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5 Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Startup

Launching a startup is often fraught with challenges and it can be especially difficult for first-time entrepreneurs who are new to the business world. A lack of experience can be a major roadblock when you’re trying to attract investors or develop your product. Even the slightest misstep can have a significant impact on whether you’re able to transform your idea into a viable business. If you’re trying to get your startup off the ground, here are five mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

1. Working Without a Plan

A well-thought out business plan is an important building block for entrepreneurial success and if you don’t have one, you’re setting yourself up for failure right from the start. A business plan is essentially a blueprint for how you want your business to grow and what you’re going to do to make it happen.

Creating a plan for your company allows you to define your mission, values and purpose. It’s also an opportunity to identify your target audience as well as your competitors and map out how you plan to finance your venture. As your business continues to grow and evolve, your business plan should be updated to reflect these changes.

2. Mismanaging Your Startup Money

Unless you’re being bankrolled by wealthy investors, chances are you’ll be launching your startup on a fairly tight budget. If it’s your first time starting a business, a crash course in money management is essential if you hope to get it off the ground.

Keeping your overhead costs as low as possible is a smart move when you’re strapped for cash. Starting your business from home, renting out office equipment rather than buying and looking for inexpensive ways to market your business are all good ways to minimize expenses.

It’s also a mistake not to plan for how you’ll cover your personal expenses while you’re building your startup. Having a cushion of savings set aside specifically for bills is a must if you need time to ramp up your business before being able to pull a salary. Once you start turning a profit, you have to make a point of paying yourself something; otherwise, your business is nothing more than an expensive hobby.

3. Being Inflexible

Every startup follows a different path and chances are you’ll encounter a few twists and turns along the way. There’s even a possibility that something will happen that could change the direction of your business entirely. If you’re not able to roll with the punches as they come you’re effectively clipping your own wings.

When developing your vision for the business, you have to leave room for the what-ifs. That way, when you hit a snag or a new opportunity arises unexpectedly you’re prepared for it. Having a back-up plan and knowing when to execute it is one of the smartest things you can do to keep your startup afloat.

4. Flying Solo

Having a great idea means nothing if you can’t turn it into a reality and for that, you will need help. Beginning your startup is hard work and if you’re trying to do it all yourself, you may experience burnout fairly quickly. Whether you bring in a business partner or seek out a mentor to bounce ideas off of, it’s important to have some kind of support system in place when you’re launching a startup.

5. Neglecting Your Brand

Branding your business is something you need to be doing from day one. Your brand speaks volumes to consumers about your business or product and if you’re not investing the time and energy to create a positive image you’re effectively torpedoing your own success.

Building a brand starts with figuring out what your company’s “voice” sounds like. For example, are you trying to sell yourself as an authority or do you prefer a more conversational tone? Once you identify your voice, the next step is to tailor your marketing campaign so it reaches your target audience effectively. Becoming a household name won’t happen overnight but the more time you’re willing to spend on developing your brand, the bigger the payoff will be.

There’s no way to guarantee whether your startup will sink or swim. Ultimately, it comes down to proper planning and hard work, with a dash of luck thrown in. But avoiding these common blunders can significantly improve the odds of success.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance for nearly a decade. She is an expert in investing, retirement and home buying topics. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CBS News, U.S. News & World Report and Investopedia. As a homeschooling mom of two, she's always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.
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