Advertising

3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

Advertising
3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

In my freshman year of college (2007), my friends and I wanted to start a magazine publishing company aptly named DTO (Defying The Odds) Publishing. We had a great idea for a local periodical that would give out fitness advice and integrate coupons and ad space from local businesses. This was all pre-iPad, so don’t judge me. We were hyped and to this day, I think it would have worked with the correct follow through. We had nothing but free time and the university had even offered to let us use their printing press, there was really nothing standing in our way.. I think one of the media directors had a “thing” for me. It was a slam dunk.

We never even published our first article.

When I think about the epic fall-apart, I cringe and I get the prickles on the back of my neck. The kind of prickles mixed with face-palm and a little bit of shame. We even had a logo designed. It’s somewhere in the deep netherworld of my hard drive sobbing uncontrollably and I can’t bear to look at it.

So what happened to DTO? It crashed and burned brilliantly, of course.

Were we just a bunch of lazy jackasses lacking ambition and business smarts? No, we weren’t. But we did make some major start-up mistakes that we couldn’t take back.

Here are the big mistakes you’re up against and the solutions to turn them around fast.

think about in the shower

    Start-Up Mistake # 1: You never learn “idea incubation”

    Being the naive 19 year olds that we were, we thought one way to start our business would be to take a trip to the local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) to get some solid advice on what steps to implement next.

    What a mistake!

    The SBDC office in Tampa is pretty convincing. It’s located in a big glass building overlooking the water on the top floor — quite authoritative. It’s filled with little offices that say “Joe Schmoe, Super-smart MBA” on the glass door. So we set up our appointment with one of the consultants to talk about our magazine and he proceeded to pull out books, charts and graphs on the publishing industry that demonstrated precisely what we feared the most: we were going to fail.

    Every graph had a downward trend, every expense report was in the red. He all but said “There’s nothing you can do to make this work.” Right then and there, based on someone else’s opinion of my business model, I mentally began packing up shop.

    Looking back on the situation, I can’t believe I gave up that easily. I assumed that somebody with “credentials” and my apparent best interests in mind was worth listening to.

    Start-up entrepreneurs have tough exteriors, but we’re fragile on the inside. We are scared and when it comes down to it, we’re often subconsciously looking for a reason why our idea won’t work because many of us don’t believe in our heart of hearts that we are worthy of success. In the baby stages of your idea, before it’s fully developed and walking by itself, it’s extremely easy to become discouraged and give up.

    Don’t.

    This is the period of time when you need to be letting your idea incubate.

    The High Leverage solution:

    I know you’re excited about your idea…and although I don’t know you, I’m excited for you too. For all I know, you could be the love child of Zuckerberg and Jobs. Kind of gross to think about, but kind of cool.

    Either way, I’m sure you have a great idea. Too bad the idea itself worthless.

    “What do you mean by worthless, Daniel? I thought you told me I was smart and creative…wahhh!”

    Relax. Your idea is worthless because an idea unexecuted remains just that: an idea. Only executed ideas have value in the start-up world. An idea has to be born to actually grow up.

    Think of your your mind as a womb and your initial idea as the small collection of cells called a zygote (dork alert) that will eventually multiply and create the fetus. Those idea cells need the right conditions to grow, or else, no fetus. After that, the fetus needs time to develop to turn into the infant that will eventually be your business and once your idea is born, it will continue to grow with the help of resources outside of you. It will start walking, you’ll teach it to ride a bike and it will grow up. Maybe if you’re lucky, it will even take care of you in your old age. That was a gross and convoluted metaphor, but I hope it made sense.

    What happens if you deliver a baby before it’s ready to come out? Premature babies are often too weak to survive on their own. There’s a higher mortality rate. I was a “preemie” and I have the tube scars on my chest to prove that being born too early is a hard road. Feel bad for me.

    Advertising

    The key to giving birth to a healthy baby (or idea) is incubation.

    No matter how excited you are with your idea, your task is to incubate it for as long as you need to in order to make sure that you can deliver it successfully. Let some of the complex ideas and questions bouncing around in your head settle down and simplify. Get some answers for yourself so that when others (friends, family, ‘experts’) inevitably try to poke holes in what you’re doing (and, oh, will they ever) – you have the confidence to either respond to them without completely crumbling or you realize that their objections are completely unwarranted.

