8 Brutal Small Business Mistakes You Need to Avoid

So, we all make mistakes, right?  The most important small business mistakes teach you how not to screw up royally the second time and how to not make you lose money.

As much as I’m going to love drudging up these humiliating moments, I know it’ll help someone that’s looking into starting a home based business or a small business in general.  I’ve narrowed my list down to my top eight mistakes, but you should know that this list could really be like a thousand bullet points.

Here’s the most important small business mistakes I learned in my first year of business:

1.  Not thinking strategically in every, single endeavor.

When you’re involved in the growth of a start up, you have to accurately assess every situation you encounter and here are three reasons why:
-you don’t want to waste time
-you don’t want to waste money
-you don’t want to suffer any type of  loss because you’re desperate for exposure

Attend trade shows that are targeted to match your market.  Offer your services to other businesses that accurately complement yours.  This may seem like common sense, but when you’re trying to gain exposure, make money, and there aren’t a ton of easily accessible opportunities presenting themselves, your judgment easily becomes clouded.

I’ve lost quite a bit of money by jumping at “opportunities” when I had no business doing so.  Just remember that there should be a win for both parties.  If it’s one sided… it’s not a good call.

2.  Assuming that people will be dying to carry your products.

Don’t get caught up in your expectations unless you have solid leads and purchase orders in place to back it up.  A business doesn’t grow based on hopes and dreams, it grows based on actions and risk taking.  If you’re not making phone calls, sending emails, or networking your ass off, then it’ll be awhile before your business goes anywhere.  I hate to break it for you, but no one is checking for you, so you have to make yourself relevant.  Make them WANT to work with you.  Build relationships, get out in the community, establish yourself as an expert… do whatever it takes to get in the game!

3. Not having a solid road map.

Yes, I’m aware that this is called a business plan.

I decided to bypass writing a business plan because I wasn’t seeking any investment and I just quite frankly had to scramble to put together my company anyway (this doesn’t work, by the way).

I pretty much found out that business plans are essential.  Yes, your plan may change every week.  Yes, they can be a pain to write when you don’t know where to start.  The main point is that you have to know how you’re going to get to where you want to be, especially if you’re a new entrepreneur.  Even if you don’t write a complete plan right away, you at least need to know your target market, how you’re going to market your product, and plan a budget for whatever capital you have invested in your business.

8 Brutal Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business // Making mistakes is a huge part of running a business, but they're not the end all be all. We learn from our mistakes, and most importantly, they help us grow as entrepreneurs. However, there are some mistakes that you should try and avoid making, and I list them all in this detailed post. Click through to read!

4.  Making plans to sell, sell, sell and not give, give, give.

Being in business shouldn’t be just about how to make yourself profitable while leaving everyone else behind as you run into the Fiji sunset.  Having this type of mentality is going to get you about as far as you can throw yourself. Why?  Because the purpose of being an entrepreneur is to HELP people.  If your product ain’t helpin, it ain’t happenin’.

Aside from offering products for sale, what can you offer for free?  People love free stuff!  Providing free content gives people plenty of opportunities to see you as an authority figure before they make the plunge to purchase AND it allows you to gain their trust.

Here’s a few things you can offer:
-industry white sheets
-webinars and ecourses

You always want to keep your audience/ customers in mind.  People don’t want to constantly be sold to, and they’re not always around just to buy.  You’ve got to have a variety of products to cater to many types of people.  Are people more willing to purchase from some random “expert” or a Youtube personality they know and love?

// Related Read: The Solopreneur’s Miniguide to Starting a Business //

5.  Not changing my point of view.

While I love my company and my products, I made the HUGE mistake of making products that I wanted to see on the market when really, no one gives a damn what I want to see on the market.  The consumer is essentially the boss of your product selection.  As entrepreneurs, we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that our product is going to be an instant hit, and we’re quickly let down when it’s not.  It’s your job as an entrepreneur to make sure that there is a need for your product.

Check out popular blogs to see what people are looking for. Use the Google Keyword Tool to see what questions you can answer with a blog post. Copy your competition, in your own innovative way, if they’re on the right track. Just don’t completely reinvent the wheel.

