The most common startup mistakes occur when an entrepreneur believes his or her idea alone is enough to launch a successful venture. Great ideas do make for great new businesses, but the startups that endure are led by business owners who either avoid mistakes or learn quickly not to repeat them.
Here are seven of the most common startup mistakes to watch for:
#1 You Don't Set Goals
Long-range SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) goals help guide you during the chaotic early days of a startup, but they're most valuable for directing your long-range planning efforts. Successful startups are the result of well-crafted business, financial and marketing plans, all designed to achieve clearly stated objectives.
#2 You Don't Know Who is your "Ideal Customer"
What good is a new product or service if you don't know who it's for? Prior to a launch, you need to conduct market research that reveals who you want to reach, where you can find them and the marketing approach best suited for their needs.
#3 You Neglect Marketing
Let's say you've identified your target audience. What's the most effective way for them to learn about your startup? The answer might be through traditional advertising, direct-mail campaigns, search-engine optimization or good old-fashioned word of mouth referrals. You have to spread the news or nothing will happen. Don't make the fatal mistake of believing customers will come to you.
#4 You Insist on Doing Everything Yourself
In the very early days of a startup, most entrepreneurs are a one-person show, attending to every detail large or small. But any enterprise worth pursuing inevitably requires the skills and attention of more than one individual. Among the most common startup mistakes is persisting in the belief that you can do everything yourself. This attitude leaves you no time to strategize, research the competition, adapt to changing market conditions—or even get much sleep. The solution? Put a team together.
#5 You Hire Too Quickly
Getting the right people to join your venture is critical. But don't expect them to fall in your lap and don't rush to hire the first person who "seems" qualified for an open position. Recognizing the need to have talented individuals around you is the critical first step. Next is making sure you hire – and then delegate – wisely.
As small business information expert Alyssa Gregory notes, "Effective delegation can be one of the best ways for new small business owners to build their businesses, free up their time for business activities that require their unique expertise, and build a team positioned for future success."
#6 You Fail to Estimate the Time and Costs Involved
Some entrepreneurs become overly optimistic about how well they'll manage both their time and their money. Any veteran business owner can tell you things don't work out that way. A startup always takes more time than expected and unexpected costs always crop up. Take the safe approach in your planning and factor in more time and money than appears necessary today.
#7 You Stop Having Fun
Launching a startup is a huge commitment and one you should take seriously. But you'll be a better entrepreneur (and a better person) if you avoid losing sight of what got you revved up in the first place. If you don't enjoy the process, what's the point?
"Every once in awhile, do something silly," advises Inc. contributing editor Jeff Haden. "Silly is memorable. Silly makes you feel like a kid again."