Becoming an entrepreneur is a dream to which many of us aspire, and a worthwhile financial goal. Still, many first-time entrepreneurs — and even experienced pros — can sometimes sabotage their best efforts with some typical mistakes.
When you're ready to roll-up your sleeves and start your own business, keep your eyes open for these issues — though they might sound simple, these make or break the fortunes of countless aspiring entrepreneurs.
Not creating a business plan is perhaps one of the most common mistakes — and it's a troubling one, because business plans can help you both identify issues in your idea and market yourself to potential investors or other sources of funding.
Before you start on a new venture, draft a simple business plan that identifies your proposed product or service, the costs involved and your funding needs, your competitors, potential customers and market opportunity, and any realistic challenges you envision. The Small Business Administration offers step-by-step, simple business plan creation guides.
With a business plan in hand, you'll have a better sense of your funding needs, which will help you avoid two classic traps: over- and under-spending. Some entrepreneurs misjudge costs, and end up spending more than they budgeted — or expected. Yet others do the opposite, and by trying to be careful and frugal, end up spending too little to give their business a realistic chance.
Do your best to estimate actual costs of funding your venture through launch and the first year. (The SBA offers a great startup costs tool that helps estimate new business funding needs.)Then, find ways to secure the capital you'll need.
The same issue of too much or too little is present when considering business partners. In many cases, you can't launch a venture alone — you'll need partners or investors for funding and know-how. But you can overdo it, by bringing on too many people, diluting your profit and confusing your strategy. Your business plan will hopefully have addressed this issue, but think further about who should really be involved, and what impact it'll have on your venture.
Do you really know your customer — and market? Do you know whether they have a desire or need for your product or service, or whether your proposed pricing makes sense? Do you intend on competing on price, quality, service, or all of the above?
Get to know your customers and market — many businesses stumble because they fail to understand their target market. And when you're ready to expand, don't assume new customers in different areas will have the same tastes and priorities — get to know them, too.
Finally, too many entrepreneurs have good products or services but do a lousy job of marketing. If you know your customer and market, this should be less of an issue — you'll know what blogs they read, where they hang out in real life and on social media.
You can market to them based on their habits and lifestyle. Don't assume traditional advertising is dead, either. Depending on your business, billboards or radio ads might make sense, and over-reliance on social media might backfire. Whatever you do, you must market — if you're shy, don't understand marketing well or don't see its value, hire someone who can help.
Entrepreneurship can be the adventure of a lifetime but, like any adventure, it can also be a challenge. Prepare yourself for the common mistakes so many business owners make, and make your path to success easier and more fruitful.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.