I have been fortunate the last couple of years to have worked with hundreds of startups and entrepreneurs all over the world. One of the striking things to me is that entrepreneurs everywhere face the same types of challenges. What I have learned is that translating any great idea into a successful business takes hard work, laser focus, perseverance, and a little luck.
I believe the super successful entrepreneurs that I have met and worked with figure out the major obstacles that can inhibit their success and work to eliminate them from the start.
From my work, I think these ten challenges are the ones you need to focus on to give your business the best chance for success.
Your Business Environment
Knowledge is power. The first step to success for any entrepreneur is deep, concrete knowledge about the competition, regulatory requirements and forecasts, and the current and forecasted economy and how those will affect your industry. Potential investors only back knowledgeable CEOs.
Weak Brand Identity
There's a blizzard of marketing in every field. That makes it essential for customers to learn to recognize your product or service almost instantaneously. Strong branding accomplishes that for you. As Business2Community points out, "A cohesive brand identity and knockout logo proves you understand your market and customer, and that you know how to put an investment to work."
Plan to have at least two years of solid funding, whether that is an angel or VC (venture capital) investments or your private savings. Contingencies to cover product retrials, vendor failures, manufacturing mishaps, or other unforeseen delays will happen even with the best business plans.
Lack of Learned Lessons
Believing in yourself and your new product or service is essential--but not enough. Surround yourself with a few select advisors who have been there, done that, and learned the key lessons. Then listen to what they have to say.
Your business idea may include intellectual property or a valuable patent. Sadly it's not uncommon for unscrupulous types to attempt to steal them. "An asset-protection plan employs legal strategies, put into place before a lawsuit or claim arises, that can deter a potential claimant or help prevent the seizure of your assets..." according to Investopedia. Be sure to cover your assets.
Often underestimated, staffing errors can be costly. A few cautions: wait until you have a complete understanding of your business's operating structure before hiring; know your limitations intimately and delegate those areas of your business, and provide incentives to attract and retain top people for the jobs.
Speaking of knowing your limitations, some entrepreneurs freeze once they wade into muddy startup waters. Inaction is deadly--only action moves you forward. If you find yourself freezing, gather your advisor circle, listen, and choose a path forward out of the crisis.
Ignoring Your Startup's Culture
What will motivate your new staff to work as a team to accomplish the goals you set out? Take the time to develop a company culture that makes it a joy for you and your staff to work together.
Shotgun, Unfocused Approach to Customer Acquisition
Define your customer base specifically, especially as a startup, and learn to say no to marginal requests and outliers who may get your business off-track too early in your growth. Focusing on your business goals and the initial motivation for starting your business will help.
Ignoring Signs to Pivot
Doing everything "right" and it's not working? One way to problem-solve is to pivot, reassess, or perhaps rebrand.