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The three biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make

I recently spoke to a group of emerging entrepreneurs and shared both my exciting and not-so-exciting stories experienced over a 10-year entrepreneurial journey. Following my presentation, several of the audience members expressed their gratitude for the insight they received from my talk. Why were they so grateful? Consider the points below.

Statistics show that 66 percent of businesses fail within eight years. Why are the odds so large even for people who go out of their way to do everything exactly right? What studies suggest is that, overwhelmingly, failure is not due to outside factors, but to an internal one. And it isn’t economic; it’s emotional. The unexpected and terrifying experiences that business owners often go through are the greatest factor in why most new business owners give up or go belly-up.

The book, “The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster” authored by one of my favorite people in business, Darren Hardy, details the mistakes that are common among entrepreneurs and how you can avoid them. I share three of my favorite points below.


Mistake No. 1

Being in love with your product, and not your client.

You are passionate about your product. You have spent countless hours working on it to make it excellent—the best there is. Unfortunately, the No. 1 seller in any category is probably not the best product. Instead, the No. 1-selling product in every category is owned by the person who is the best marketer.

Like it or not, your product accounts for only 10 percent of your business’s success, with 90 percent coming down to sales and marketing. I am hereby putting you on notice: You are not in the dry cleaning business, the insurance business, the mobile app business, or whatever industry covers your awesome product. You are in the sales and marketing business, period. So you need to become an expert at sales and marketing.

The first step? Fall in love with your prospective client. You must learn how to get inside the head and heart of your prospective client — to feel his desires, hopes, fears and problems. Learn how to transmit this love through your sales and marketing communication, and connect with the client heart-to-heart. Then there will be a path to your product and fund your big dreams.


Mistake No. 2

Being cheap and not investing enough in people, marketing and learning.

Adages become adages because they are true. “It takes money to make money” is a perfect example. In growing your business, there are a thousand ways to spend your money, but there are three that matter most: people, marketing and personal growth (learning). Let’s focus on people here.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, said, “No matter the innovations and changes in the marketplace, the one thing that hasn’t changed is [that] the team who fields the best players wins.” In today’s dynamic and highly competitive marketplace, the main battle is for talent.

Considering that the largest portion of your operating costs is likely to be consumed in salaries and wages, it is critical that you get team-building right. Just one bad hire can sink you and your business. The cost of hiring a poor performer is not simply what you pay them; it’s much higher. When you consider the time and resources you’ll spend to replace them, the value of lost opportunities and the chemotherapy your organization must undergo to stop the cancer such an employee usually spreads, the cost of a poor-performing team member is up to 15 times his or her annual salary. Invest up-front in quality people.


Mistake No. 3

Being smart and not seeking the help you need.

Michael Jordan didn’t win a championship for his first seven pro seasons. And then Phil Jackson became the Chicago Bulls’ head coach, and the team’s fortunes soon changed. Kobe Bryant spent four years trying in vain to win a title. Then Jackson went to the Lakers. The difference in both instances wasn’t the player—it was the coach.

I bet you are already good. But in order to become great, you need help, as every superstar does. Invest in your learning and growth. If there is one common trait among the superachievers I’ve ever met or studied, it’s that all are avid learners. They are constantly looking for the edge, seeking the insight that will allow them to improve and break through their current ceiling.

For every problem you have, someone has dedicated his or her life, time and passion to becoming an expert in that area. You can never pay too much to rent someone’s brain and gain their experience.” While there are no shortcuts in life, they do exist for success in business. The shortcuts are charted by those who have already been where you are going and have returned to give you the map of the safest and most expeditious route. This guidance will save you time, energy, money, pain and anguish. Their expert and experienced direction just might save the life of your business.

If you liked this article, you would love the series of entrepreneur night events scheduled for June and July. If you would like more information, email me at [email protected] with the subject “Entrepreneur Night”. You will learn of the amazing panel of speakers and topics that will be presented. If you’d like to get the full article, email me to be sent a link.


Keshelle Davis is a master trainer in the areas of business skills, financial literacy and personal development, a speaker, author and entrepreneur. Her roles include executive director of the Chamber Institute, the education arm of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, president of Creative Wealth Bahamas and founder of The Training Authority. Keshelle was listed as the Nassau Guardian’s Top 40 under 40 for the 40th anniversary celebrations of The Bahamas. Contact Keshelle at [email protected].


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