Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. There is very little room for error. Therefore, it is important to learn as much as possible from other people’s mistakes and try not to repeat them.
In the past three years as an entrepreneur, I have accumulated a long list of “lessons learned” from my own experiences as well as from what I’ve observed from other entrepreneurs. Here are my top five things to avoid when doing a startup:
1. Having team members with identical skill sets and backgrounds when your company has fewer than five people. Startups are hard and you need people with the most diverse skill sets to be able to drive your company towards a product/market fit.
2. Hiring anyone who is not a rock star. It’s often hard to judge whether someone is an “A” player or not, especially if you are a first-time entrepreneur. That is why you need experienced mentors and advisers to help you assess candidates and hire only the best.
3. Raising too much money too early or raising too little money too late. Both of those scenarios are deadly for a startup. It is critical to raise the right amount of money at the right time.
For every business, the “right time and amount” is different. So make sure to talk to your advisers who have done it before to figure out what’s right for you.
4. Being afraid to pivot/not listening to customers. The path to success is never linear, and it is important to be able to recognize if and when you need to pivot. This doesn’t always mean a big overhaul, but you need to keep your finger on your users’ pulse to know if you need to make adjustments.
5. Not firing fast enough. You are small, you don’t have a lot of funding or time. Every person on the team who is not a top-notch performer or a cultural misfit is having a negative impact on your company’s progress (directly or indirectly). You need to be able to identify that fast (have a review process in place) and address it right away.
Sometimes you can find ways to mitigate the process and not have to let someone go, but figure out fast whether it’s a salvageable situation or not.
If you keep mindful of these pitfalls, your venture has a better chance of succeeding. I am now lucky to be leading an incredible team that built a beautiful product and has a big vision for addressing a true pain point in the market. ●
Aigerim Shorman is founder and CEO of Wist, a personalized local discovery that recommends top five places for you on the go that you’d actually be interested in. Previously, she was a Teach For America corps member and investment banking analyst. For more information, visit www.getwist.com.
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