I've watched a lot of entrepreneurs do brilliant things. And I've watched some entrepreneurs do completely stupid things.
I've detected some patterns. The consensus here is that there's no single difference that separates the losers from the winners. But there are several things that they do differently.
Here are the big mistakes that a lot of struggling entrepreneurs make.
1. They don't outsource anything.
You shouldn't do everything yourself. In fact, there's not a whole lot you should be doing. If you're still downloading Wordpress plugins, designing graphics in Canva and posting to Facebook then you're doing it wrong.
Smart entrepreneurs outsource everything but the actual leadership of their business.
2. They don't sleep.
Look, refusing yourself sleep is the equivalent of slow suicide. Stop it. If you want to feel smart, energized, alive, and crackling with creative power, start sleeping at least eight hours each night. Your business will thank you. You'll also feel ten times better every day.
3. They work too hard.
Yep. I think that failed entrepreneurs are working too hard. There's this traditional party line that only those who work hard will succeed.
Don't get me wrong. I work just as hard as the next guy. But that's because I love what I do. Successful entrepreneurs work smart, leveraging time and resources to build their empire. Go ahead and work hard if that's your jam, but don't forget to work smart.
4. They think that "time management" is the way to success.
Time management is a myth. Time will keep marching along, second by second, whether or not you're "prioritizing tasks," or "keeping a to-do list."
The real power is managing your mental energy, business resources, and killer ideas. The difference between a failed startup and a unicorn never lies in time management hacks.
5. They don't have an exit plan.
This one is huge. Why? Because if you can't envision the future of your business, then you won't function in in the present. Some entrepreneurs have a wispy dream of a faraway time when Google or Facebook will buy their startup for $100,000,000 and they will finally buy their MacLaren and live on Malibu Beach.
That's fine if you want to live in Malibu, but having a wispy dream is not the way to achieve it. Only by forging a solid plan for your business will you achieve the success you long for.
6. They don't have a mentor.
A mentor can help you to sidestep years of failure and frustration. He or she can steer you away from stupid decisions and time-wasting efforts. A mentor will show you what you should be doing, and tell you where you're messing up.
Basically, a mentor is like the entrepreneur's genie in a bottle. If you've been refusing mentorship because you "don't have time," or "don't need one," then please don't be surprised when you find yourself face-down in a failed startup.
7. They aren't networking.
What seems like a waste of time, but is actually one of the greatest time investments ever? It's networking. "Networking events" have always struck me as smarmy, salesy sessions attended by wannabes who were looking for easy clients or a date.
Eventually, I figured out a different way. Networking is a lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of helping to bear others' burdens, giving with no expectation of return, and sharing your personal and professional life with others. I didn't need to attend a "meetup" or "networking event" to make this happen. Today, I can thank the power of networking for many successful ventures that I've enjoyed.
8. They overspend on non-essentials, and underspend on the essentials.
Why do startups fail? A lot of times, startups throw money around without thinking about the ROI.
What are the non-essentials? An office. Aeron chairs. A lawyer on retainer. What's the ROI? You feel nice about having an office suite. But you don't need a freaking office suite. What you need is a viable business. Stop spending on the business's accoutrements, and start spending on the business essentials!
What are the essentials? Kick-ass talent. Killer SaaS. Choose to put your money in places that will build, grow and create a business.
9. They aren't working on their business. They're working in their business.
Many entrepreneurs are great at doing. They love to jump in and write code or design the details of a product. But if you get carried away with working in the business, you're losing the opportunity to work on your business.
Working on your business includes the big-picture stuff -- planning, dreaming and steering towards success..
Too much time spent in the weeds of a business will prevent you from leading your business to success.
10. They aren't self-educating.
I realized something pretty remarkable when I started studying entrepreneurship in earnest. I realized that most entrepreneurs are self-taught.
Bill Gates is famously recognized as an "autodidact, someone compelled to learn for himself what he needed to know." Other entrepreneurs devour books, seminars, online training, and specialized classes. If there is something they need to know, they will seek out the knowledge and master it.
If I had to generalize, I'd say that here is indeed a single thing that separates struggling entrepreneurs from the successful ones.
Struggling entrepreneurs hate what they do. Successful entrepreneurs love what they do.
Success is hard to come by when you despise what you're doing. If you're in love with your job and the whole adventure of entrepreneurship, then you're far more likely to succeed.
Once you find the excitement in that adventure, success shouldn't be far behind.
What are some of the differences that you've noticed between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs?