The opposing forces of the economy tanking and technological innovations rising have created a prime environment for first-time entrepreneurs. That said, "entrepreneur" has become a buzz word, associated with start-up founders that we've watched become millionaires, and even billionaires, overnight. As the media catapults successful entrepreneurs to celebrity status, the separation between "us" aspiring entrepreneurs from "them"—the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world—grows. This growing separation can cloud the entrepreneurial pathway with unnecessary mystery.
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As different as each new business may be, the path to success always involves making smart decisions. For those of you toying with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, here are three common mistakes to avoid:
1. Hiring too many, too soon. For most start-ups, hiring employees before there is an absolute need can ultimately lead to disaster. Yes, delegation is an important part of leading, but before you jump in to delegating tasks, you have to allow time for the start-up dust to settle. Running lean early on requires you, as a founder, to wear many hats. While this may seem overwhelming, look at it this way: in addition to saving funds you are also spending time becoming familiar with the ins and outs of your business. Waiting to hire will give you the hands-on experience necessary to build true domain expertise, and therefore, the know-how to make important and informed decisions down the line.
2. Having an unidentified target market. While we would all like to build a product that suits everybody, doing so is next to impossible. For that reason it is crucial to identify your target market early on in the planning stages. Who are your prospective costumers? If you put off determining your target market until after your launch, then you risk being pulled in opposing directions by a wide range of consumer groups who only like your product a little bit. To avoid this, spend time thinking about specifically who your product is built for—remembering to think beyond your own demographic. What gender? Age group? Profession? This thought process will help to focus your launch more narrowly on a group of enthusiastic and willing consumers who will hopefully give you constructive feedback. And although you can only dial in your target market over time, it helps to start somewhere.
3. People pleasing. It's also important to have a firm understanding of your overall vision. Consumer groups will offer you invaluable feedback about what they like, what they dislike, and even suggestions of ways that you can change and grow. Making changes to meet customer's needs is crucial, but it is important to set a precedent of evaluating each potential change according to your long-term vision. Will the change bring you closer to your end goal? Or will it drive temporary sales and lead you in the wrong direction? It can be tempting to make changes to ring in immediate sales, especially when budgets are tight, but you must evaluate the long-term impact.
Abbie Davies Steinbacher is CEO and founder of MyFirstYoga, a kids wellness company that provides yoga outreach to schools and has a growing line of kids yoga products. Steinbacher has a degree in Psychology from Harvard, and is a certified adult and childrens yoga instructor. She is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.