Getting to take-off isn't easy as a first-time entrepreneur. Don't let these three common hurdles get in the way.
It’s that time of year again--the annual crumbling of the noble goals you outlined so resolutely on December 31. The diet has gone to pot. The gym membership is already languishing. The resolution to finally become an entrepreneur and start your own business? Don't let that one go yet.
The first step is to realize the hurdles that might prevent your success. Here are three common entrepreneurial mistakes and misperceptions--according to three inspirational TED speakers--and how you can beat them in 2013.
Mistake #1: Believing in the “Eureka!” moment
Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, has a lot to say when it comes to the task of idea generation--a process with which entrepreneurs are extremely familiar. In his TED talk and illustrated YouTube lecture he says that most important ideas take longer than we think to evolve--and that in most cases, there is no “Eureka!” moment.
Rather, most people form ideas using a process Johnson calls the “slow hunch.” Basically, it works like this: You come up with a part of an idea--a hunch. It bounces around in your head for a while, feeling a little lost and incomplete, until… it bumps into another hunch, then another, and then another.
According to Johnson, important ideas are often the result of a collision of smaller hunches. These hunches connect and form ideas bigger than themselves. Sometimes they come from other parts of your brain, sometimes they come from other people’s brains--but they almost always take time to accumulate.
It is crucial for entrepreneurs to allow their teams, and themselves, the time and space necessary for complex ideas to develop.
Mistake #2: Assuming that the quality of your product is obvious
You’ve probably heard the adage “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” That may be true of some mythical mousetrap, but not for most products and services--at least not at first.
In reality, a great deal of branding goes into making a business successful. And to make that branding work, you must understand both the real and intrinsic value of what your company offers, says Ogilvy Group vice chairman Rory Sutherland in his TED Talk “Perspective is everything.”
“Google understood that if you’re just a search engine, people assume you’re a very, very good search engine,” says Sutherland. A deep understanding of the problem you're trying to solve for customers is key to successful marketing campaigns and spreading excitement about your product.
Defining clear goals will also save you valuable time and resources--especially on social media campaigns, says Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.
“Everyone needs to think about which platforms best speak to [their] strengths. For a visual product, Pinterest is a terrific platform. But for a consultant who traffics in ideas, blogging and tweeting make a lot more sense as investments, “ Clark wrote in a recent blog post for the Harvard Business Review.
Regardless of how you plan to advertise, understanding your ideal clientele--and how you plan to serve them--can go a long way toward communicating what you already know: that you have something great to offer.
Mistake #3: Taking your employees for granted
Your team can make or break your fledgling business. When the work demands long hours and tireless dedication from employees, the people who value their work and believe in your mission are invaluable.
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears,” says Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” in his TED lecture “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
But just as important as hiring the right people is the need to nurture and support those people once they have joined your team, says Teresa Amabile, a Harvard business school professor and author of The Progress Principle. Too often entrepreneurs make the mistake of "[focusing] all attention externally, and virtually none internally,” she says.
Employees are more happy and motivated when they are able to make steady progress and celebrate "small wins," she says. So it's crucial for growing businesses to foster a work environment that points out and celebrates progress as it occurs, especially in the early stages of a start-up, when "set-backs and failures are so frequent." Daily or weekly failure debriefings are effective ways to develop a positive work environment.
“Entrepreneurship is very, very difficult. Entrepreneurs need to be and should be focused on the external environment. But if they are savvy they will also be--need to be--focused on the internal environment,” she concludes.
FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle. @FrancescaFenzi