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4 Crucial Startup Mistakes That Can Kill Your Business: How You Can Avoid

4 Crucial Startup Mistakes That Can Kill Your Business: How You Can Avoid

Success doesn’t come easy, and it certainly doesn’t come without optimism. That is precisely why so many entrepreneurs invest their heart and soul, and of course money, into an idea or business that has a 75 percent chance to fail. This sure is an extremely discouraging figure, but don’t let it discourage you from giving your all to turn a dream project into a reality.

Although staying optimistic about your startup’s chances for success can play a vital role in deciding its fate, there are quite a few game-ending mistakes that can really strangle your business and leave you in a state of despair. Fortunately for you, we’ve identified the most common of these mistakes and gathered tips on how you can avoid them.

1. Repeating the Management Sins of the Past

Although there’s no harm in idolizing the management maestros of the past, making them an inspiration is not advised. Remember, trying to run the workplace affairs like Steve Jobs or some ruthless leader will not bring you the same level of success. On the contrary, it will probably result in a complete meltdown. The patriarchal, my-way-or-the-highway approach just will not work in the 21st century because the workplace has changed and the workforce has grown a lot more diverse.

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There’s a necessity to foster collaboration in the workplace. Don’t be a dictator, but rather be a democratic leader who lends an ear and gives value to the surrounding voices. Don’t just push your employees to perform, but also groom them to be future leaders.

Most importantly, learn to put your trust in them through the use of employee monitoring solutions like cell phone spy apps and other tools. Just remember to communicate the purpose behind the deployment of these monitoring tools with your employees and remove their concerns pertaining to privacy, otherwise you’ll find yourself facing a revolt.

2. Confusing a Good Idea for a Good Business

A lot of startups get excited too quickly about a seemingly great idea that they’ve come up with. Quite frankly, ideas are a dime a dozen. They may seem special and unique to the entrepreneur, but this perceived grandeur can easily be a fallacious assumption. Investing time and money in an idea that hasn’t been properly scrutinized and tested in the market can drain a lot of resources without bringing the expected returns, which in turn can cripple the startup financially and damage the entrepreneur and their entire team emotionally.

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Coming up with an idea that looks and sounds great is only the first step. The next step, and perhaps the most fundamental one, is execution, and that begins with market research. Failing to invest enough time in researching the potential success of that idea, misinterpreting the results, and using inaccurate data to forecast demand can wound a business critically.

Keep in mind that although a great idea may be the seed of success, only the seeds that are planted in rich soil and favorable conditions grow into full-fledged fruit-bearing trees.

3. Targeting a Tiny Niche Market to Avoid Competition

So many entrepreneurs are guilty of trying to play it safe by targeting a marginal niche to avoid competition. The returns may not be as high as they would probably want, but that is a compromise they are willing to make in order to enjoy a bit of security.

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This huge misconception has the potential to cause panic in future and eventually make the entire startup collapse. The truth is, competition simply cannot be avoided without avoiding good ideas. Every novel idea, when successful, inspires a dozen more entrepreneurs to imitate it with the hope of reaping similar rewards.

If you come up with a great idea and superb business plan, competition is inevitable. There is no point in running away from it, and choosing a small or obscure niche is certainly not going to help. Therefore, execute your idea, build your startup, aggressively chase success, and brace yourself for competition.

If you are offering great products or services to your customers, your competitors will have a tough time snatching them from you. Have faith in your idea and ability to execute it well, and stop letting the fear of competition restrict you to a tiny corner of a massive market that is waiting to be captured.

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4. Letting Perfection Get in the Way of Progress

A lot of entrepreneurs are so obsessed with attaining perfection from the get-go that they completely take their eyes off progress, which really should be the primary focus during the infancy stage. The premature quest for perfection can cause paralysis and hinder progress, which in turn can effectively choke a business to death. It’s important to realize that in order to walk, a child must first learn to crawl.

Just being average is not good enough for a lot of startups, and rightly so. But they really need to look at the internal and external conditions, and then decide if it’s the right time to step on the gas pedal and accelerate towards greatness. If they accelerate too early, they face the risk of bringing their progress to a halt due to lack of available resources or missing out on excellent opportunities.

In order to ensure a steady and healthy growth of your business, you must conduct a cost versus benefit analysis of your activities. This would help you prioritize. Wasting too much time and resources on elements that are great for business but not integral for its survival and growth is bound to prove toxic without proper planning and assessment. You need to measure your startup’s success in terms of progress, not perfection.

Featured photo credit: JD Lasica via flickr.com

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Tayyab Babar

Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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