We asked 10 successful founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council to reveal which business mistakes taught them the most this year as they get ready for smarter growth in 2013. Here are there best answers.
1. Moving Too Quickly
Hiring too many people has been both the biggest mistake and the biggest success for us this year. We've hired almost two dozen people, and that expansion has been difficult for us. We've lacked the experienced people at the top to help train our new recruits. If I were to do it again, I would have hired fewer people and spent more time getting them running smoothly.
-- Liam Martin, Staff.com
2. Teaching Pigs to Fly
I mistakenly attempted to get my CFOs to take an active role in business development. When this experiment fell flat, I realized that people have core strengths and competencies and should be assigned roles and responsibilities accordingly. See your employee's true values and help them to work to their potential--don't try to make them into something they're not.
-- David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
3. Not Enough Personal Time
My biggest mistake was not scheduling enough personal time. Entrepreneurs are "on" 24/7; the only way to overcome that is to schedule time for yourself. This is different from time spent with family, friends, or other commitments. Next year, I'll block time for my entrepreneurial sanity.
-- Matt Wilson, Under30Media
4. Feedback Burnout
After going through the past six months collecting tons of user feedback, we faced an ever-growing desire to please people who were suggesting things for us to incorporate to make our platform better. Ultimately, we became unfocused, and had to learn the difference between unhelpful and helpful feedback in order to solve our core problems.
-- Stacey Ferreira, MySocialCloud
5. Not Sharing Enough With the Team
I aim to be transparent with my team to the point of feeling uncomfortable about it. Since we're so small and what we're doing is so important, believe it's key to express that trust. This year, I failed to share my general thoughts on the future a few times, so I've learned to be more proactive. We're all in this together--and I need their help!
-- Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
6. Hiring Woes
We hired a candidate for a senior management position that we weren't yet in a position to fully leverage. We learned that hiring for senior roles requires more scrutiny than entry-level positions, and are now trying to fill the position with a much more informed perspective on what's required.
-- Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics
7. Lack of Sales Goals
My biggest mistake this year was to try to lead a sales team with minimal supervision and no weekly goals set. I tried this for a few months and quickly found out that it does not work. The biggest lesson for me here was to really understand human nature. More often than not, what leads people to failure is the lack of initial planning and goal-setting.
-- Felix Lluberes, Position Logic
8. Don't Hire Entrepreneurs
9. Not Controlling Our Own Operations
I learned the importance of controlling your own operations. When you depend too strongly on a service or tool, you are gambling your business. We had a customer-management tool that simply decided we were breaking its terms of service and it banned our account temporarily. Controlling your own operations is worth the time and money invested.
-- Brian Moran, Get 10,000 Fans
10. Forgetting a Budget Buffer
One major mistake that I faced this year was simply being too zealous with projections and budgeting the company on that. What I have learned from that is to budget at least 30% less than that in order to have a buffer. It is always better to budget and operate the company with less than what you believe you will generate.
-- Adam DeGraide, Astonish