Sometimes, knowing what not to do is your biggest asset. I’ve failed in business before, and I’m sure I’ll fail again, but I’ll be damned if I make the same mistake twice.
Here are my fool-proof ways to guarantee you’ll fail in your business ventures. Avoid them at all costs!
1. Cast too wide a net.
You must find a relatively small niche and dominate it. You cannot be all things to all people, so don’t even try.
2. Build a monument to yourself.
It’s not about what you want, it’s what your customers want. Never forget it.
3. Refuse to change/pivot.
My most successful business went through a few different iterations before we settled on the right path (which was the simplest idea of all, by the way). Always be flexible to what the market is telling you.
4. Rest on your laurels.
Once you get a taste of success, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas. Don’t. Push harder. The time is now. Someone else out there is hungrier than you, and wants to take what’s yours.
5. Go it alone.
Almost every great business person has at least one great partner. Two heads really are better than one. You can’t do it all, so don’t even try. Partner up.
6. Partner with the wrong people.
Speaking of partnerships, it’s essential to find the right fit. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your partners, so make sure you a) like them, and b) they’re smart, dependable, and resourceful.
7. Neglect sales and marketing.
Many entrepreneurs get so caught up in their great idea that they forget about how they’re going to sell the damn thing. Figure out your market niche and how you’ll sell to it, and plan on dedicating a large portion of your time (at least half of it in the early stages) to generating sales, both through marketing and direct sales.
8. Don’t test anything.
Remember in Glengarry Glen Ross when Alec Baldwin’s character said “Always be closing?” Well, I say “Always be testing.” Try new things, think of new products, new promotions, new pricing structures, new markets, add-on services. Never be afraid to try anything, because everything is worth testing.
9. Forget customer service.
Most people would rather not take the time to answer the phone and respond to emails all day. Believe me, I know — I did almost 100% of the customer service for my last business for four years, and I hated it. Still, the effort paid for itself many times over, as our customers appreciated the effort immensely.
10. Seek perfection.
Many products or services face big delays, or never even see the light of day at all, simply because the founders had some perfect idealized unreachable goal in mind.
So think big, but start small. Get your barebones product or service to market, and see if there’s interest. If people want it, then work on improving it. The iPhone wasn’t perfect when Apple launched it, and it still isn’t. It never will be. Yet they sell 200 million of them a year. As my friend would say, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”
11. Give up.
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I can’t even tell you how many setbacks I’ve had over the years. Many were my own doing, others I couldn’t control. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die sometimes. I made zero money for years. But I never gave up.
You must keep going. Are you in doubt? Good. Just don’t give up. Start over from scratch if need be, but never give up.
12. Sit on your idea forever.
The worst mistake you can make is never actually starting. Most people never achieve much of anything because they spend more time daydreaming than doing. Be a doer. Get started.