    Incubation isn’t a new phenomenon. Some of the most successful start-ups have been born from incubation programs that give them the resources and time needed to develop before releasing them out into the dangerous, predatory market of competition and public scrutiny. Y Combinator and Techstars both have incubation programs that nurse fledgling ideas until they are big and strong – and look at the marked difference in failure rate between those programs and first year start-ups without the period of incubation.

    http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2011/11/03/infographic-college-or-incubator-for-startup-founders/

      Source:xconomy.com

      In some cases, start-ups incubated at Techstars were 600% more likely to succeed than other first year businesses. 600 percent. Pretty overwhelming evidence for coddling your fledgling idea.

      Now, to be clear, you don’t need to be in one of these programs to greatly increase your chances of success. Incubate your ideas, strengthen them in your head, flesh them out in your mind, refine them and find their true voice. Find your market, research the hell out of your competition and learn what people really want rather than assuming that you already know. Become painfully aware of the effort your endeavor will entail.

      Talking to others about our ideas too soon will expose them before they are ready. Play it close to the chest, give yourself time to refine, then start bringing them into fruition.

      Incubate, then act.

      Start-Up Mistake #2: You keep #$%&ing up your social media marketing

      Some would be entrepreneurs want to start a new website any time they think of a good idea. They get all juiced about it, then start flinging their crap all over social media like a chimp on heat.

      “Follow me, ‘LIKE’ me, look what I did, check this out!”

      I could kill myself every time I get a notification like this. I’m going to kill you if I see you sending notifications out asking me to check out your new site. I’m unfriending all of you!

      Here’s the thing, it’s important to have a social media presence. Sure, let people know you’re alive…let them know what you’re working on. But let’s face it, there are two very sad realities about your social media network:

      Nobody is listening to you and nobody cares.

      Even your mom doesn’t really care. She’s just humoring you.

       “Oh there Daniel goes, being mean again.”

      I’m not being mean, I’m just being honest. Social media is great as a way to talk to people, but it’s also a huge ego machine. We’ve designed social media as a collective mirror so that we can determine how people feel about us.

      We want to leverage social media to expose our ideas to new markets and connect with people we wouldn’t typically have the opportunity to connect with. Problem is, it’s usually the same 10% of people responding to us every time we post. If you have 1,000 friends on Facebook, you probably have 25 that actually like you enough to check up on you, 15 that you actually talk to and 5-10 who will actually take the time to check out your business.

      And all of this is your fault.

      Sad, but true. Luckily, there’s a way to fix it.

      The High Leverage Solution

      So am I saying social media is useless? Isn’t that completely counter-intuitive to the current trends in marketing right now that say strong social presence is actually a key component to successful start-ups?

      Advertising

      Well….yes and no.

      Social media is useless for your business if it’s just your mom, your friends from college and your dog looking at your updates.nYes, I know people who make profiles for their dogs. Very, very lonely people.

      Essentially, the friends you already have aren’t going to give you the feedback you need to grow. They’re going to like almost everything you put out. You need unbiased perspectives. Social media is only useful when you can leverage it one and two levels outside of your immediate social group and start building relationships with people that you don’t know directly, but who may still know of you through a mutual friend (or friend-of-a-friend).

      This one-off relationship creates social proof.

      What exactly is social proof? My friend, you ask excellent questions. You’ve been controlled and coerced by social proof most of your life, even if you weren’t aware of it.

       “No, it’s not that fast. You’ll be fine.”

       “Don’t worry about it, we’re all skipping. They told us we could.”

      “No, you can’t get pregnant the first time. I learned it in health class.”

       “Smoke this, you’ll like it. My friends and I smoke it all the time.”

      Any of these sound familiar? The last two definitely NEVER happened to me.

      Social proof is a form of peer pressure that we leverage on each other with the basic premise that if one person or a group of people that you know have done something, you should/can/might do that thing too. Of course, when we grow up we become immune to this type of dollar store trick psychology, right?

      Hell no!

      Don’t believe me? Just ask The Nielsen Company. They’ve been tracking what people do, buy and watch in a really creepy big brother way for over 88 years – and they’ve gotten freaky good at it. They found that 90% of people “completely” or “somewhat” trusted recommendations from people that they know. Talk about pre-qualification and peer pressure.

      trust_in_advertising

        Source: The Nielsen Company

        Social proof is alive and well. Social media is the best way to leverage it, but like I said, you have to be able to break out of your immediate circle and stop begging for praise from your friends who’d tell you that your retarded stick figure sketches are masterpieces.

        How do you break out of your immediate sphere of influence and affect people who can actually help build your business?

        Positioning. You need expert positioning.

        People want to follow experts, gurus and authoritative figures. They don’t want your opinions, they want your educated insights as a thought leader. So the first step is to start referring to yourself as a leader. Dan Zarella did an interesting study on the relationship between authoritative key words in Twitter bios and follower number.

        guru_followers

          Source: Dan Zarella

          Advertising

          Note all the words indicate expertise. Titles like “official”, “founder”, “speaker”, “expert”, “guru” and “author” all tell people:

           “Hi, listen to me. I’m smarter than you.”

