So you know you want to go the route of the entrepreneur, blaze a trail and help people along the way. But how? You’ve heard the often quoted stat that 90% of all new businesses fail within the first five years. But what causes these failures? If you know what to expect then you can plan how to steer clear.
Here are four reasons entrepreneurs fail and how to avoid them:
1. Trying to do it alone
The story of the lone individual, working tirelessly in a garage (or at a laptop) and becoming a self-made millionaire is just that, a story. No one makes it alone. According to multimillionaire entrepreneur Jordan Harbinger,“The best people in any field always get coaching.”
You need a coach. It’s possible you have a mentor at this point. A mentor is often someone from your recent past, such as a college professor, manager from a job you’ve had or a friend who is a little further along the life journey than you. are A mentor offers free advice, allows you to bounce ideas back and forth and encourages you. Mentors are people of value in your life. But a mentor is very different from a coach.
You pay a coach for their expertise. Generally a coaching relationship is for a specific number of sessions over a defined period of time, along with some communication between sessions. Although a coach will encourage you, that’s not the primary focus. A coach looks at where you are, helps you discover where you want to be and walks you through the process to get there. The best coaches give you very practical steps to reach your goals, then hold you accountable for taking those steps. Your coach will push you further and faster than you thought possible. They will do more for you than any mentor because, in part, the success of the coach is dependent on a satisfied client. Clients who succeed with the help of a coach are exceedingly happy.
“Sometimes you have to do what you don’t like to get where you want to be.” –Tori Amos
2. Quitting instead of pivoting
Let’s make this very simple. Most new businesses don’t fail due to lack of cash, a poor market or a bad location. Most new businesses fail because the owner decides to quit, when what they should do is pivot. There was a time, not that long ago, that Apple was about to go bankrupt. The company had been losing money for a dozen straight years and poured over $100 million dollars into a failing product, the Apple Newton. By early 1997, Apple was in serious trouble. Had Apple stayed on the same path they would have faded into oblivion.
But that didn’t happen. Today Apple is worth over $700 billion. Why? Because Apple pivoted. They hired back one of the original founders (Steve Jobs) who cut the Newton immediately, made a deal with the previous enemy (Microsoft) and reinvented both the categories of portable music players and cell phones (with the iPod and iPhone). Many other amazing devices followed.
When you are in the midst of what you think is the end, it’s probably not. It may be the end for a particular idea, method or product, but it’s only the end for your business if you quit. Entrepreneurs who succeed know when to pivot.
3. Expecting they’ll love everything about being an entrepreneur
Most entrepreneurs are excited about the idea of working for themselves. They assume that every hour of every day will be filled doing creative and fulfilling work. When that’s not the case they often stop trying and look for the thing that will allow them to have every day and hour filled with creative work. The process repeats itself over and over. It’s a futile pursuit.
The good news is that many hours will be filled with doing creative and fulfilling work. The bad news is there are things you’ll still have to do that you don’t love. Successful entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff recommends every budding business owner create a “grit list”. These are the 10 things you absolutely despise doing, but must be done anyway.
I won’t belabor this point. Just know that while building your business you still have to do some things you don’t enjoy. Create your grit list of these things – then next to each one write down the value they bring to your business.
“Why do I have to fill out an expense report? That’s not my dream. You have to fill out an expense report because expense reports must be filled out.” – Jon Acuff
4. Not having a plan
You need a plan for your business. Not a 10 year all-encompassing plan. Those never work out. A plan for the next year. Perhaps as long as 3 years. The plan should have goals and action steps. It’s as simple as that. Then write it down. Your odds of accomplishing the goals on your plan go way up if you write it down.
On a personal level I had a recent business that was failing. Do you know what I did? Hired a coach, created a plan, pivoted when my coach suggested it and did what needed to be done. Did it work? Yes. If not you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Creating a successful business has no secrets. It’s really not about avoiding the wrong things, it’s about doing the right things. If you’ll hire a coach, pivot when necessary, know that some things just must be done and have a good plan then you’ll find yourself in that small group of new businesses that have wild success!