Two huge ones:
> Confusing activity for results.
Many older entrepreneurs haven't learned the lesson, either.
You can 'be busy' into oblivion.
> Confusing social interaction for prospecting and sales activity.
Talking =/= Qualifying.
You should not be trying to let "everyone" know you exist. Find your target market and focus your effort there. Otherwise, you'll waste your energy.
I'd add one thing to the other good answers here.
I think this is becoming less frequent as startups are becoming cool and thereby respected, but I still see some entrepreneurs "playing company". They print business cards, design logos and come up with slogans. Maybe they even talk with investors. All the stuff that startups do, except for the important thing: customer and product development.
Here are some bad habits I've noticed:
1) Not understanding how difficult it's going to be to start a business.
2) Underestimating how long it's going to take to get off the great. Lots of new business owners love their idea so much they think it's going to take off right away.
3) Not understanding how much marketing is involved with starting a successful business. Even if your product is great, you've got to figure out how to get it in front of people so more people can find out about you and decide whether or not they want to buy.
4) Underestimating how much they'll need to charge. Example: "Professional photographers charge $2500 for a wedding? I can undercut that by $1500 and steal all of their business!" Reality: People charge what they do not because they're gouging people but because that's what it takes be profitable.
5) Not focusing enough. It's easy to want to sell to everyone, but it's much more important to find a profitable group of customers, be awesome for them, and then branch out to more customer groups rather than trying to be all things to all people.
6) Not realizing that you haven't picked a profitable business. Just because something's unique doesn't mean there's a market there to support the business. Not only do you need something unique about your business that helps it stand out, but you also need to make sure there's enough of a market to support your starting a profitable business.
These are all the things I could think of off the top of my head.
Obviously every individual is well,... and individual... so there are no real blanketed statements that can apply to everyone.
However, having been a entrepreneur since 9 yrs old, I can speak for myself in analyzing my greatest strength and weakness.
Weakness: Understanding the difference between being "capable" and being "experienced".
A ton of things in life come down to your experience level, and have nothing to do with natural born capabilities.
Growing up, we tend to participate more in things like organized sports, which at first exposure, is more dependent upon your natural propensity to be athletic or "capable" rather than your experience playing the game (that develops at later stages).
Many aspects of being an entrepreneur has nothing to do with IQ or natural born ability, but instead, your ability to be in tune with results and adjust based off experience. Typically, the more times youve gotten to witness something, the better your odds in doing it correctly :)
Being young however, it is difficult to rationalize or distinguish the difference... and thus when you fail (not if)... its harder to accept and understand why, because naturally you're thinking its "because you're not good enough".
Reality is, it's because "you're not experienced enough."
Strength: Ability to be open minded
My ability to be open minded, was also my ability to overcome that natural "hangup" of a young entrepreneur.
By really accepting the rationality - or cause effect - of results, a young entrepreneur can take themselves (and thus any reason to be emotional) out of the equation.
Being open minded empowers a young entrepreneur to be in tune with what matters - the results - and change accordingly.
Here's what I've noticed, not only in myself, but in others:
1.) Not knowing their strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to their business. Play to your strengths. In the areas where you are weak, delegate or outsource.
2.) Don't give up. Perseverance will be your greatest asset.
3.) Have a clear mind. Learn how to meditate. 5-10 minutes of silence will do wonders.
4.) Learn to adapt and be flexible.
5.) Validate the business before going all in. Like another person who answered earlier, don't "play business" and get a website, business cards, etc. Bootstrap the business for as long as possible to find out if it is something people want and if it will be profitable.
Everyday is challenge, but you can't win if you don't get in the game.
This is a great question, thanks for asking it. I would add that many young entrepreneurs don't yet have the experience or wisdom to know when to make rational decisions, and when to make decisions based on emotion.
Hiring (specifically interviewing) is a good example. Too many bad hires are made as a result of being swayed entirely by likeability, or 'following your gut'. To be effective, hiring has to more balanced, based on specific requirements, and more objective.
But when an employee comes to you with a personal problem and they're visibly upset as a result, you have to turn off your brain and turn on your heart. Listen carefully, be empathetic, and be supportive.
I'm about 18 months into my own start-up and only marriage has been better at revealing my blind spots and opportunities for growth and self-improvement. The first thing I would say to a young entrepreneur is: "Congratulations. You're about to learn more about yourself than you ever imagined possible. Embrace the opportunity to grow as a person."
The other answers here are very good. The weak habits I noticed in myself:
1. The weakness of not being able to admit your weaknesses. I am mediocre at organization and management (meaning I can get by, but I don't excel and I'm way too slow). It took 18 months to admit this to myself and others. My bosses at other jobs pointed out this weakness over the years and I always disputed it out of pride. Admitting this weakness allowed me to change the business model and operating plan to focus on what I do well. For example, I hired a bookkeeper. I also made the decision to get out of direct project management (outsourcing instead). Admitting my weakness does not diminish me; it makes way for the business to grow.