          And you know us humans. We love to be led by smart people. So start leading. Whatever your start-up is, one of these titles probably applies to you. Use it.

          What Would MLK Jr. Do (on social media)…?

          In the same context as assuming a leadership-worthy title, you also must begin speaking like a leader. As it turns out, true leaders don’t spend 140 characters yammering about themselves. Leaders create valuable content for people to learn from and give direction to their field.

          Think about what the term “thought leader” really means. A thought leader says:

          “you already know me and what I’m about. I’m a _____ (insert above authoritative Twitter bio words). Here’s what you should be doing if you want to achieve similar results.”

          If I ever need to tweak the context or voice of my social media interaction, I just think of Martin Luther King Jr.

          I ask WWMLKD? Imagine two hypothetical tweets from the 1963 march on Washington:

          @MLKjr: Dammit, my feet are killing me. It’s so hot out here, I got those #PitStains going on. Hope @CorettaScott got something good for me to eat when I get home.

          or….

          @MLKjr: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Here’s an article for my followers to consider [insert link].

          Now, which tweet communicates more power and authority? Which is more focused on creating value? Which one do you care about more? Which MLK jr. are you more likely to follow.

          Notice that tweet number 1 might have actually been what he was feeling at the time, but it comes off very “me-centered” and selfish. Tweet 2, on the other hand, is a carefully crafted message that communicates the ideas of a thought leader. Incidentally, it’s actually a real quote from a letter that MLK wrote as well. Hmm, maybe he was on to something. We all need to adhere to the etiquette of tweet 2.

          Engaging social media in the context of a thought leader does two things:

          •  First, it stops you from looking like a flaming Will-Ferrell-in-Anchorman douchebag.
          •  Second, it makes you relatable and likeable by showing that you genuinely want to contribute to society for a reason outside of your gigantic ego stroking addiction.

          It’s a true win-win.

          Zarella found another gem that proves follower count CLEARLY drops as self-referential tweets increase. Interesting. This scientifically proves that people don’t care about what you ate for breakfast. They care about how your information can help them grow and move their lives forward. Be a leader in tone and context by helping them to do that.

          Next time you get a case of the “me, me me’s”, think about this:

          self_ref

            Source: Dan Zarella

            Start-Up Mistake #3: you’re still trying to “network” like a jerk

            Here’s the thing about other people: we need them. You can’t build a business on your own and the success of your business largely depends on the quality of people it attracts. So you need to be diligent in attracting the right people to build your network.

            Advertising

            Before we dive into this one, let’s talk a little about the term “networking” — what it IS and what it IS NOT.

            • Networking is NOT friending or following people on social media.
            • Networking is NOT meeting someone and immediately trying to leverage them in some way.
            • Networking is not joining some business club with a bunch of wannabe’s in a circle jerk trying to generate leads together after a $699 initiation fee.
            • Networking…unfortunately, is not always fast.

            We all know that we have to network in order to build our businesses. However, if I told you to go out and do it…you probably wouldn’t be able to. It’s not a linear process.

            And that’s OK.

            The Mistake

            The truth is, networking simply for the sake of networking is just creepy and unnatural because of the implied message if gives off to other people:

            “Hey, I don’t know you from jack…but I was hoping that you’d be comfortable enough to give me your advice and hook me up with all your closest personal and business connections. Also, my name is Daniel.”

            Would that motivate you to whip out your little black book and give me the hook up?

            A big, fat HELL NO.

            Yet that’s the implicit message sent when we network simply to enhance our business. It often comes off as self-serving.

            Stop it.

            Stop forcing unnatural interaction with others in your industry with an underhanded ulterior motive. It’s not cute (and they know you’re doing it).

            The High Leverage Solution

            So what is the correct way to network and enhance your positioning without becoming a leech?

            The temptation is to think of yourself like a central server in the middle of a bunch of nodes — all of them receiving your information, and with the right combination of signals from you, doing what you want them to do.

            Try this instead:

            Rather than thinking about yourself at the center of the nodes, think of yourself as a node among fellow nodes, with no central hub — just an endless connection of (mostly) friendly compatriots. You’re all working to pass information along, and it goes both ways. You’re all connected on an equal plane, without trying to gain advantage or hoard resources from one another.

            Your goal here is to make friends, not just connections.

