Costly mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid

In South Africa, we have an aversion to making mistakes. We often associate mistakes with failure.

Yet valuable mistakes are well-intentioned errors or failures, not ones born of carelessness.

We should make mistakes as early in the development process as possible as a means of exploring as many options as possible. And we should make them when it’s not costly. Short-term failure yields long-term success.

Did you know that mistakes, have led to the discovery of DNA, penicillin, aspirin, X-rays, Teflon, Velcro, nylon, cornflakes, Coca-Cola and chocolate-chip cookies?

A business that makes mistakes is not only trying jolly hard, but is also likely to end up with far more innovation at the end of the year.

The bottom line is summed up by George Bernard Shaw: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

Having said that, we don’t have to learn everything by personally making mistakes.

Here are five mistakes, all beginning with M, for you to consider avoiding.

I have also sought to end each section with a resource to be read or action to be taken.

Markets: Starting a business or producing a product/ service without a market in mind, “hoping” that the market will approve and buy your produce.

A colleague of mine likened that to a lady hearing about a party to be held over the weekend and then excitedly spending time and money getting ready for the party (new wardrobe; hair, nails, etc.)

Imagine her disappointment when she discovers she doesn’t know the address of the party.

Consider visiting this website:

Money: Having no or a poor grasp of key financial factors.

It is said that every management decision has a financial consequence.

Using “that’s not my thing” is no excuse for not doing what is necessary to beef up your financial quotient.

Consider doing a short, focused course on finances for non- financial managers.

Minutes: Poor time management. All of us have the gift of 24 hours at our disposal, yet we don’t all necessarily use our time effectively.

Brian Tracey, bestselling author of Eat the big frogs first, gives streetwise wisdom on how to keep focus on the big challenges and avoid distraction.

You can also look up a four-minute video called “Do the big rocks first” that will help you.

Mediocrity: Starting a business with a low level of passion.

The journey of an entrepreneur requires a strong dose of passion to counter the many challenges they will consistently face.

Webster’s dictionary defines passion as “an intense, driving or overmastering feeling of conviction” or “a strong desire for or devotion to some activity or concept”.

Passion needs to ooze from every pore of a start-up entrepreneur.

This passion translates into infectious enthusiasm, which ultimately feeds the energy and drive of every employee.

Most importantly, this passion is the glue that holds the company together and gets it through its most difficult times.

Steve Jobs asked the question: “What makes your heart sing?” What is the passion that will make your heart sing, and enable you to weather challenges?

Mate: This is starting without regard for support.

Successful entrepreneurs were interviewed and asked what they attributed their success to. Many of their answers were to be expected.

These ranged from “Seeing opportunities and acting on them”; “perseverance and persistence”; “passion and commitment”; and so forth, but what was interesting was their common comment, “A strong supportive environment”.

Whether that comes from your wife, husband, family or friend, don’t underestimate the amazing value of support. And what if you have challenges in sourcing support? Intentionally seek for organisations whose core business is exactly that … supporting entrepreneurs. There are quite a few in the Western Cape, so happy seeking.

* Steve will be conducting short two-hour courses in entrepreneurship for Bergvliet High School’s continued education.

You can find the prospectus on the website: under “Continuing Ed”. Courses cost R120 each. Call Katharine Miles on 082 409 2195 for more information.