2. The weakness of ignoring cash. Cash can be a scary thing when you're starting out (because you don't have a lot of it). Scary = negative feelings. Negative feelings can get an entrepreneur down in a hurry. So, I spent most of my first year ignoring cash and only looking at my budget once in a while. I had clients and a positive balance, so why worry about cash? Abruptly losing my biggest client to a sudden change in management jolted me awake. Instead of looking at cash as a scary thing, I'm learning to think of a puzzle that only I have the guts and wits to solve (with help from my bookkeeper). Ignoring cash may preserve my delusion of being smart; tackling it head-on and overcoming the challenges is what makes me truly smart.
3. The weakness of selling to the wrong people. I wish I had back all those hours I spent (and dollars, too) on people who would affirm and applaud my business idea but had neither money nor reason to buy from me. It could delude myself that I was having sales meetings, but no sales is all the proof you need that you're wasting your time. I'd go so far as to say that "networking" is a dangerous word for an entrepreneur because it can be just as much of a cop-out. Get in front of people who can and will buy your product or service. It's do or die.
I hope some of my mistakes are helpful to you and your clients. If you want to know more, I'm happy to listen!
As a Delegate of the United States for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs' Alliance, this is a recurring question. Young entrepreneurs require a great deal of support and entrepreneurship must be seen as a valid and respected career option for young individuals who are studying in a liberal arts education. At the G20 YEA Summit, the US ranked as number one in entrepreneurship culture compared to the other G20 countries. As a delegation we discussed that despite the ranking, we as young entrepreneurs face numerous issues from innovation and technology, age and gender equality and the perception of entrepreneurship being a sustainable occupation. In innovation and technology, we must bring young minds to more traditional industries as innovation is outperforming our ability to execute. Young individuals are not learning the necessary skills in time with the rate of growth and technological advancements.
Regarding your question, I believe that young entrepreneurs often have a lack of confidence when they are just getting started. They are risk-averse and this leads to the idea of failure. Failure is sometimes inevitable for businesses and young entrepreneurs must understand that. Reaching out to successful entrepreneurs and hearing their stories is crucial. I would love to continue this conversation with you by offering a call for follow up discussion.
Some "weak" habits I've seen in young entrepreneurs include (1) building the product before they know the demand for it, so it goes nowhere and they get disheartened easily. Test the idea/service/product on your target market and hear their feedback to refine your offering (2) taking "negative" feedback personally rather than seeing the GREAT INSIGHT they're receiving into the markets problem and potential obstacles/barriers to them buying. Turn the feedback around into great market research instead. (3) underestimating the strengths they personally and professionally have, while simultaneously keeping an open mind at how something can be done better or more effectively. It's a personal self image and skill set balance to strike. Overall I equate being an entrepreneur as having a flexible, nimble mindset while staying focused on your vision and outcomes. Note, focused doesn't mean "fixed" mindset! Know the WHAT and be open to the HOW....It's an adventure everyday!
1. Asking for advice early enough - you're bullish when you're young. Often young entrepreneurs don't leverage their advisory board often enough as they feel they have to prove themselves on their own steam.
2. Focus - they get torn this way and that by new opportunities.
3. Emotional maturity - I wrote an article about this: http://startuphat.com/seasoned-entrepreneurs-curb-their-enthusiasm-and-depression/ - mindfully navigating the troughs and crests of one's emotions is a critical trait that needs to be cultivated.
Great responses! Its interesting that these responses seem to be framed in "young entrepreneurs", however, I don't think age has much to do with it. I think these suggestions apply to everyone. In my industry, the world of voice teachers, I find that young voice coaches are plagued with fear. Fear of producing content for YouTube and other social media that will help drive traffic to their web sites and I find that they are surprisingly clueless on web and internet marketing technology; web sites, contact forms, how to make a proper teaser video on YouTube, shopping carts, and what your messaging should be. They tend to be more worried about what people will think about them, instead of being fearless and putting themselves out there. Being fearful does not pay the bills or grow your business as a voice coach. I suppose, its the same for any profession.
Too much work without play is pretty bad. So it is very important that we maintain a balance life. Meditating in the morning is rejuvenating. Daily exercise and proper diet will surely make a difference. Stop thinking "one hour" of your time a day is a waste of time. Remember (and I truly believe in this) - Health is everything. Everything.
As someone who has been a young, successful entrepreneur and is fast-becoming a middle-aged one, 3 weak habits come to mind.
The first weak habit is blowout.
Young entrepreneurs, especially if they become successful early, put a lot of pressure on themselves and this results in a blowout in time off.
This is the phenomenon where they will work crushing hours for 2 weeks straight and then use that to justify a ski trip for a week to "decompress".
If they just took proper breaks and care of themselves, this would be unnecessary.
The second weak habit that happens with young entrepreneurs when they hit success is that they scale their lifestyle along with their business. They literally spend money faster than they can make it.
To be fair, I believe that every entrepreneur goes through this. The first time you start making more in a week than most people do in a year, it gets to your head a bit and you want to enjoy some of it.
My advice there would be to get it out of your system as fast and as early as you can. Realise how stupid it is and start to do smarter things with your money.
The third weak habit is believing that the adults know more than you.
Some do, but many don't.
Listen to the advisors you trust, but if the business advice you're getting sounds a bit off... don't be afraid to disregard what someone says, even if they're 20 years older than you.