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The path to entrepreneurial success is never straight and never easy. But the issues you might expect to be major obstacles often turn out to be inconsequential, while seemingly minor behaviors and habits can seriously limit your business’s growth and success. Seven common stumbling blocks to be aware of, so you can avoid or overcome them, include:
Insisting on perfection
Putting aside the fact that there’s really no such thing as perfection, placing unnecessary pressure on yourself to do everything exactly right can only lead to failure.
In many cases, striving for perfection leads an entrepreneur to stop trying, because they realize they can never get the results they want. So they give up.
If you believe there’s a way for you to achieve a perfect outcome, whether it’s drafting advertising copy or landing 10/10 contracts, you’re bound to cause more problems for yourself.
A belief that perfection is possible can also lead you to invest more time and resources than you should in a particular strategy. In many cases, it’s better to stop what’s not working and try a new tactic than to stubbornly keep attempting what you perceive to be a perfect result.
The extra effort required to achieve perfection is very likely not worth it and you could be diluting your efforts or become distracted from bigger opportunities right under your nose.
One sign that you may be prone to perfectionism is a tendency to invest hours and hours to research. You could be researching anything from a new location, a franchise opportunity, potential clients, the best social media hacks or new product ideas. A problem arises when you have difficulty determining when you have enough information to make an informed decision.
Believe it or not, there is a point at which the additional information you’re finding is only incrementally useful. That is, the information you gathered in the first couple hours of your search covered 90 percent of what you needed to know. So the additional 20 hours you’ve spent since then have essentially been wasted.
To try and avoid this situation, which may also be a procrastination tool, set your sights on achieving an 80 percent confidence level. Meaning, don’t try to gather 100 percent of what you need to know. Instead, be satisfied with 80 percent.
Then, take action.
Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” That is, your beliefs will drive your behavior and your chances of success.
If you start your business believing you will be successful, you will do what is necessary to overcome obstacles and deal with problems that arise. Whereas, if you doubt your success, you’ll be much more likely to give up at the first sign of trouble.
Focus on what you can control and what you believe is possible with your business and try hard to drown out the negative self-talk that everyone experiences at one time or another.
Tying your company’s success to your sense of self
When you’re working 24/7 to get your business up-and-running, it’s pretty easy to start to see your own identity as inextricably linked with your new company’s. But it’s not. Your business is a reflection of your interests, skills and effort, but it is not you, nor does it define you.
Entrepreneurs who see their businesses as an extension of their own identity are more likely to fall victim to bad decision-making. For example, wanting to appear more successful than they really are, some entrepreneurs may be too generous with charitable donations or feel it necessary to lease space in an expensive Class A office space, when a well-equipped home office would have been a better choice.
Don’t get confused. Your business is a tool for generating an income. It is not who you are.
Refusal to delegate
Put another way, one obstacle to success is an insistence on doing everything yourself. Yes, you may be the most knowledgeable person about your business in the beginning, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all the work. Nor should you.
In order to grow, you’ll need to surround yourself with smart people who have skills or strengths you lack. That will require you to give up some tasks you’re currently responsible for, such as answering every email, writing blog posts, or following up with clients about problems that have arisen.
The best thing you can do for your business is to get clear about your zone of genius—what is it that you do better than anyone else? That’s the work you should strive to do, and nothing else.
Losing focus on the customer
As companies grow, there can be a tendency to focus less on the customer and more on internal operations. Rather than keeping the customers’ needs front-and-center, the business begins looking for new products and services to sell, or new ways to become more efficient and profitable with respect to service delivery—none of which enhances the customer’s experience.
Success requires keeping customer service as the number one priority. Period.
Everything else in the business should exist to support customer service. When you find most of your time being devoted to internal operations, it’s likely your business isn’t as profitable as it could be.
Taking care of your customers should not be an afterthought.
Not knowing your numbers
As a business grows, even when money seems like it’s coming in hand-over-fist, it’s important to check in regularly on your company’s financial health. That means reviewing your profit and loss and cash flow statements regularly.
You’ll want to make sure that you have ample revenue coming in to cover your fixed and variable costs this month, as well as in future months. You’ll want to look for revenue and profit numbers that are increasing and expense figures that are increasing in parallel to sales figures or, even better, are declining as your business benefits from economies of scale.
Knowing what money is coming in and going out regularly allows you to quickly make course corrections, such as buying more efficient equipment or returning a leased vehicle, for example, to ensure you have sufficient capital to cover rising cash needs as the business grows.
The odds of startup success are much higher if you can avoid these seven hidden hurdles.