Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is an entrepreneur, business expert, speaker, author, wife, and mother to four. Her first business was started with $100 and sold eight years later for $20 million. Today she is the founder and CEO of, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs incorporate, form LLCs, file DBAs and keep their businesses in compliance. Akalp is nationally recognized as one of the most prominent experts on small business legal matters, contributing frequently to outlets like Entrepreneur, Mashable, The Huffington Post and more. Through her public speaking, media appearances, and frequent blogging, she has developed a strong following within the small business community. Nellie has been named a Top 100 Small Business Influencer by Small Business Trends the last five years and has been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies in America in 2015 and 2016.

Let’s face it: none of us are perfect. While we might have been smart enough to start a business, that doesn’t make us immune to making mistakes.

But I always say, mistakes are in the eye of the beholder. You can hang your head in shame every time you make an error, or you can learn from it and help your business grow from it. I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, and believe me, I’ve made my share of mistakes as well as seen others that business owners often make. Here are some to look out for in your path to success.

1. Choosing the Wrong Business Structure (or Not Having One)
While sole proprietorship is the most popular business structure, that doesn’t make it automatically the best for your small business. You’re by default a sole proprietor if you don’t file for a corporation or an LLC, but realize that this makes your personal assets vulnerable, and doesn’t separate you from your company.

There are several types of corporations and LLCs, so I recommend reading up on each, talking to a small business expert, and then determining which is the best fit for your specific needs.

2. Not Having a Plan
Whether it’s marketing, growth, or operations, not having a plan can be harmful to your company. You don’t have to write a 50 page business plan, though. A simple document that explains how you want to run your company, outlines your goals, and provides guidance you can use to achieve those goals is often all you need.

3. Mixing Business and Personal Finances
Maybe you started your business as a hobby, then realized it made you money. Still, you used your personal bank account for those funds, and now it’s hard to separate one from the other. When you set up your business structure, you’ll be required to have a business banking account, but even before then, it’s a good idea to keep them in two accounts. This makes accounting and tax paying much easier.

4. Trying to Do It All Yourself
I get it. I’m a Type A personality too. We tend to think we can do it all, and do it all well. But in reality, that’s probably not true. You’re better off figuring out which tasks in your business are essential for you to do (as well as those you really enjoy) and then assign the others to someone else. That someone could be an intern, a freelancer, or a part- or full-time employee.

5. Leaving No Room for Personal Development
So you’re a successful entrepreneur. Congratulations! But think you couldn’t stand to keep learning new skills or honing your existing ones? News flash: you should never stop learning. Your industry is moving at the speed of light, thanks to technology, and if you want to remain competitive, you have to be open to finding knowledge anywhere you can.

6. Not Marketing When You’re Busy
It’s easy enough to do: business is booming, so you ease up on your marketing activities. But what happens when your business dries up? You haven’t laid down the seeds to reap for future sales.

I cannot stress this enough: market constantly, even when business is good. You have to consistently get your brand’s name out there so people will recognize it. What you do today may not pay off for months, but you’ve got to be always looking ahead.

7. Paying a Lawyer for Things You Can Do Yourself
I see this often in the business filing industry. Small business owners get insecure about incorporating a business or handling another legal matter, and so they hire a lawyer they can’t really afford to handle it. Several thousand dollars later, the matter is handled. However, they could have easily done it themselves.

Before you think a lawyer is your only option, do a little research. There’s tons of great blog content out there to help small business owners DIY tasks related to starting a business, as well as other more affordable services that can help.

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