10 Startup Life Pitfalls to Avoid; Young Entrepreneurs Weigh In

October 28, 2012

10:00 am

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library, and email lessons.

This week we asked, “What’s one common pitfall of the startup life you suggest other entrepreneurs avoid?” Their answers are below.

1. Bad Time Management

Be productive! Longer working hours a day may not result in a better product or more successful product. Start your day early, avoid checking emails first thing in the morning, and get busy completing the major tasks for the day. Specify a specific time in the morning to catch up on emails. Use the first hour of your day to be productive in other areas. If there is a problem or a major issue, people should call or text you. An email can wait an extra hour.

– George Mavromaras, Founder and President at Mavro Inc.

2. Forgetting Your Family

Startup life can very easily become your entire life, leaving your loved ones feeling like they are not a priority. Sit down with your family before you take a leap into the “startup life” and agree on hard boundaries ( i.e. Friday night dinners). Make them feel like they are a part of this great endeavor you are taking — after all, they will be your biggest supporters.

– Emily Eldridge, CEO at Book’d

3. Working Toward Burnout

So many startups have a culture of working late, working weekends, working all the time. At first, you get a lot done from these sprints, but people burn out quickly. And you can easily create a competition of who can spend the most time in the office — in my book, that’s not the best way to judge who is the best asset to a team. Instead, encourage a healthy work-life balance. You’ll foster a great team and get top talent to stick with you if you let your employees have a life.

– Laura Roeder, Founder at LKR

4. Numbers and Paperwork

Don’t forget the two most important people that you can trust –your accountant and lawyer. The lawyer will protect you and your business, and your accountant will make sure you scale properly and avoid any tax liabilities. These are the two best business partners you can invest in at an early stage for fast, scalable growth.

– Ak Kurji, Chairman & CEO at Gennex Group

5. Losing to Overwhelm

Entrepreneurs are ambitious and have large goals that they want to achieve. One pitfall is feeling overwhelmed. Goals are accomplished by breaking things down and taking them one day at a time. It is also important to be able to acknowledge the small wins accomplished day-to-day, in addition to the large wins that you are working towards.

– Caroline Ghosn, Co-Founder and CEO at The Levo League

6. Sacrificing Your Health

Do not sacrifice your health. Go to the gym, work out, and eat healthy. It’s very typical for entrepreneurs to commit all of their time to their business idea. Inevitably, you will run out of steam, health-wise , and it will not only be bad for you, but it will hurt the business as well. Investors do not want to meet with entrepreneurs that look like they haven’t showered, slept, or eaten. Your appearance can easily jeopardize an investor’s confidence to work with you, so take care of yourself.

– John Berkowitz, Co-Founder & Vice President of National Sales at Yodle

7. Waiting for the Best Idea

Too often, entrepreneurs are trapped in the mindset of having the “best” idea before they get started; however, this approach is backwards. Rather than searching for the best idea, entrepreneurs should be asking themselves: “What problem am I inspired to solve?” Perhaps this is a health, finance, convenience, parenting, etc. problem. From there, it’s a matter of looking at the solutions that are currently available in the market and determining how you could do it better. The best businesses begin by solving a problem and creating a better product in an industry that’s proven (people are buying similar), demand is demonstrated (people are searching for the specific product) and it’s desired (people are looking for the product’s key benefit).

– Charles Gaudet, Founder at Predictable Profits

8. Acquiring a Ton of Debt

When I got started in real estate, I was flipping houses. I bought a lot of houses, which led to a mountain of credit card debt, bank loans, and a nosebleed of a credit rating. I didn’t know enough yet to be successful without incurring piles of debt; every new entrepreneur should strive to obtain his goals by not taking on debt. Debt creates very stressful times that can be avoided.

– DC Fawcett, Owner at Paramount Digital Publishing

9. Forgetting to Document

In a startup, you serve a lot of different functions and create processes for the first time. I really recommend documenting everything that you do: What works? What doesn’t? What procedure did you follow? Which documents or resources did you create? This will help tremendously when it’s time to delegate. Entrepreneurs think they can do everything, but it’s all about maximizing your time, so you have to delegate.

– Abby Ross, Partner at Blueye Creative

10. Losing Valuable Friends

Maintain friendships with your closest friends at all costs because they will always be there to support and push you through the rough patches. It’s so easy to get caught up in the grind of startups and neglect your friends.

– Blake Beshore, Owner and CEO at Tatroux 

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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