When I was new to the entrepreneurial world and starting my first few businesses, I followed a lot of common advice that may work for some, but didn’t work for me.
These 5 things aren’t necessarily bad for a business.
But it took me several years to realize they were bad for my business, and to trust my instincts, even if they go against the grain.
This article isn’t to tell you what to do or not do.
The purpose is to help you realize that you and your business are unique and what works for many won’t necessarily work for you.
Learning from others’ experience can obviously be helpful, but don’t follow advice blindly. Take your skills, experience, and intuition into account before following what others are doing.
Here are 5 things I used to think were essential (based on other people’s advice), but now I realize aren’t right for my business ventures.
1 – Hustling
I definitely fell victim to “hustle culture” . I thought I was doing the right thing by working on my business overtime, not taking breaks/vacation, thinking about it every waking hour, and answering emails right up until I went to bed.
Extra hours are often required during the startup phase and consistent effort is important. But there’s a limit.
If you’re burned out and stressed out, you cannot make sound decisions.
There will always be more to do than there is time to do it and your to-do list will never end. There isn’t a finish line, so there’s no sense in putting your mental and physical wellbeing at risk just to try and “get ahead”.
Now I set my work hours and almost never work outside of them.
2 – Networking
Networking can be beneficial, depending on your business and your skills/personality.
As an introvert, I’ve always hated networking, and as a result, nothing beneficial ever came from all the networking events I attended.
When I was a new business owner, I was willing to do anything to make my ventures work. So I said yes to all the networking events and invites to connect.
In my experience, the people I connected with had their own agenda (rightfully so), which typically led to more work on my plate that didn’t benefit me.
Although networking events led to several meetings, coffee dates, dinners, etc. with other local business owners, not one successful collaboration came out of it.
I thought I was making headway by connecting with other local business owners and talking about our businesses. But in the end, those “connections” were honestly just distractions for me.
If networking is your thing, keep networking on.
For me, it drained my battery, did NOT put my best skills to use, and took me away from projects and tasks that actually moved my business in the right direction.
Marketing and making genuine (and fitting) connections with business owners I can cross promote with has proven to be a better use of my time (and those types of connections tend to happen organically; not through networking events).
3 – Creating detailed business plans
I love making plans…filling out worksheets, making lists, goal setting, etc.
And I do think those things can be helpful.
But at a certain point, they become distractions that stop me from taking action.
It’s important to know what your goals are and have a realistic plan for how you’re going to reach them, but don’t get bogged down by all the details. Those details are likely to change once you start working on a project.
If you’re looking for investors or are investing a lot of your money to start your business, you may need a more detailed plan.
But otherwise, loosely defining the essentials (e.g. who you’ll sell to, where you’ll find them, and what you’ll sell to them, or the general steps required to complete a project) is the better approach so you don’t waste time ironing out details that will likely change in a month or two.
When you have more experience, you know the exact steps and tasks required to complete a project. But when something is new to you, you’re unfamiliar with all the details. In these scenarios, create a rough plan and fill in more details as you go.
4 – Doing one thing each day that scares you
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but I really hate the saying “do one thing that scares you every day”.
I don’t think it’s beneficial to live each day in some form of stressed out, fight or flight mode.
Challenge yourself? Sure. But in ways that are manageable and allow you to take baby steps towards your goals.
I for one lose sleep, get stressed, and can’t be productive when I have “something that scares me” on my schedule.
And to do that every day? Or even every week? No thank you.
When all your energy is going towards completing tasks that are new (and maybe scary) to you, you’re constantly in prepare/learn/survive mode, which makes it hard to complete daily tasks that are essential to the foundation of your business.
I also believe it’s hard to be effective when you hate what you’re doing.
I wasn’t putting my best foot forward when I was cold-calling boutique owners. I was nervous, fumbling on my words, and I could’t wait to have those calls over with each day.
I’m sure every boutique owner I spoke to could sense that.
I also wasn’t effective when being interviewed for TV and radio shows. I was just trying to get my part over with as fast as possible.
My marketing time is better spent working on SEO, sending emails, writing guest posts, or conducting one-on-one or written interviews for magazines. Those tasks incorporate my writing skills and put my (public) speaking skills (or lack thereof) on the back-burner.
I’m now much more comfortable with my strengths and weaknesses and saying no to “opportunities” that don’t allow me to shine.
I’m not saying you’ll never have to do things that make you uncomfortable or challenge you.
I am suggesting you listen to your gut when it comes to which opportunities are right for you and which will just be a distraction. And find ways to make the things you don’t want to do, a better fit (e.g. cold-emailing boutique owners instead of cold-calling if writing is a strength).
5 – Doing it all
When you start a business, you’re full of ideas and ambition.
When I started Made Urban, it was an online marketplace and I had ambitions to compete with Etsy (if you can believe it). I wanted to launch the site with the all the basic functionality of Etsy plus additional bells and whistles.
That led to a lot of money being invested into a website before knowing if people were interested in what I was offering.
It’s easy to look at a competitor and think “I can do that”, or even “I can do that better”.
What you may not realize is that it’s likely taken them years to get to the point where what they’re doing appears to be “easy” or “simple”.
It’s likely you can offer something as good as, or better than, what your competitors are offering.
But you must learn to crawl before you can walk.
Instead of trying to implement all of the ideas at once, start with the basics.
Start with one target market, one product (or product line), one marketing channel, etc. and build a well-oiled machine before targeting a new or bigger market, adding more products to your lineup, or testing other marketing channels.
If you try to do it all from the start, chances are you’ll get pulled in too many directions to make one direction successful and you’ll get burned out quickly.
I hope you found this article helpful! Feel free to share any “mistakes” you made as a new business owner.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!