The life of an entrepreneur is both thrilling and exasperating as rookie businessmen and even experienced veterans venture into uncharted territory. While you’ll need the entrepreneurial spirit to succeed, beware of letting such fierce dedication and passion prevent you from growing your business to its fullest potential.
In an article called, “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong,” Harvard Business Review interviewed 120 founders from six countries to uncover the five most commonly expressed regrets of entrepreneurs:
1. Starting late.
Over half of the entrepreneurs interviewed by HBR chose to develop a finished product before ever talking to customers, but most look back and say this was a mistake. “Don’t make anything until you sell it,” advised one entrepreneur.
While you may feel uncomfortable or unprepared, getting in front of your customers early can present you with unique feedback about the direction your company should take. As another CEO expressed, “You’ll learn more from talking to five customers than you will from hours of market research.”
2. Failing to listen.
Entrepreneurs often spend a lot of time talking about how great their idea is when they should be asking potential customers for advice on how to pack even more value into the product or service.
Don’t let your passion or ego get in the way of great input, warns HBR’s network of founders. Responding negatively to criticism only stunts the potential growth of your idea. Simply put by one interviewee, “Listen to the feedback from the customers and reshape your idea and your product to fit what they actually want.”
3. Offering discounts.
In hindsight, many entrepreneurs wish they hadn’t offered price discounts to early buyers. In addition to setting a precedent of unsustainable pricing with those customers, the discount rumor mill churns quickly among small industries—hurting your ability to retain pricing power. Instead of starting discounts that won’t die, try using tactics like free shipping or temporary markdowns before a set date.
4. Selling to family and friends.
We know it’s tempting, but in the end, allowing your family and friends to be your first customers will probably skew your sense of validation more than it will add credibility to your business. While relatives often buy from entrepreneurs out of love, pity or obligation, reaching out to real clients will provide you with a more impressive customer base, valuable feedback and long-term business.
5. Failing to seek strategic buyers.
When you first start bringing in customers, the adrenaline rush feels great but can blind you to more valuable prospects. To snatch up the most substantial customers, do your homework first by conducting strategic assessments and handpicking early clients based on whether they’ll provide feedback, beta testing, referrals or repeat business. Coupled with the passion of your entrepreneurial spirit, a targeted approach is most likely to transform your business idea into a grand success.