Whether it's getting your product pricing wrong, hiring too quickly, or failing to plan effectively, there are always things you wish someone had told you about before starting up. Business mistakes are an important part of the entrepreneurial journey; the pain points from which better ways of doing things can be learned, but only if the founder is able to recognize those early slip ups as the route to business success.
Throw caution to the wind and go for it
Hospitality marketing agency Maade concluded its first full year of business in 2017. Looking back, director Matthew Rose says there are things they did that cost them new business that they won’t be repeating in 2018.
He says: “2017 was spent carefully refining our craft and approach so that we had a bulletproof strategy and way of getting results. However, that slow and steady, cautious approach meant that we ended the year with fewer clients than we could have had, had we taken our short term results as indicators of our success and run with them to win new contracts.
“Other agencies that approached clients after having short and small successes, were winning business while we were staying still. This year we will be much more aggressive in finding and winning work and use the year we spent honing our craft as a learning experience.”
Ditch the strategies you love but that don’t work
After two years of development, 2017 was the year that Vieve Protein Water was launched into the market. Founder and CEO Rafael Rozenson found the first six months a real challenge, and with a modest business success offset by a number of mistakes, not least, holding on to a flawed business strategy.
He said: “When we first launched we tried to push a subscription model for our product, but quickly found this didn’t work. However, instead of adapting quickly and changing our strategy, we kept trying to push our subscription service, which really impacted our sales in the first few months.
“Now we are much more flexible on trying different price points and promotional mechanics and we are constantly testing and learning along the way. Now we know what works and what doesn’t going into next year.”
Hire people for skills not just personality
Starting out in business requires a number of key things to be in place to avoid the risk of early failure. These include getting product or services right, being positioned correctly in the market, and having good people on board. Having the right team and developing it was a core part of the business strategy at brand communications agency Noir.
“Since this was nothing new or particularly ground breaking we didn’t think we had to worry,” says CEO Anthony Logan. "As it turned out, not worrying was our downfall.”
The business had the employment basics in place from the outset, including a review and development program, good salary structure and all the usual HR.
“We worked hard to create a really relaxed and rewarding environment for employees, but when it came to hiring we didn’t get everything right and sadly had to let an employee go,” says Logan. “Naively, we’d focused so much on the positives that we neglected the negative side of managing a team. We’d hired someone based on personality, when really at that point in our growth we should have focused on experience.”
The recruitment mistake proved costly, not just financially, but also in the way that it impacted rest of the team’s morale and workload.
“But we learned from it and came back from it,” adds Logan. “In 2018 and beyond our focus will still be on developing the best possible team, but with our eyes fully open.”
Plan purposefully and let others inspire you
As a child, Wajeeha Husain was never allowed to eat chocolate because of the high risk of diabetes. As an adult she decided to develop a range of chocolate that could be eaten regularly, and in September 2017, she launched her chocolate business Chocolateeha, with the aim of enabling chocolate lovers to eat chocolate the way they want. Last year she admits that her planning and failure to connect with inspirational people were her downfall.
“I was writing rough monthly plans only to find I wasn’t sticking to them," she says. "This year I’m going sit down in the evening and write down three things I need to accomplish the next day and then I reflect in the evening if I have done them. A few days into 2018 it is already working well.”
Connecting with people who will inspire her is another lesson she intends to learn from this year.
“In 2017 I lacked motivation and drive because I was spending time with people who didn’t own business and didn’t understand me. This year I plan to attend more business networking events so that I constantly surround myself with other entrepreneurs to learn from their mistakes and allow them to challenge and inspire me.”
Make health a priority
Business coach Tasmin Sabar fell into the trap of being so focused on her business that she neglected her own health.
“I was failing to recognize my business as an extension of me and throwing myself into it to the detriment of everything else,” she says. “I became obsessed with my business and was constantly ‘on’. This culminated in falling ill on holiday and taking weeks to recover, only to fall ill again a few weeks later.”
Sabar gained weight, was constantly tired and performing below par, but finally realized that she had to see her health as an investment in her business and committed to making self-care a priority.
“I now have a daily morning routine, which includes meditation, yoga and journalism as well as getting enough sleep, eating well and staying hydrated,” she says. “I’ve already noticed a huge difference in my productivity and focus and I’ll be carrying this me into 2018 and beyond.”
Originally published January 7, 2018 on Forbes.com