Every entrepreneur wants their business to succeed, but the sad reality is that only a fraction of startups last beyond the first two years of operations. You could start with a unique, valuable idea, and recruit a talented, motivated team, but even the best plans and perfect timing can’t make up for a lapse in leadership.
Catastrophes can happen to anyone — major lawsuits, sudden competition, critical failure at launch — but catastrophes are rarely the responsible force in a business’s failure or stagnation. Instead, it’s the cumulative effect of multiple bad habits, which manifest without your notice but gradually bring down the efficiency and momentum of your business.
Take the time to identify and eliminate these 10 bad entrepreneurial habits:
1. Focusing on too much at once. Entrepreneurship can be hectic, and at times, overwhelming. You’ll be playing lots of roles, handling lots of responsibilities, and coming up with new ideas daily. However, you have to narrow your focus on your biggest priorities, or else you’ll distribute your effort so thin, you’ll make no meaningful progress in any area.
2. Remaining too focused on one thing. It’s also possible to develop the opposite habit — focusing so hard on one goal, or one responsibility, that you totally neglect the other elements of your business. For example, you might be obsessed with having a “perfect launch,” but have you thought about what you’ll do in the months that unfold after the launch?
3. Delaying the creation of systems and processes. In the early days of development, most businesses are fairly relaxed. There are only a handful of workers, operating in a nondescript location, with only a handful of clients, and few rules dictating processes, behaviors, or hierarchies. It’s not fun to create rules, systems, and processes, but it is necessary if you want to scale.
4. Overpromising. When you’re a new business, you have a lot to prove, and if you want a chance at winning the best clients, you have to impress them by bending the truth and exaggerating your capacity, right? Wrong. Overpromising is a short-term solution for one problem that will cause more problems in the long-term. It’s far better to under-promise, then over-deliver, every time.
5. Not taking risks. Risk taking is a fundamental tenet of successful entrepreneurship. Starting a business itself is a risk — but you can’t stop there. Good companies don’t succeed by playing it safe and sticking to what they know; they’re always experimenting with new angles, new services, and more efficient approaches. Don’t let yourself become stagnant because you’re risk-averse.
6. Failing to delegate. It’s hard to let go of your responsibilities, especially when the business is your baby. You may cling to every task, big or small, out of a desire for perfection or just a loyal commitment to your own work, but you can’t do this forever. Learn to trust your teammates, and delegate efficiently — it’s the only way to bring the team together as a unified machine.
7. Micromanaging. Speaking of managing the team, resist the urge to micromanage your employees. Micromanagement breeds resentment, as it’s both a demonstration of distrust and an interference to healthy work patterns. While you’re at it, stop micromanaging other aspects of your business too; as an example, reviewing your site traffic every day isn’t going to help you see long-term trends.
8. Being reactive instead of proactive. This is a habit that kills businesses because it allows those catastrophes I mentioned in my introduction to happen. Reactive entrepreneurs plot a course and address challenges whenever they happen to come up; proactive entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for potential challenges, so they can overcome them before they ever become a problem.
9. Worrying too much about money. Yes, money is important — if you neglect your cash flow or profitability, your organization can collapse. However, money shouldn’t be your only objective. Focus on making the best possible product you can. Focus on inspiring your team. Focus on being the leader you always wished you had in your own life, or in your previous career.
10. Never taking time off. It’s no secret that most entrepreneurs are workaholics. We can’t help it — the more we work, the more progress we see. However, there’s a strict upper limit to how helpful this extra work can be. Work too hard, for too many days in a row, and it will start to wear on your physical and mental health.
Alone, these habits may not seem like much, but when repeated in conjunction with one another, ad infinitum, their destructive capacity can prevent your company from ever getting off the ground. The more proactive you are in noticing these habits, and the more determined you are in eliminating them, the better chance you’ll have at leading your business to long-term growth and profitability.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!