October 28, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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