            To really get yourself in this mindset, you have to start asking different questions. Rather than “how can this person help me?”, it’s much more useful in the long run to actively seek out people to help and ask “how can I serve this person benevolently?”

            Besides the fact that JFK would be quite proud of you, the the cool part about this paradigm is that your initial act of service doesn’t have to be huge to justify a huge return later.

            The effects of obligation, reciprocity and compliance have all been well documented. As a part maintaining of social norms, people will go to extreme lengths to return a favor (even one that was not asked for) — regardless of whether they actually like the person or not — as demonstrated in an experiment by Cornell psychologist Dennis Regan in 1971.

            Regan had subjects believe they were in an “art appreciation” experiment with a partner, who was really Regan’s assistant. In the experiment the assistant would disappear for a two-minute break and bring back a soft drink for the subject. After the art experiment was through, the assistant asked the subject to buy raffle tickets from him. In the control group the assistant behaved in exactly the same manner, but did not buy the subject a drink. The subjects who had received the favor, a soft drink, bought more raffle tickets than those in the control group despite the fact that they hadn’t asked for the drink to begin with. Regan also had the subjects fill out surveys after they finished the experiment and found that whether they personally liked the assistant or not had no effect on how many tickets they bought. One problem of reciprocity, however, focuses on the unequal profit obtained from the concept of reciprocal concessions. The emotional burden to repay bothers some more than others, causing some to overcompensate with more than what was given originally. In the Regan study, subjects paid more money for the tickets than the cost of the (un-requested) soft drink.

            According to the study, most participants actually felt obligated to give back more than they were given simply because they were given a gift. Interesting. Now, to be clear, you want to use these psychological tendencies for good, not evil. Approach people bearing genuine goodwill, offering to help them achieve something. More than likely it will be returned to you. So really dig deep on what you have to offer, then give it everything you have.

            Soon you’ll have a bunch of genuine friends rather than business acquaintances. With a bunch of friends helping you to pay it forward and working to see you succeed, there will be no need to “network” ever again.

            Advertising

             

            More by this author

            Worry Is a Vicious Murderer Hacking Elance: How I Made Over $20,000 in 4 Weeks Doing Web Design Notes to a Discontented Generation Y 3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

            Trending in Work

            1 12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore 2 How To Stay Motivated As You Build Your Business 3 12 Super Productivity Secrets Every Entrepreneur Must Know 4 How to Stay Safe And Healthy in the Workplace During the Pandemic 5 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2022

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on January 27, 2022

            12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

            Advertising
            12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

            Nine out of 10 foreign workers are satisfied with working in Singapore, a recent governmental survey reports. Being ranked best for numerous criteria from best intellectual property protection laws to the easiest country to do business in, Singapore also receives a bunch of accolades for the overall quality of life, top education standards and efficient medical system, ranking the nation as the healthiest in the world. So, what exactly makes the City of Lions such an impeccable place to start your career or relocate your business? Here are just 12 reasons why you should consider doing it!

            1. Singapore ranks second as the most globalized economy in the world

            The Global Competitiveness Report 2014 – 2015 named Singapore as the world’s second prospering economy. By defining “competitiveness” as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country, the report claims to be the most authoritative assessment of the country’s prosperity and well-being. What does that mean for you and me? High wages, low unemployment rate, excellent work conditions and nourishing business development and investment climate.

            2. Salaries are extremely lucrative

            As the economy is booming, Singapore companies are hungry to acquire overseas specialists, offering top salaries and lucrative benefit packages to attract highly-skilled workers and talents. With a median salary of 3.500$ per month, software engineers can earn up to 72.000$ annually, whereas general practitioners usually receive around 80.000$ per year, according to PayScale. Elementary school teachers earn around 34.000$ per year and working as a waitress part time will bring you around 1100$ per month.

            Advertising

            3. Progressive personal tax system

            Calculating and paying taxes in Singapore is extremely easy and usually takes around 30 seconds to submit your online tax return. If you already obtained a residence permit, your personal taxes in Singapore range from 0% if you earn less than S$ 22.000 per year to 20% for incomes above S$ 320,000. Non-residents are expected to pay a flat rate of 15% from all income gained in Singapore. In addition, all of your earnings gained overseas and brought to the country are not subjected to any taxes.

            4. Getting a work/residence permit is really easy…

            With a population of only five million, and dropping fertility rates, Singapore is highly interested in acquiring new residence and labor force to boost the country’s economy to soaring heights. If you already have a job offer secured, applying for a work permit would take only a few clicks on the governmental website and you will know the outcome within just one day. No lines, no paper bureaucracy and no huge list of supportive documents or blankly stated requirements. Their entire procedure is even simpler if you are a business owner wishing to relocate your business to Singapore, or a start-up entrepreneur wishing to develop your company within the island. You are likely to receive your work permit for a longer term, plus the renewal process is fast and simple. Residence permits are usually issued along with your work permit for the same period of time.

