5 biggest business mistakes (and how to fix them!)

Sep 10, 2020

This week I’m celebrating my birthday — and 7 years in business!

It’s hard to believe it’s been several years since I started this wild journey as a fresh-faced 30 year old. All to follow a lifelong dream of running my own business.

Starting a business is one of the most terrifying steps I’ve ever taken. But also the most rewarding.

I made so many mistakes in the early years. Petrified of failing, I constantly second guessed my decision to leave a steady, well paid corporate job.

But I knew this was the path I had to follow.

It was tough and took plenty of hard work, determination, self-belief and a continual investment in my development. Over the past 7 years, I’ve taught myself everything needed to build a successful business. Today, I have the pleasure of helping consultants and service-based entrepreneurs to do the same.

Earlier this week I was reflecting on my business journey. And I realised — the greatest mistakes I’ve made in business are also the common challenges I support my clients with too.

Mistakes are part of doing business — and being human! We all make them. But it’s important to learn from your mistakes and those you observe in others, so you can get ahead in business and grow professionally.

Read on to discover the five biggest mistakes business owners make, why they happen and what you can learn from them.

You’ll walk away with tangible tips to help you work through major mistakes — and the exact steps to take to fix them!

MISTAKE #1 — STRIVING TO BE ‘PERFECT’

Most business owners are high-performers who’ve achieved a certain level of success professionally. But for some, the pursuit of success goes beyond a healthy sense of accomplishment into striving to be ‘perfect’. Perfectionism is a common trait amongst many of the world’s most successful people including senior executives, professional athletes — and entrepreneurs.

Perfectionism results in overachievement. Believing you must aim for greater and better, you set unrealistic goals for yourself and put yourself under enormous pressure to reach them. The consequences are overworking, stress, overwhelm — and even burnout.

Or, you set unrelenting high standards for yourself. Then you become so overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of you, you’re held back by procrastination. You rush to get work completed at the last minute — or never put your ideas out into the world.

🛠 The Fix

If the desire to be perfect is holding you back, there are some simple fixes.

First, aim to do your best. Nothing more, nothing less. This is a concept from the book ‘The Four Agreements’, by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Doing your best is about setting realistic standards and goals. Some days you’ll feel energised and motivated — other days, less so. This is about doing your best, whatever it looks like right now.

Second, take imperfect action! Go for progress, not perfection. Focus on taking the first step and get your work out into the world — knowing you can always improve it later!

Finally, be sure to celebrate your successes — and failures. It can be easy to play down your achievements or rush straight to the next goal. Instead, reward yourself when you accomplish a goal or reach a milestone along the way.

Honour failing too. To fail doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Failing is an opportunity for learning — and where growth and transformation occurs.

MISTAKE #2 — TRYING TO ‘DO IT ALL’

A mistake I see time and time again amongst my clients, is the inability to let go and delegate. Of course when you’re first starting out in business, you might need to manage everything on your own for a while. Most business owners are not in a financial position to outsource or employ staff upfront.

The problem is when you continue to do it all and refuse to hire help — even when you can afford it. You get stuck working ‘in’ your business, instead of ‘on’ it. And this is one of the biggest blocks to growth in your business.

These challenges stem from a deep fear of letting go. Or the need to control everything. You may secretly fear being controlled by others or maintain control to avoid vulnerability or rejection.

Another common reason is perfectionism or having unrealistically high standards. You believe — even sub-consciously — no-one can complete a task as well as you. So you tell yourself it’s easier to keep ‘doing it yourself’.

Or you tell yourself you don’t have the time. You believe it will take so much time and energy to train someone else, that it’s not worth it. It all feels ‘too hard’.

But here’s the thing. If you fail to delegate tasks you don’t need to handle, time management becomes a challenge and your workload unsustainable. This leads to stress, overwhelm and potential burnout.

The desire to control also keeps you small. It stops you expanding your business or client base, learning new skills or developing professionally. Instead, you stay in your comfort zone.

🛠 The Fix

Start by considering the consequences of trying to ‘do it all’. Ask yourself: what does this cost you? By refusing to delegate or get any help, what is the impact on your time, money, energy, health and important relationships?

Next, remove anything outside your zone of genius — this is the work you’re good at and love to do. Delegate, automate or eliminate these tasks. For example, lower level admin work or technical tasks which take you ages to complete.

It can be helpful to think about your time in terms of your hourly rate. You can work this out based on the annual salary you pay yourself, or the cost of your packages or projects. This gives you a simple way to see how much more you could make if you focus your time on work within your area of expertise.

How long does a particular task take you to complete? And how much is this costing you in time, versus hiring a professional who can do it faster? If your hourly rate is $500 and it costs you $50 an hour to pay someone, you’d be better off outsourcing it!

Finally, start documenting your processes into clear, repeatable steps. Do this before you’re ready to hire so you have a system in place for future. Or show a team member or contractor once and get them to record it for you.

MISTAKE #3 — YOU’RE ONLY MOTIVATED BY MONEY

Most aspiring entrepreneurs have achieved professional success as an employee. They think — I’ve made $500K, $1m+ a year for this organisation. Even if I could make a fraction of that working for myself, I’d be in a much better position financially.

