The #1 Mistake Entrepreneurs Make When Starting Out

June 11th, 2014

Today I want to talk about the beginning, when you’re just getting started, when you’re starting a business. What is the common mistake you might make when you’re just getting started?

 

I’ve worked with people from the ground floor of starting literally from scratch, to helping people scale to a billion dollars in revenue multiple times. I’ve seen the entire spectrum, and at the beginning, say going 0 to $100,000 a year, 0 to $500,000 a year, what makes the difference between success and failure? Where are people making the biggest mistake?

Putting it succinctly, the heart of the matter is — where’s your heart?

This then bleeds into other related issues, such as your mindset, your focus and influence, and your creativity with regard to your product or service.

The Math Problem Mindset

Mistake Entrepreneurs Make

© Marcin Wichary – Attribution License

One of the mindsets that many people have when they’re becoming an entrepreneur for the first time is that their business is some massive math problem that they have to figure out. They start to do the business plan or start to look at the spreadsheets and the conversion numbers. It just becomes a math problem and then it’s almost like, if I can plug in all the right variables, then it’s going to spit out success on the other side.

In other words, many people make the mistake of attacking the business like a variable instead of treating it like a heart connection with their customers.

If you’re too concerned with raising the price of X number so the margin is Y or Z, you’re kind of sunk before you start.

Who do you want to pay? Somebody who’s focused on giving you a solution to your problem or somebody who’s focused on how many conversions they’re making on their web page? Not to say you don’t want to pay attention to those things. But you need to start off thinking more broadly.

The proper place to start a business is by caring about the problem or the opportunity that your customers have, actually loving them, loving the problem, loving the solution, and caring whether or not they get somewhere with it. That mindset in itself will solve the math problem for you.

Your Greatest Asset is Your Focus (and Influence)

Your greatest asset as an entrepreneur is your focus. The mistake that entrepreneurs often make is having their focus in the wrong place.

Given that where you’re putting your focus and attention is one of your highest assets, you have to be really deliberate about where that is so that you’re setting yourself up to be successful. This is critical.

When you’re focused on what you’re going to get out of it (and the spreadsheets and the numbers and how much money you’re going to make) that is one level of conversation and influence that you have over the people who want to do business with you.

You have to realize you’re creating a magnetic field around you. Imagine talking about your business with everyone you meet—the way you think about your business is the way you talk about your business. Your thinking is reflected in how you talk.

So, if internally you’re organizing it as this math formula, as you talk about it, the person in front of you becomes a math formula. And they most likely aren’t going to want to be part of a math formula—or to be part of your team, to be a customer, to be an influencer, to be a partner…

You have to focus your attention internally and put your heart in the right place so that you’re maximizing your influence.

Caring Unleashes Creativity

When you really love your customer, when you want them to benefit and that’s your driver, it unleashes creativity.

Almost every successful entrepreneur I have ever worked with was wrong about what their business was when they started it. They had the wrong product. They had the wrong market. They had the wrong something. Most of them had the wrong everything.

If they didn’t care about their customers and how the product or service was actually working out for them, they would have continued to build features and enhance parts of the product that had to do with their idea, instead of what would benefit the customer. But they didn’t make this mistake—they succeeded by remaining flexible and loving the customer.

So, if you’re thinking about yourself as a (fill in the blank), and the way that you help the people is by doing (this one thing only), the moment an opportunity comes along to help someone in a slightly different way, you go, “Oops, sorry. That’s not my business.”

That kind of inability to pivot and be flexible in a society like ours that’s growing and changing and trending so fast will give you less and less opportunity over time. Your product will get less and less use over time. And eventually, you’ll go out of business.

Caring about the customer allows creativity for solving their problem and creating a better, more profitable product in the long run.

So, in sum, the big difference between success and failure when you’re starting out is really this simple when it comes right down to it. Get your mindset in the right place, focus your attention, and love your customer enough to be flexible.

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