Eight mistakes you must avoid when starting your business

So you’ve just started your first business. Congratulations! This is an exciting time – but it’s also nerve-wracking. After all, there’s so much that could go wrong.

To help you follow the right path, and grow a successful business, here are the eight most common mistakes people make when starting their business (and how you can avoid them) by Luscheyne Mellon from Veromo.

1) Forgetting who your friends are

Getting your business up and running smoothly will require more help and support from your friends that you probably realise right now, so don’t forget them.

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You’ll lose hours working on content, getting the design elements just right, or dealing with customers when building your business, and it’s easy to become all-consumed by it. But try not to let important friendships slide. While good friends will understand when you are under pressure, it’s important that you make time of them when you can.

The business baby stage can be one of the loneliest periods we go through – missing family time, holidays and events.

But try to keep perspective, because you’ll want your friends to be excited and celebrate the wins, and offer support when you need it. So involve them in at least part of the journey so they don’t feel totally left out.

The ancient Greeks believe that a man remains immortal, as long as his friends remember him. Keep this in mind before deciding which events to skip out on, and think about how you’d feel if you were on the receiving end of a potential rejection or no show.

2) Making it it all about your business

Your business may be all-important and exciting for you right now, and that’s great. But it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone else in your life.

So don’t make it all about you and your business, and be prepared to ask about what’s going on in everyone else’s lives when you go out. Keep interested in them too – you’re not the only one with hopes, fears and doing exciting things!

Not only is it important to continue to nurture your relationships with friends and family, but taking time off your work is also essential for your business. Changing your focus and participating in other activities can give you much-needed perspective and re-energise you for when you’re back at your desk again.

3) Ignoring the need to switch off

For a lesson in the importance of switching off, read Thrive by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. This book covers all the detailed reasons why lack of sleep and addiction to our smartphones and tablets play havoc on our bodies. It also creates an isolated family dynamic at home where there isn’t enough quality time spent together.

It’s clear from the science examined in Thrive that our brains need sleep to learn, process and memorise information and form new neural pathways. Missing out on sleep and rest time affects all areas of life, and inhibits growth in younger people too.

Sleeplessness also kills our creativity, leads to clumsiness and mistakes, and is responsible for a host of problems, ranging from anxiety and depression to overeating, weight gain and low libido.

So get enough proper sleep by making sure you shut down all technology and screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and don’t take any devices into the bedroom.

And let others know your working hours and manage expectations; they’ll start contacting you when they know you’re available or wait before chasing you up. This truly works if you stick to it.

4) Refusing to ask for help

Every person has what is known as ‘zone of genius’ where they are better than average at what they’re doing. (And usually enjoy and thrive on the work they’re doing.)

If you spend too much time working outside your zone of genius you’ll slow down your progress, and maybe even start resenting your business. You’ll also make those around you feel like they’re part of a sinking ship.

What’s the solution? Work out the tasks you enjoy doing and are good at, and look around for affordable and effective help to do the rest. Learn how to delegate and outsource effectively and watch your business thrive.

5) Ignoring sound advice from others who have been there

Whatever industry you’re in, there will be others who have been in the game long enough to give you helpful advice. But you need to ask for, and listen to that advice if you genuinely want to benefit from their experience.

So surround yourself with people who have succeeded and are willing to share their experience of failure as well as success, while encouraging you to take your own calculated risks – and don’t be afraid to ask them when you need guidance.

That’s not to say you should slavishly follow every piece of advice you are given. Listen with an open mind, but also do your own proper research, and go with your own intuition too. After all this is your personal journey and your business, and no one knows it better than you.

(It’s also you who ultimately will reap the rewards or pay the price of any decisions you make.)

6) Getting so caught up in ideas that you forget how to do business

Many entrepreneurs are full of ideas, and can easily become addicted to identifying the next ‘big thing’. But each brilliant idea takes a great deal of dedicated work to make happen, so you need to have staying power and a concrete plan of action too.

Jumping from one brilliant idea to the next can be a long road to nowhere if you have no way to hone in on one or two key things and build a team to take them further.

New ideas should also propel your business forward, not distract you from the day-to-day running of your business. And they must fit into your overall business vision and plan – not take you down an un-foreseen side road.

So make sure you analyse each great new idea for its potential, and understand what you can act on first, breaking down the steps so that they are manageable.

Get a trusted external sounding board for your ideas too – sometimes a revelation that seems brilliant to you may not be quite so well received by others. Your sounding board may be potential customers, a mentor, networking groups, investors or advisors.

If you don’t already have one, work at getting a sounding board in place, and don’t be afraid to use it to sense check ideas against before investing time and money in actioning them.

7) Forgetting your ‘why’

It’s essential that, whatever else happens, you remain clear on your why – the one thing that inspired you to start your business in the first place.

Keeping your why front of mind at all times will enable you to weigh up and new ideas or directions against, and give you the motivation that will get you through the really tough (and inevitable) challenges that come with being an entrepreneur.

Having a clear why will also mean you’ll enjoy your business more, and won’t resent the hard work you’d to put into it. And you’ll inspire others too; businesses with a strong sense of why often find it easier to attract and retain loyal customers and employees, as well as support, partners and advisors.

So what is your why? For many, it’s about having and enjoying freedom – whether it’s more free time, or location freedom. It can also be about family, or making a change for the better in the world.

Your why is entirely personal to you. So if you’re not currently clear on it take time time to work it out. If it’s the one thing you take from this article, your time spent reading it was well-invested!

8) Not listening to your customers

The businesses that enjoy genuine longevity are those that keep their customers front of mind, and aren’t afraid to adapt to their changing needs.

If you’re in retail this might mean going online. Or if you’re in food, it may mean keeping up with the latest diet trends and having your own response to consumer behaviour ready.

Whatever industry you’re in, look for signs of new trends, and listen to what your customers complain and rave about – and be brave enough to make changes to stay ahead to the curve.

A classic example of how some businesses have fallen victim to not listening to their customers is traditional print newspapers. Most weren’t ready for the explosion in online e-zines, blogs and social media outlets that would let users publish their own content, curate it and comment on it.

They resisted change and stuck with what they knew best – at great cost. So don’t go the way of the dinosaur; listen to and anticipate your customers’ needs and stay nimble!

Luscheyne Mellon is co-founder of Veromo, an Australian startup that offers business setup and registration services.