded that building a strong, stable, and sustainable business is neither a right nor a guarantee. It takes early mornings, late nights, and weekends. If you’re not all in, you might want to consider doing something else with your time.