6.  Not doing enough market research.

If you’re even thinking about skimping on researching your target market, think twice before starting a business. It’s crucial to your company’s success that you know and understand your customer. How can you give them what they’re demanding if you don’t know who they are, their ages, their interests?  I skimped a bit on research in the beginning because I had just read a book by Lori Greiner and assumed the only way to do market research was going back to old school roots: doing surveys on the street.  If you haven’t done your research yet, then you’re in luck.  I just ran across an article by Neil Patel about how to do market research online for your social media strategy that gave me tons of insight.

7.  Thinking you can do it on your own.  

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

The same applies for start ups.  You’re going to have to swallow your pride, and go to others for help because it will be a long, lonely road on your own.  Help comes in so many different forms: networking (building relationships), business coaches (learning strategies from people that have been in your position), and inspirational figureheads (people who’ve made it and are sharing their “secrets” with you).

It takes time and tons of effort to build a business.  Be patient, be consistent in your efforts and everything will fall into place.

8.  Getting caught in analysis paralysis. 

Wouldn’t the world be so perfect if we all knew how to run a business before we actually start it??? In an entrepreneur’s world, experience is the best teacher, and you really don’t start the learning process until you start making mistakes.  So don’t fret if you haven’t read every ebook about starting a business, or every PDF about social media marketing.

One of my business coaches recently told me that successful people don’t get caught up in learning everything up front.  They make moves, learn as they go, and don’t get caught up in the bad decisions they’ve made.

They say that it’s the lesson learned from the mistake that actually surpasses the mistake itself.  Looking back to just seven short months ago, I realize that I’ve made more heavy-hitting mistakes than I can count… in my opinion.  Luckily, I’ve learned enough to not repeat them for a second or third time.  As entrepreneurs, we’re always learning as we go, and nothing is ever perfect.  The key is to not harp on mishaps, and finish strong by implementing what you’ve learned from the slip up.

What mistakes did you make when starting your business?  Have you made any of the mistakes mentioned in this post?  If you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, what is your advice for budding entrepreneurs?  Leave a comment down below! 

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  1. KEITH_ANDRE 06/30/2015 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    This is so perfect!!!! Geez.. Stephanie! I’m grateful for you and thanks for sharing this!! Business is such a difficult process and so many day the hardest part is getting started, No. The hardest part is getting things done properly and effectively. Thanks for your insight, I’ll be reading!

    • Stephanie Williams 10/19/2015 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      Keith, starting a business is definitely tough but the rewards are well worth it! I fell so hard when I first started out, now that I know better, it’s my job to help others avoid the same mistakes I made. Thanks for reading!

  2. ray 08/08/2016 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    Hi stephanie,

    I love this blog post. Is there a way for me to use some of your tips and repost it on my blog with a link of your website for the full article?

    Thank you

    • Stephanie Williams 08/15/2016 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Hey Ray, that’s just fine with me. Thanks so much for reading and I’m glad that you found it helpful!

  3. NAME* 09/26/2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    This was useful!

  4. Deana 01/06/2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    This was an awesome post and in all honesty what I love most is Paying It Forward….there are so many people out there that won’t share vital information. So with that said thank you so very much I will use all of your tips when I start my business…I was a shop owner about 5 years ago I was in business for 7 years and closed my business due to the financial crash and 3 children graduating upon other things. I will tell you when anybody ever came in and ask me questions I was always positive and honest and sent them out fully pumped to begin their journey. So with great thanks for Paying It Forward!

    • Stephanie Rollins 01/21/2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reading Deana! This was my very first blog post when I started BLD because I just had to share the knowledge. I wish someone had told me!

  5. Savannah 04/14/2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    I’m so excited to read more!!! Would it be okay to link your article in the future? Thank you!!

    • Stephanie Rollins 04/28/2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

      Thank you, and of course!

  6. Joyce sarpong 09/16/2017 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Hi Stephanie
    I love this piece
    It makes sooo mich sense
    Cant wait to start my biz. Is giving me headache chai

  7. Christine 01/12/2018 at 12:13 am - Reply

    The toughest part sometimes is sticking it out the entire day when you want to give up because customers aren’t walking through the door! If your hours are set…get there on time and stay until closing! There were times I wanted to leave early due to low/no traffic, so much of the success you will earn is from just showing up!! GOOD LUCK!

    • Stephanie Rollins 07/21/2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

      I 100% agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Joyce 05/20/2018 at 12:21 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for your kind advice. They were all very helpful, also reassuring as I recognize many of the mistakes that I have made and will try to avoid in future.

    • Stephanie Rollins 07/21/2018 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Thank you for reading! I’m so glad you found this helpful!

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