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Business  11, Mar 2014

Founders take note: 10 most common startup mistakes

Many startups fail because of avoidable pitfalls. Here, Xenios Thrasyvoulou shares ten startup mistakes that frequently lead to failure

Put a few entrepreneurs in a room and you’ll find the topic of conversation will inevitably gravitate toward startup faux pas. I’ve been in that room enough times to know that after a while it’s the same record all over again. I share with you below the 10 most frequent, which also reflect my own experience:

Hiring Too Quickly
As an entrepreneur, you are naturally eager to move fast and build a big business. Not only that but you are by nature impatient, no matter how fast you’re moving. That’s partly what makes you who you are; and why you don’t fit into the normal routine of a corporate job.

Inevitably you make the mistake of hiring someone too quickly. Just don’t do it. Listen to your hunch. Take your time on hiring – it’s the single most important investment you make.  Do it carefully.

Giving Too Much Equity Too Quickly

Every entrepreneur has been there: you need cash imminently and door after door gets shut in your face. Then someone comes along who is listening, but is a vulture. You’re so starved that the vulture looks like an angel (hence, angel investor). Believe me, they can sense your starvation and they will use it to get as much equity as they can.

Ignoring a Hunch

I hate regret. I don’t normally regret things, but I do regret the times I didn’t listen to my intuition. Whenever I didn’t listen I have always, always regretted it. The founder’s hunch is one of the most important assets of any startup or business. Use it, and be confident enough to stick by it.

Only Relying on Your Intuition

You need to complement a hunch with proper management discipline: looking at numbers, KPIs, and formulating strategies and plans. Doing so goes against many entrepreneurs’ nature, but it’s important and will become easier with practice.

Listening to Outsiders Too Much

Having outsiders around you, especially smart ones, is great. It gives you fresh perspective. It helps you take a step back and see things in a new light. But it can also lead you down the route of destruction if you’re not careful. Nobody knows the business better than you do; you built it. So it’s all too easy for an investor or successful entrepreneur to blind you with their money or success. Make sure you take everything with a grain of salt.

Taking Things for Granted

Especially when it comes to investment, take nothing for granted. Investors have amnesia, and their money will often come before their promises. So make sure you have a contingency plan.

Underestimating Competitors

The best entrepreneurs are fiercely competitive and paranoid. They watch competitors with very little pride and a lot of determination. The losers are the ones who gloat about their own achievements.

Not Letting Go

Most entrepreneurs struggle at some point or another with letting go. They are used to doing everything themselves. They can be perfectionists and obsessively detailed, or focused on the bigger picture.

Amazing things can happen when you let go and hire people to work on your business. You will have time to think, play around, find things you would otherwise miss, bond with your team, check out the competition and meet people.

Working Too Hard

I work all the time. Even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about the business. Yet, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of getting out and doing things that get my mind off of my work. That’s when most of my best ideas come to me.

Forgetting to Enjoy the Process

Last but not least: having fun is key, especially if you are a founder. People in your team will look at you and mirror you; some will emulate you. So if you’re miserable, your whole company becomes miserable. If you’re upbeat, they will follow.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou is a passionate PPHer, avid blogger, lover of art, design, and all things quirky and minimal but words in particular; he’s also a fan of the uncommon and unconventional and a vintage fanatic who specialises in poking the fire and stirring things up, suffers from an overly curious mind. Xenios is the accidental founder of, and now fully and truly wed to, PeoplePerHour.

This post first appeared on StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme by Citi and Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

Young Entrepreneur Council

Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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