11 Entrepreneurs Share Their Biggest Failures

October 22, 2016

2:30 pm

Ask any entrepreneur and they will say they have learned a lot. And while success is a big part of growing as an entrepreneur, nothing helps you grow faster than failure.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) asked 11 entrepreneurs to share some of their biggest failures as entrepreneurs and the take away lesson they used for their next challenge:

Trying to Build a Perfect Product

I was lucky to learn the dangers of becoming too product focused in one of my earliest ventures. I would obsessively try to build the perfect app or site before launch. Failing has embedded a very lean philosophy moving forward which is facilitated by rapid iterations and intense testing through an evolving process.

– Reza Chowdhury of AlleyWatch

Being Inactive

While starting one of my businesses, there was a six-month period of time with zero clients — absolutely no income. Luckily, by working hard and rethinking my original strategy, I was able to turn it around. It taught me that doing nothing when things are going sour will just put an end to your business.

– Alfredo Atanacio of Uassist.ME

Partnering With the Wrong Person

In 2005, I started a business that had rocket-like growth. Even though the idea and initial capital and infrastructure were all mine, I decided to bring a partner on board because of his strength in sales. He then decided that he could run the same type of business by himself. I learned to never take on partners or investors unless it's 100 percent needed, and to keep control as much as possible.

-Marcela De Vivo of Gryffin

Not Hiring (and Firing) Wisely

Having over 85 employees, most of my mistakes have been in the hiring process. Finding the right people takes time, process and tenacity. Take your time to find people who fit into the culture of the business. Use aptitude tests, and do several interviews. For the rotten employees, get rid of them fast. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

– Tommy Mello of A1 Garage Door Service

Not Acquiring Talent Around My Weaknesses

I learned early on that I can't do everything, nor am I good at everything. I've built a team of experts in their fields, and we collaborate to create a more fully rendered solution for our clients than I could ever do by myself. Another key point is learning about marketing automation. This is a tool that today's entrepreneurs need to master, whether they learn it themselves or outsource it.

– Nicole Munoz of Start Ranking Now

Developing My Team in Two Places

A huge mistake I made was creating a team in two locations (especially since the time zones were quite disparate). One of the biggest challenges early-stage teams face is keeping everyone on the same page: one goal, one vision. When you separate the core team too early, it's almost impossible to cultivate the magic that only happens when early stage teams are crammed in a room together.

– Eran Eyal of StartupHat

Not Having Patience

Everything (and I really do mean everything) takes longer than you think. The best entrepreneurs have the highest possible expectations, but balance that with patience, kindness and understanding. If you exhibit patience with yourself, staff and clients, you will have the stamina to build the company for 5-10 years. Despite popular opinion, that's how long it takes to build a real business.

– Mitch Gordon of Go Overseas

Not Letting People Fail

Error is the key part of learning from trial and error. Your team members will struggle to take enough ownership over enough to become responsible for successes in the future. You can't micromanage everything, and shouldn't. It's tough to bite the bullet and risk a setback in your company, I know. If you don't feel confident doing it, you need to get the right folks on board before you can grow.

– David Mainiero of InGenius Prep

Trying to Build the “Uber” of Something

In my immaturity, I always equated unicorns with real value. But that's something from which I've learned. Building the “Uber of Accounting” or the “Facebook of Art” might sound like great ideas, but they could simply be bubbles and fads. I no longer equate trendy products with viable products; so while a lot of people might hurry to enjoy the gold rush, scaling slowly is better.

– Cody McLain of SupportNinja

Not Knowing What My Customers Wanted

When we first launched our custom clothing company, we would evangelize all these cool customizations you'd be able to add to your dress shirt. We would invest in design and engineering resources to build a slick customization interface. But our customers didn't want to design shirts. They wanted shirts that fit their bodies. We iterated on our value proposition and have never looked back.

– Fan Bi of Blank Label

Losing Focus

I almost ran my business into the ground early on by losing focus. There were so many things that I wanted to accomplish, and I tried to make them all happen at once. We launched multiple web properties that essentially amounted to side projects that kept us from making our core product great and was sucking our cash reserves dry. Once we got laser focussed, everything started to fall into place.

– James Simpson of GoldFire Studios

The answers above are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.