Top 3 Entrepreneur Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

Career Blog

All entrepreneurs make mistakes. The smart ones try to keep theirs to a minimum by consistently learning from those who have gone before. Do the same by learning to sidestep these classic pitfalls.

  1. Starting Too Soon:

There’s nothing wrong with starting a business right after, while in, or even in lieu of college. There are more than a few cases of the college dropout who went on to make it big. The flip side of course is the countless failures that don’t get any press. Before you engage in the business equivalent of boarding a bus for Nashville armed with only your six-string, demo and desire, take time to revisit your packing list and plan of attack. There’s no roadmap to success, but thee are clues. The journey will go a lot smoother if you bring the right tools and knowledge as well as key advisors who can assist with the navigation.

Let’s face it. Most colleges and business schools are designed to crank out (if you’re lucky) good employees. Rarely are the basics of entrepreneurship discussed. Unless you grew up with access to that information or have had a mentor or series of internships that taught you the ropes, take a job first.

The job doesn’t have to be in your “passion area”. Actually, it’s better if it isn’t so you can concentrate on learning the mechanics of operating a business. If possible, opt for a job at a smaller company so you can get a lens on more areas faster.

  1. Starting Too Late:

Some say it’s never too late to start a business and that’s true to a degree. But it’s a heck of a lot harder to start from scratch when you’re already fat and happy. Avoiding mistake #1 should give you the experience you need to get going, but be sure to get going quick. There is a big difference between quitting an entry-level job you can’t stand and saying goodbye to a ten plus year career that puts you in a plush, yet vise-like tax bracket.

Let me be blunt. No one voluntarily leaves a six-figure income to become a life coach. People start businesses out of desperation or by design. If possible you want to be in the latter category so plan properly and pull the trigger as soon as you have the shot.

  1. Confusing a Business with a Hobby:

You don’t have a business until you are being paid consistently for your product or services. The most common mistake I see new entrepreneurs make is starting a business around an interest or pleasurable activity. Think of the buddy with a bar idea or that stay at home mom who wants to open yet another Etsy shop.

Sure, it’s important to have an affinity for what you do, but there also has to be a viable business model that stands up the effort. When entrepreneurs fall in love with a product or service that does not provide a tangible value to customers, they are doomed to fail.

Of course providing value is not enough to drive success. You also have to differentiate your offering by answering such questions as why this, why you, and why now? Skip that step and you’ll be lost in a sea of sameness.

Over the years I’ve started several businesses that flopped, had a few successes, and rose through the ranks in both large and mid-size companies. All avenues have their challenges, but running my own shop is by far the more difficult endeavor. I’ve found that hard work… ridiculously hard work is the cost of entry for entrepreneurship. A balance of optimism and practicality; the flexibility to keep one’s head in the clouds and feet on the ground simultaneously helps. Beyond that it seems to come down to the three Ts: timing, talent, and tenacity. Unless you are blessed with an abundance of talent, you could do worse that leverage the heck out of the other two.

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Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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