7 Mistakes to Avoid When Launching Your Company
I started my first business when I was 29 years old, and I just launched a marketing agency. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my own companies. Good news is that I’ve learned from them, and from working with multiple startups in the past ten years.
Here are some mistakes I did before, and how I am addressing them now.
1. Don’t tell anyone.
I only told my husband, and two friends that I was starting Skimbaco in 2006. I was not quite sure if the idea was good, so I kept working on for months before telling anyone else.
How to fix this:
It’s a good idea to ask around and do some kind of testing if your business idea is any good, or if anyone is going to buy your product/service. You can get a new perspective, and validate your ideas.
When launching Presnal5 agency, we asked around from multiple CEOs if this kind of consulting service would be something they’d buy. Since they agreed on the problems we had identified, and that our solution is something they’d be interested in, we were much more confident in moving forward.
When I launched Enjoy Life diffuser jewelry collection, I offered a pre-sale opportunity for people to order jewelry before the collection was out and even produced. We had a few sample pieces, and I did an online pre-sale with the photos of a few samples, and I was able to sell so many pieces that I got the entire collection paid for even before the shop was open. This way my business was profitable from day one.
2. Don’t think what makes you truly different.
Honestly, I’ve had business ideas and product ideas that I have not told anyone before launching because I have been afraid people copy my ideas. And well, often they do. Honestly, feels like there is always someone who can do the same job better, cheaper, faster. But do not let it from launching your business.
How to fix this:
If your idea is so simple that you are afraid telling people about it because they might copy it, you need to think more what is your unique selling proposition that differentiates you from any other company doing the same thing. In fact, you always need to think your unique selling point!
On the other words, you need to figure out how to build a moat around your business castle. Your business (idea) has to be so protected that it can not be copied easily.
When you know you have something nobody else has or can do, it will be much easier to talk to people about your business, without the fear that someone will steal your ideas.
For example I launched my marketing agency in Finland – with the focus on helping Nordic companies to market globally and also to help brands who want to market in Nordic countries. Not many have my career background, and years of global marketing experience, and nobody has the same the global network of people and connections I’ve built over the years. I’m happy to tell anyone about my business idea, because my moat is my network and experience that I’ve built for 15 years.
3. Trust your friends.
I braved and told a few more friends, and my family members what I was going to do with my business. Truthfully – everyone was not immediately supportive! Family and friends can be well meaning, but they might not always be the best judges when it comes to business decisions. At the same time, some friends support you no matter what and they think all of your ideas are amazing, so they are hardly unbiased.
How to fix this:
When you talk with friends and family – make sure you know their level of understanding of your business idea. Are you asking a teacher friend about a baking business? Or doctor friend about a marketing business?
Take all opinions in the consideration, but don’t just trust your inner circle. This time around when launching a marketing agency, I spoke with CMO and other friends who work in the marketing industry to hear their opinions.
4. Don’t learn to do things on your own.
When I launched my first company, I really didn’t know what I had to do in order to get the business running. I mean, I thought I did, but ultimately I just had this idea, and then a long list of things that I didn’t know how to do. So I just hired a lot of people to do things for me. Setting up my first ecommerce business cost me close to $10,000 (without inventory), my latest ecommerce business cost a few hundred dollars to set up. I’ve witnessed startups spending anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on things that would not cost as much with some basic knowledge.
How to fix this:
There are so many resources online that you can learn a lot of skills on your own. While I don’t recommend you even trying to do it all yourself, some basic level understanding of how to market your business, set up a website, order business cards, be active on social media etc. is needed. Now – I am not saying you should be doing all of these on your own, but I highly recommend learning more before you go on a buying spree hiring people to do everything for you.
5. Don’t shop around when you need to buy services.
And when speaking of hiring people… you should shop around. I needed a logo, website, promotional material, product photos taken – I needed lots of things when I was launching my first business. I was starting an online store, and I didn’t even know how to use Photoshop, and search engine optimization was all Greek to me. My skills were so poor on many things that I didn’t even know how to hire the right person to help. I hired a graphic designer friend to do my logo, and when she did my logo, I hated the logo and it cost me three times more I wanted to pay for it. I didn’t have heart to tell my friend I didn’t like her work, and felt that as someone who didn’t know much about graphic design back then I didn’t have authority to judge her work. I couldn’t afford a new logo for a few years, so I just went with the one I didn’t like.
How to fix this:
Go back to step #4, and learn more. I sell marketing strategy with my marketing agency, and every new business needs a marketing plan – but the plan is varies a lot.
Some companies need to start thinking about social media marketing from day one, but for some joining Twitter might not even be needed. And marketing strategy can not really be done before company’s overall business strategy has been done and its mission and goals are clear. You will need to know enough about many things (marketing included) so you can buy services you need from others, and you need service providers whom you can trust to sell you what you really need.
When hiring people, ask references, but ask them from other business owners and professionals – not your relatives or friends who might not be able to judge the quality of the work any better than you.
6. Do everything yourself.
Remember to prioritize what is important in order to get your business running. If you have the skills to do everything your own, it doesn’t mean that you have to. Make sure you are focusing on the things that nobody else can do for your business, and you are not overextending yourself.
How to fix this:
When I was launching the Enjoy Life jewelry collection I got a photographer to take some of the product photos, and it freed up time for me to do video content as well. Now with Presnal5 I’ve had a business partner from the beginning, and she keeps me grounded and helped to prioritize to get our business running faster.
7. Don’t think what success looks like.
When I launched Skimbaco online store my goal was to sell as much as possible. But I didn’t define how much the “as much as possible” was, or how much I could actually sell if things went well. I had incredible social media marketing success (does anyone remember Tom Cruise on Oprah show showing Suri’s ladybug shoes?), and business was booming. In fact so well, that the best selling items sold out too fast, and then I didn’t have the star products in the inventory anymore. Things got busy and sometimes I just could not pack fast enough, or answer all of the customer service questions on time. Packages started leaving a day or two late, and my customer service started lacking. Success – the high sales numbers – became my biggest problem!
When Skimbaco store started gaining success, I should have invested more money to buy more inventory, and hire people to help me to keep up with orders and customer service. I was not prepared for the financial investment, and instead of trying to grow more, I slowly started pivoting my business into online publishing and marketing consulting.
How to fix this:
Make a good business plan, and define what your success looks like. Not just in sales numbers – but in logistics, resources, and time. What does it really mean when you are executing at your success level.
When I was a social media marketing consultant, and ran Skimbaco Lifestyle, I had two kinds of problems.
1. When things were going well, I had so many clients wanting to work with me that I didn’t have enough hours in a day to take them all.
2. After hearing too many times how busy I was to take a new client, the prospective clients went somewhere else. Then I started having slow times, when over 50% of my time went into trying to sell and market my services.
I’ve heard the same problem from many of my freelancer friends, so when I launched Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency, I built the business from day one in a way that I have partner agencies and freelancers I can hire for bigger jobs, and for those skillsets/jobs that I either don’t have or don’t want to do. This way I can still offer services for clients who want to work with me, and also help other small agencies and marketing freelancers to manage their workflow better.
If you are a small agency owner, or a marketing/content freelancer, contact me – I’d love to hear from you and see if we are a great match to work together!