            5. …And the same with permanent residence status

            If you have lived and worked in Singapore for over a year and enjoyed your experience, you can start considering applying for a permanent resident card. Again, the whole process can be done online without much hassle or paperwork involved. Among the factors of a successful outcome, expats name young age (below 50), educational background (degrees obtained in Singaporean universities will earn you extra points), the industry you work in (again extra points to those who are involved in scientific research and working with innovative technologies), and your ability to speak one of the four languages. The processing time does take up to six months.

            Advertising

            6. The adaptation process goes easy

            As English in the main working language you won’t experience the dreaded language barrier. The local society is an absolute melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and British cultures with 42% of population being foreigners. There is a huge amount of expat communities and meet-ups, restaurants serving awesome foods from all over the world, and imported goods you are used to buying back at home. As expats say, “Singaporeans are generally very comfortable with diversity and have been very welcoming to foreigners” with rare case of racism or religion discrimination occurring. There are numerous international and English schools available, along with pre-school daycare centers, so your kids won’t experience much troubles either when changing environments.

            7. Top notch higher education

            If at any stage you feel like lacking relevant educational background or certain skills to get a promotion, you should consider getting a degree in one of the six Singapore universities. National University of Singapore currently ranks number one in Asia and 22nd in the world offering degrees in Arts, Law, Medicine, Computer Sciences, Public Policy and nearly any other profession in demand. Tuition fees for undergraduate programs range from S$ 28.600 to S$ 129,200 for medical degrees. However, all students (foreign or resident) can apply for governmental grants and tuition aid, cutting down the costs by 50%, as currently around 20% of government spendings go into education. If you are aiming at a top executive position, getting an MBA in Singapore will cost you S$ 58,000 full-time or part-time.

            8. It takes three days to open a business

            Being ranked #1 for the ease of doing businesses by World Bank consequently for seven (!!!) years, starting your business in Singapore is easy and fast indeed. The whole process is done online and your registration will be deemed completed within a few hours after you pay a registration fee of the S$65. Afterwards, you can either refer for further assistance to ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) offering you a huge selection of agencies and providers to handle all your business needs – from business start-up services to preparing all the documents for your annual returns.

            Advertising

            9. Singapore is rated #1 as the best labor force in the world

            As your business grows and you feel it is time to expand, hiring new professional team won’t be much of a struggle. With expats and work migrants flooding the market, local labors are known for their effectiveness, strong work ethics and superb educational profiles. Filling in top executives and managerial positing will not be a problem either as the share of high-skilled professionals with relevant background rose from 27% in 2003 to 31% in 2013. Moreover, 25% of residents reported to have worked for the same company for 10 years, which means less personnel changes and headhunting.

            10. Low crime rates and zero corruption

            Currently ranked the 5th least corrupted country in the world, Singapore surpassed a long chain of reforms and law enforcement practices on the road to a bribe-free society. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has kept an eye on matters since 1952 and tries all cases according to strict Singapore laws with long-term jail sentences and huge fines up to S$ 100,000. Same goes towards any sort of crimes–even minor offenses are treated with extreme severity. Think: three months of jail and three hard cane strokes for painting graffiti on a war memorial. When living and working in Singapore you don’t need to worry about your belongings getting stolen, nor your life threatened. Besides, you don’t need to have any sort of “special connections” to do business and get through all the legal and bureaucratic procedures.

            11. You can become a millionaire in less than 10 years

            According to a recent report issued by Boston Consulting Group, over one half of wealthy Singaporeans accumulated the majority of their wealth in less than 10 years. That’s the quickest growing rate in the world. Now, Singapore boasts one of the highest millionaires’ density in the world with 8.8% of the population having assets over one million US dollars. The phenomenon exists due to the ease of doing businesses in Singapore, advantageous location with easy access to nearby booming markets of India, Indonesia and Malaysia and quick implementation of progressive new technologies.

            Advertising

            12. Absolute political stability

            Obviously, your business and you as an employee do not exist in a vacuum and are highly dependent on governmental policies and law-making. The Singaporean government is known for conducting open and fair policy towards constantly introducing new laws, tax relieves, and regulations to enhance the countries’ business environment even more. With the People Action’s Party forming the majority in Parliament since 1965, Singapore has a very stable and orderly government indeed.

            Featured photo credit: Larry Teo via unsplash.com

            Read Next