Just finished reading ‘Birthing The Elephant‘ and wanted to share the valuable information in Chapter 9: Avoid The Ten Biggest Pitfalls, a quick list of what not to do when striking out on your own as an entrepreneur. I usually share book tidbits on Twitter but decided to do a quick blog instead! So, here goes…..
PITFALL #1: Romanticizing Being Your Own Boss
Sure, its great that you won’t have to ‘officially’ punch a clock or answer to someone you think/know is less qualified, educated, or what-have-you, but you really aren’t going to be your own boss-as least not in the manner you’re thinking. You still have to ‘answer’ to customers, clients, and employees (when you decide to hire some). Romanticizing being your own boss can set you up for disappointment and failure.
PITFALL #2: Not Getting the Right Help Early
Building your ‘dream team’ is one of those recommended steps in launching a business. For me, I have plenty of contacts for people with legal, business, and marketing expertise; however, I do not expect any of them to quit their day jobs to assist with putting my dream in motion. I have, however, given thought to the individuals I’d like to join me as the business grows because I can only make so many cakes in a day! I have learned the valuable lesson of asking help and seeking out advice from those who have already traveled this road.
PITFALL #3: Not Understanding How To Network
For a long time, I thought ‘networking’ was a dirty word; I cringed every time I heard it. Why? I guess you could say that the networking I saw wasn’t really networking; it bordered on arse-kissing. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not come from a family of arse-kissers, nor did I minor in that ‘art’ during undergrad. I believe that my hard-work, dedication, and knowledge should speak for themselves. But again, I was defiant about networking because of what I had seen in previous ‘professional’ environments. #InterpretAsYouWish
The true intent of networking is to build relationships, more specifically: Mutually beneficial relationships. Networking should not be about trying to sell or promote your product or service. Duly noted.
PITFALL #4: Running Yourself Ragged
Yes, when preparing to launch your own business there are a ton of things you will have to do on your own-for free, but do not equate your myriad of responsibilities with sacrificing all of yourself and time. Although I have not opened for business, I have already decided on the hours I will work because I still
want need to have a balanced and fulfilling personal life. Besides, my kids wouldn’t appreciate being left to their own devices 7 days a week.
PITFALL #5: Spending Money For The Wrong Reasons
If you don’t have it to spend, don’t spend it. If your customers care about from where you purchased your office furniture or supplies, then they are coming to you for the wrong reason. Why would I spend $1,000 on a web site when I can get an equally functional and attractive one (if not the exact same one) for $500? People are not buying my web site; they are buying my cakes.
PITFALL #6: Not Valuing Your Time Highly
Entrepreneurs are cautioned that they will probably work 60-80 hours a week, without pay for the first year of business. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…not me! I did not leave one
plantation workplace only to go to another one with more hours and fewer (intrinsic and extrinsic) rewards. Furthermore, I consider all the time I have spent researching and planning as an investment. I WILL ensure that I reap the (intrinsic and extrinsic) rewards of my labor sooner than the 1-year mark. And I certainly have learned the value of ‘highly valuing my time.’ I decided that I will not spend 10-12 hours in front of a computer reading or researching business-related information. Instead, I will spend my time reading books on entrepreneurship, reviewing business documents, blogging, refining recipes, watching tv, and sleeping. I am trying to remain balanced (whatever that means); I will not allow this business to consume all of my time. I still have a family and obligations to them. I still have friends whom I would like to see. Basically, I refuse to trade my personal life for a business. And you should too!
PITFALL #7: Not Pricing Properly
This is an area where a lot of women entrepreneurs, self included, struggle. Even though we have a higher success rate at running businesses due to our service-oriented natures, we still undervalue our time, talent, and expertise. Personally, I think this has a lot to do with the fact that when we work for others, they pretty much determine the ‘value’ of our services by setting our salaries. One could argue that we all have the power to negotiate our salaries, but in reality we all know that women still make less than men, even when they have more formal education, training, and experience. Knowing and demanding your worth can be challenging aspects for newly-minted entrepreneurs. Luckily for me, I am taking some of Guy Kawasaki’s advice (in The Art of The Start) to heart: I will ‘test’ my products with some volunteer ‘Cake Crusaders’ and then get feedback on what they think is a fair, yet competitive, price for the product.
PITFALL #8: Spending Too Much On Advertising
If your start-ups’s opening balance is $2,000, then it does not make sense to spend half of that on advertising. This one is pretty easy: Do your research on your target market and how to best reach them. Don’t waste valuable capital on glossy magazine ads unless you are 100% certain you have or will have the business to support such an expense. I have already started compiling a list of online blogs and e-zines with whom I would like to advertise. The weeding-out process is fairly easy: Those whose price-tags I cannot afford (in the beginning phase), will be placed on the ‘Contact Later’ list. So easy, even a caveman could do it! Remember, “Waste not, want not.”
PITFALL #9: Not Trusting Your Gut
The Internet, Social Media, and blog sites are full of resources. Some may be helpful, others not so much. As an entrepreneur, you need to determine what information ‘speaks’ to you during this journey because not every opinion or suggestion will work for your business. The authors of Birthing The Elephant said it best:
“Remember, no expert you hire is ever going to have the emotional or financial stake in your business that you and your family have….So don’t disempower yourself…in the end, you are the single best judge of what your business has to offer and how it should run.” (Abarbanel & Freeman, 2008)
Translation: Trust yourself. If something doesn’t sound right (for you and your business) or makes you feel uncomfortable, then it probably IS NOT the right fit. This applies to things you may read in a book or hear from ‘experts.’ Don’t be strong-armed into making changes that do not align with your business’ mission.
PITFALL #10: Not Thinking Enough About The Big Picture
I have set clear short and long-term goals for the business, as well as for myself. As I stated earlier, I plan to maintain some sort of balance between the business and my personal life. Having a plan and set hours will definitely help with me achieve that goal. As the business grows, I will be able to hire someone to help where and when needed.
Well, if you made it to the end- Thank you! I tried to keep this one brief but sometimes it’s just not possible!