10 things you should never do when starting a business

Embarking on a new venture is incredibly exciting. The possibilities are endless, your enthusiasm is sky-high and you can’t wait to get going. That is, until you hit a snag you didn’t expect!

Tania Sullivan, founder of Larger Family Life, the UK’s biggest online resource for larger families, has certainly experienced her own entrepreneurial ups and downs over the years. And now she’s sharing the lessons she’s learned, to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes people make when starting a business or blog.

10 things you should never do when starting a business

Launching a business on your own is a learning curve like no other, and often it’s only by putting a plan into action that we can see what works and what doesn’t. Theory and planning is all well and good, but it isn’t until we are acting on those theories and plans into motion that we experience their results.

Unfortunately, we can never tell how things will work out. We can’t learn from mistakes until we’ve made them – and I think it’s fair to say that over the years I have made more than my own fair share. With the benefit of hindsight and the postponed wisdom it brings, I share my top ten ‘don’ts’ to bear in mind when starting on your new venture, whether you’re tentatively dipping your toes into the world of blogging, or plunging yourself into the world of business.

1) Don’t try to be someone you are not

This is a mistake many people make, particularly in the world of blogging. They see someone who has developed a successful blog and, either through admiration or envy, attempt to copy their voice or style themselves.

This is a sure-fire way of failing at the first hurdle. What makes you special is quite simply you. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. You can’t imitate another person. You won’t be able to keep it up and you’ll come across as false because there are people who will realise what you are doing. You’re setting yourself up to fail.

Look at the flip-side though – you are unique! Nobody out there can anyone ever imitate you. If you want to be successful, develop your own style and your own voice and stick to being you.

2) Don’t underestimate yourself

Following on from the first point, never underestimate yourself or what you are capable of. Believe in your plans and your ideas. If you don’t believe in yourself, how will you ever convince anyone else to?

3) Don’t sell yourself short

Again we follow from the last point. Believe in yourself first, then tell the world how great you are. What do you mean you’re too embarrassed to? How will anyone ever get to hear how wonderful you are, how fabulous your work is or how terrific your products are if you don’t tell them?

There’s no room in business for modesty. Your potential customers and clients need to know why they should choose you. Give them a hundred reasons to want you/your product/your service, and not a single one for them to go elsewhere.

4) Don’t be afraid to try new things

It’s a fact of life – sometimes things will work out, and sometimes they won’t. But the reality is that unless you try you will never, ever know.

Sp never be afraid to try new ideas, and never worry about experimenting. The worst that will happen is that an idea won’t take off. But what if it does? Don’t ever leave yourself wondering ‘what if?’

5) Don’t see failure as a negative

Treat everything you do as part of your learning curve. It isn’t just the things that go right that can teach us lessons. Sometimes the most valuable ones come from the mistakes we make and the things which just didn’t work out.

We can learn a great deal about spotting how those mistakes occurred, the results of them and how we ourselves dealt with them. Okay, so it might be disheartening when things don’t go to plan but look at it this way, the more experience you have of both good and bad, the more prepared you are next time.

6) Don’t be too proud to ask for help or advice

Nobody in the world knows everything – not even you. You might be confident enough in one field, but lacking expertise in another.

Sp don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from those who have been there and done that before you. Having someone to turn to, to bounce ideas off, to glean advice from or just for that all-important nod of encouragement could make all the difference to delivering success yourself. Don’t be too proud to learn from other people’s mistakes. All too often, they’re more than happy to share their experiences.

7) Don’t listen to the haters

Starting out a new venture is nerve-wracking enough without negativity from others. This isn’t any different once your blog or business is established.

When you begin, you might find yourself justifying or explaining your plans to friends or family members who are a little bit too critical of the whole thing. Constructive criticism isn’t a bad thing, but snide, resentful criticism is another matter altogether – don’t listen to it no matter what. Instead of taking negativity and mockery to heart, use it as a fuel to spur you on. And remember, he who laughs last…

8) Don’t be a dead fish

The most successful people have often done something new and different, often in the face of adversity and lack of support, in order to break the mould. Don’t be afraid to go against the majority, and to walk to the beat of your own drum. After all, only dead fish go with the flow!

9) Don’t be a slave to yourself

This is something I personally struggle with, so I’m writing this for me as much as for you.

I always thought that working for myself would mean I could choose my hours and work accordingly. But the reality is very different! I have discovered that it’s so easy to be caught up with plans and to-do lists that it becomes harder and harder to switch my brain off. Some days it almost feels like I’m bordering on obsession!

When this happens, switch everything off. Shut down computers, turn off phones and put the kettle on and give yourself space and time to breathe. Which brings me nicely to my next, and final point…

10) Don’t lose sight of why you are doing this and what is important

If your goal was to work for yourself in order to be able to spend more time with your kids, ensure you keep that priority in mind. It’s always good to have goals and aims in life, but don’t lose sight of the really important stuff and never let it become a case of either/or.

If you find your business is causing you to spend less time with your family than your full-time job for a boss before it did, it’s time to reassess. Don’t lose sight of the important things in life.

And that’s it! My 10 things you should never do when starting a business. Hopefully they’ll help you avoid some of the common mistakes most of us make, and help you work towards greater business success.

Tania Sullivan is founder of Larger Family Life, the UK’s biggest online resource for larger families.