Top Startup Mistakes: Going it Alone

I post tons of helpful articles from around the web to help answer questions for my followers. People often write in asking me to elaborate on pieces of those articles so I’ve started a series to do just that. I recently posted an article from Entrepreneur about common mistakes people make when launching a new company. The next of those big mistakes: thinking you can do everything on your own. 

New entrepreneurs often see their new business as their baby and they want to be the one that cares for that business baby and helps it grow. They have trouble giving up control of anything, taking others’ opinions to heart, or asking for help when needed. However, just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” so the saying goes, it takes more than one person to build a company.

If you’re trying to build a high growth startup, the research shows that companies with 2 or 3 founders have the best chance for success, much higher than the success rate for those who try to go it alone, and whether you have co-founders or just plan to build your own small business, there are going to be things you don’t know, things you need help with, and stuff you’re just simply not that good at. One of the biggest mistakes that new entrepreneurs make is trying to do everything alone.

I’m all for bootstrapping and, as a total control freak, I can completely relate to the urge to try to do everything yourself. When your desire to go it alone starts to harm your business, however, you have to take a step back and learn to let go and ask for help. So how do you know if you should become a solopreneur or seek out a co-founder and how do you tell what you should tackle yourself and what you should delegate?

First of all, figure out if you have the necessary skills to build a business. If something is going to be fundamental to your business model and you can’t do it yourself, it’s probably better that you find a partner to work with instead of outsourcing. It’s important that the foundation of your company’s success rest on the shoulders of others who are equally as invested in that success as you are. A contractor simply doesn’t have the same commitment to your project as a partner would, no matter how excellent and professional he or she may be. Having a logo made is not fundamental to your business and can be outsourced but if your business’ success rests on intimate knowledge of pollywogs, for example, you should have someone on the team with intimate knowledge of pollywogs. If you need some advice for how to choose an appropriate co-founder, check out my old video on precisely that.

Now that you’ve decided if you’re going it alone or you’ve found your perfect partner, you’re still going to have to decide what should be outsourced and what should be tackled. Hopefully, you’ve built a team whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other, so you should have a pretty clear idea of who is in charge of what: someone’s building your software while you’re handling company growth or vice-versa. Within your own realm of responsibility, however, there are still going to be some things you shouldn’t be doing yourself. Here’s where you need to evaluate your time commitments, your skills and efficiency with certain projects, and your strategy.

Firstly, you’ll want to sort everything that needs to be done and everything that should be done into various categories. Start with must do, should do, and could do. Then sort those same items into high ROI, medium ROI, and low or no ROI. Sort those same items again into things that you’re great at, things that you’re okay at, and things that you’re terrible at or don’t have a clue how to do. Lastly, sort the items into things that you love to do, things that you don’t mind doing, and things that you hate doing. Now go back through the items and indicate how many hours per week will need to be devoted to each.

Once you’ve done all of this categorization, you’ll probably already start to see what you need to do to determine what should be outsourced and what you should tackle yourself. Starting with those items that have a high ROI, must be done, you’re great at, and you love to do, begin making a list of the things you’ll be responsible for each week. When you run out of hours that you can work, anything left must be delegated. Additionally, anything in the “you’re terrible at it” or “low to no ROI” categories should either be eliminated or outsourced. It makes no sense for you to spend hours on something that either doesn’t need to be done at all or could be done in an hour by an employee or contractor.

Remember, trying to go it alone and never asking for help is a huge mistake that leads to failure for all too many entrepreneurs. Don’t fall into the trap.

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3 Replies to “Top Startup Mistakes: Going it Alone”

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