Entrepreneurs always make mistakes. When you’re building a business, you will get things wrong. Everyone does. It’s part of the learning process. If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not trying hard enough. Let me explain the biggest mistake your startup is making.
Some mistakes, though, are more significant than others—and there’s one mistake that’s the biggest of all.
It’s not a marketing mistake. To discover your audience, you will need to experiment. You’ll run ads that fail to generate a response. You’ll target the wrong demographic, appeal on the wrong platforms, and make offers that don’t resonate.
It can be annoying to launch a marketing campaign, track the figures, and not see any clicks or conversions. But each of those “mistakes” tells you something. They teach you what doesn’t work, and they let you cross one more strategy off your list of marketing ideas.
As the testing list shrinks, you will hit on approaches resonate. You’ll sharpen your strategies.
You’ll improve the messaging and add urgency to your product or service. You’ll figure out what works until eventually, through trial and error and smart adjustments, you’ll have a marketing campaign. When you finally find the correct campaign, you can set up and run whenever you launch a product.
The wrong product isn’t a mistake either, although it can feel like one.
When Hahna Alexander launched a pair of shoes that charged a battery as people walked, she thought she had the ideal solution to mobile charge anxiety. Wearers decided they preferred to put a spare battery in their bag and wear sandals.
Alexander went back to the drawing board. She changed the product slightly. Instead of powering a battery, the dynamos she’d placed in the soles would power GPS and health monitors. Now her SolePower company is working with rescue workers, the construction industry, and the military to keep people doing dangerous jobs connected.
Product creation is always an iterative process.
You can never tell how people will use a product until they get it in their hands and are operating it. Then you can start making adjustments and create an even better product. Also, hiring the wrong people isn’t a mistake. Sure, an employee who doesn’t pull their weight or a partner who doesn’t see eye-to-eye can hold you back. But there are always solutions to that problem.
Part of the job of growing a startup is learning how to manage people.
If an employee isn’t delivering the results you want, then helping them to level up will help you to level up. It’s better to acquire those management skills when the team is still small than once the company has grown, and you’re leading a team of a hundred. Inevitably, you will have to lay people off, and you’ll need to learn how to do that too.
If a partner always disagrees, maybe you’re the problem, not them.
Maybe you’re too stuck in your viewpoint and need to learn to see things from a broader perspective. Or perhaps it’s time to break up. The end of a partnership can be even more traumatic than firing an employee, but it could give you just the break you need. None of those experiences are really “mistakes.”
There’s only one fatal mistake you can make when building a startup: not enjoying the process.
You might be dreaming of the exit and looking forward to spending the big check from Google. You may imagine yourself at the top of a giant company with your name on the building. But there’s no guarantee you’re going to reach those destinations.
There is a guarantee that you’re going to be traveling down a path. The path will be the pieces of your life, so pick up and carry those pieces. Make this life and your journey so you can enjoy it. Thinking only of the endpoint is the one mistake that will ensure you never reach it.
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