If there's one thing that's certain about any entrepreneurial venture you get involved with, it's that you'll make mistakes. The crucial thing to do is understand what those shortcomings can teach you and improve your methods to avoid making them again.
Below, I'll look at six of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make and see what some famous founders who experienced them did to eventually find success.
1. Failing to Adequately Test a Product or Concept
Most products go through countless hours of testing before their developers show them to potential clients. However, even when that happens, they still might not work when it matters most.
Bill Gates and his business partner Paul Allen built a microprocessor that could analyze vehicular data taken from the traffic counters placed on the pavement. However, when the time came to show the product to representatives from Washington who planned to use it for their traffic engineers, the computer didn't work during the demonstration phase.
Gates and Allen retooled their approach in 1975 by learning to write software, ultimately leading Gates to start Microsoft. This example goes to show how if an initial idea fails, you shouldn't give up.
2. Making Snap Judgments about What Customers Want
It can be easy to assume you're fantastic at analyzing unmet needs in your target market -- so good, in fact, that there's no need to verify your findings with potential customers.
Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, confesses that she and her team fell into that trap when launching the business before getting customer feedback. They spent too much money before checking with the target audience, which made it necessary to spend precious time going back and redoing aspects of the company's website and software to make them more customer-centric.
3. Not Being Focused Enough With a Plan or Pitch Deck
When you present an idea to investors, they want to see you've thought things through at length, but usually get bored if you're too long-winded. It's best to keep things as concise as possible. Actress-turned-entrepreneur Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company, found that out the hard way when she tried engaging with investors by using a 50-page pitch deck.
Approaching potential financiers with such a great deal of material didn't work well, and eventually, Alba realized she needed to get more to the point. She thinned out her pitch deck to just 10 pages, and that obviously worked. Today, her company is worth around $1 billion, and serves consumers in the United States and Canada who love natural products.
4. Having Difficulty Winning Over Big Distributors
Many people are scared of making mistakes, and perhaps you can relate. Sometimes, though, mistakes can be good for you. They can help you overcome fears and highlight opportunities for growth. The latter was true for James Dyson, the man now associated with an upscale vacuum brand.
In the 1970s, Dyson had what he thought was an excellent idea for a revolutionary kind of new household cleaner. However, the brands he approached to distribute it didn't agree. Dyson's mistake was that he was unable to connect with major companies enough to convince them to sell his vacuum.
However, in the 1990s, Dyson decided to start his own company instead. By doing so, he eventually became a billionaire. In his case, he took a different approach to getting his project on the market, and it worked. That goes to show how persistence often pays off.
5. Coming Up with an Idea That's Ahead of Its Time
Entrepreneurs are typically visionary individuals by nature, but that sometimes means they think of possibilities the market isn't ready to accept yet. Did you know Walt Disney's Epcot theme park was supposed to be a futuristic city? Many so-called "smart cities" are capturing the headlines and people's imaginations now, but Disney's Epcot idea never took off, so it was only ever a theme park.
However, instead of getting so discouraged by the perceived failure and giving up altogether, Disney revamped his approach. Many of Epcot's attractions focus on futuristic concepts, so even though the original plan didn't come to pass, Disney still managed to show theme park attendees what's possible.
6. Being Too Similar to Other Brands
With his net worth of several billion dollars, some people would assume Richard Branson has always been successful. However, some of his ventures have failed or had unexpected setbacks. One of them didn't work because it wasn't different enough from what was already available.
Branson started Virgin Cola with the aim of surpassing Coca-Cola in popularity. Early taste tests were promising, but the brand wasn't unique enough for long-term success. Virgin Cola was not Branson's only failure, but the entrepreneur has learned to stay flexible, which has proved to be an immensely helpful trait.
The entrepreneurs profiled above eventually succeeded by being willing to make adjustments and not allowing failures to make them give up altogether. By having the same mindset, you could overcome obstacles and find prosperity too.