Or they believe running a business is the only way to make money. To some extent this is true, as there is an uncapped earning potential in business. Compared with the limitations of market rates and corporate salaries.

But here’s the truth. Business is hard and financial success if based on your ability to show up consistently and do the work. Even then, results aren’t guaranteed.

If nothing else is motivating you beyond making money, it’s going to be hard to stay committed and show up every day! Especially during tough times or in the early days when you don’t see the financial returns right away. After all, building a business is a long-term game.

🛠 The Fix

Simon Sinek talks about thinking, acting and communicating from our ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is your purpose. The reason you get out of bed every day and why you do what you do.

Knowing what we want (the outcome) is not enough. We need a compelling reason to back it up. And it needs to be more than money — money is the result, not a ‘why’.

As Sinek explains, science supports this theory. The neo-cortex is the part of the brain in charge of our rational thoughts, not our behaviour. Knowing what we want and setting a goal is not sufficient.

Our ‘why’ appeals to our limbic brain, which is responsible for our emotions, decision-making and behaviour. Purpose is what drives our actions and behaviour. Start by getting clear on why you started your business — beyond making money.

Was it financial freedom, lifestyle freedom or to spend more time with family? Or the ability to make independent decisions, work with the clients you want, in the ways you want? Whatever it is, always focus on your why over and above everything else.

MISTAKE #4 — LETTING FEAR STOP YOU

Starting a business is one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. Putting yourself out there every day, being visible and backing yourself with no guarantees of the outcome. This takes tremendous courage.

So it’s understandable one of the greatest hurdles getting in the way of results in your business — is fear. Fear is designed to protect us and keep us safe. But it also holds us back from taking risks and creating the business and life we want.

A common one is fear of failure. You stop taking risks to avoid failing — and end up limiting yourself and playing it small. Fear of failure can hold you back from getting started or taking the necessary risks to grow your business.

The fear of judgement is another. As human beings we’re designed to be part of a tribe. Historically, we had to fit in and avoid being rejected to survive!

Therefore, we naturally avoid criticism or anything else that could stop us being accepted by others. This causes us to be held back by fear. And stops us putting ourselves out there.

Worrying about what others think is also a big fear. The fear of not being old enough, young enough, smart enough, experienced enough or attractive enough. In short, ‘not being enough’ holds us back too.

🛠 The Fix

The first step to working through fear or limiting beliefs is awareness. Start by noticing the fear or negative thought holding you back. Name it, then allow it to process.

Next, reframe it. Replace it with a more positive emotion or productive thought.

Finally, take action. Action is what moves us through fear. Keep it simple and focus on taking the next best step, one at a time.

MISTAKE #5 — YOU NEVER STOP!

In late 2017, I reached another cycle of complete burnout after years of working 60+ hour weeks, late nights and weekends. After recognising this repeating pattern, I made significant changes. But sadly, overworking is an unhealthy trend I see in many other business owners too.

And while putting in the hours is important in the beginning, the inability to switch off from work — or ever stop — can be detrimental in the long term. Stress, overwhelm and burnout are prevalent. In some cases, you may end up quitting altogether!

There are three reasons why you might be struggling to stop working.

Firstly, you love your business. Your work is your passion, deeply fulfilling and if you could, you’d spend every waking moment working on your business! But it also takes over your life — and could lead to burnout if you never have any downtime or balance.

Second, you struggle to say no and or set boundaries. You want to please your clients out of fear of losing them. Or you go over and above to deliver the best service possible but constantly put their needs before your own.

A third set of business owners are over-achievers, who are constantly striving to do more and better. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, often sacrificing your personal relationships, physical or mental health in the pursuit of success. This stems from conditioned beliefs you’ve inherited, such as ‘you’ve got to work hard to make money’ or ‘the harder you work, the more successful you’ll be’.

Or you’ve always been rewarded for hard work, making money and success throughout your career. So you think there’s no other way. And that you have to take the same approach to be successful in your business.

🛠 The Fix

Even if you love what you do, be sure to set clear working hours and put aside some time for self-care so you don’t burn-out.

If people-pleasing is impacting your ability to switch off, learn to say no and put boundaries in place. Limit the times you’re available to your clients. And set expectations around when you’ll respond and in what timeframe.

Also, schedule your ‘big rocks’ first. The important tasks and projects in your business which need to happen before anything else. And your priorities outside work such as picking up your kids from school, making time for hobbies or holidays.

Finally, shift your beliefs around ‘success’. Take the time to discover your version of success. By clarifying your purpose, vision and values and building your business around those.

Making mistakes is part of being an entrepreneur. These tips have helped my clients and I overcome and learn from our biggest business mistakes. I hope they support you too!

Want personalised support to navigate your specific challenges, get ahead in business and grow professionally?

Click HERE to book a complimentary consult and find out how coaching with me can assist you!

Stacey Back is an online business coach, career strategist and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from feeling trapped in their corporate jobs to developing the confidence and strategy to transition into their own consultancy. 

Stacey also supports early-stage entrepreneurs to go from confused, frustrated and overwhelmed to establishing the right foundations in their business so they can find more time, freedom and create a business doing the work they love — one that supports their ideal lifestyle.

She works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.