"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new," Albert Einstein famously remarked.
Einstein's words ring true for all of us, but nobody understands this better than entrepreneurs. The process of creating your own business is an arduous one, and even the most successful entrepreneurs will face some missteps along the way.
That's why I sought out the advice of 3 accomplished self-made CEOs -- all of whom are slated to present in New York at LeadsCon, from August 22 to 24 -- to divulge the most common business blunders that they've observed, both with their clients and with themselves.
1. Not enough planning. Greg Gragg, CEO of Gragg Advertising, cites lack of planning as the top business mistake that he sees again and again. "[Entrepreneurs] tend to outline goals without knowing how to get there mathematically," he says -- which can bear devastating consequences for the future of their business.
The fix: Gragg acknowledges that entrepreneurs have to be able to think about big-picture ideas, but stresses the importance of not getting lost in la-la land. "Be meticulous and calculated," he says, "and identify each step along the way to achieving your goals." Doing so will ensure that your goals are realistic and scalable, and won't get stuck permanently in the realm of abstract ideas.
2. An arrogant attitude. To Gragg, an arrogant attitude is as problematic as lack of planning -- and it's a quality that he sees all too often in the world of business and entrepreneurship. "Too many entrepreneurs think they're the answer to everything, and don't listen to their team," Gragg explains. Failure to innovate and collect value from others is a sure-fire way to ensure your business is doomed.
The fix: It's important to make sure your voice isn't the only one that's being heard. Collaborate with your team: even larger companies should help their employees feel valued. To that end, Gragg hosts quarterly "town hall" meetings within his agency, where all employees are free to openly discuss their thoughts and ideas.
3. Focusing on the end result instead of the process. To Chris Goward, CEO of WiderFunnel and author of You Should Test That, it's not about the destination, but rather the journey. In today's rapidly evolving marketing landscape, it's outdated to view marketing efforts as a single campaign or project with one end goal: doing so can blind you to valuable insights that you can pick up along the way.
The fix: Opt for a dynamic, rather than static, approach to marketing. "It's more effective to view marketing as an ongoing stream of optimization cycles," he says. That way, you can constantly tweak your marketing efforts, creating an ongoing dialogue with customers -- instead of locking yourself into a single idea.
4. Siloing different disciplines. Silos have their place, but it's on a farm -- not in your marketing strategy. There are a plethora of specialists in today's marketing world (e.g., brand marketers, analytical marketers, content marketers, paid search marketers, etc.), but that doesn't mean they can't collaborate. In fact, Goward has seen that compromised communication between different marketing disciplines can slow marketing efforts to a standstill.
The fix: In Goward's experience, when it comes to marketing, the whole is more powerful than the sum of its parts. "The best marketers are able to bridge the divide between different disciplines," he says. Therefore, entrepreneurs and business owners should make it a priority to facilitate communication between departments, to ensure that your marketing strategy features input from a diverse range of perspectives.
5. Unwillingness to invest in technology. As the Managing Partner of Higher Ed Growth, which provides marketing and lead generation for educational institutions, Joe Laskowski has invested plenty of time and money in marketing technology. Rather than investing in powerful, cutting-edge technology, Laskowski sees many companies looking for band-aid solutions that create more problems than they solve. "Without the appropriate technology in place, we're doing a disservice to the industry as a whole," he remarks.
The fix: Marketing technology is expensive -- but it's time to get over the sticker shock, because marketing technology is not a place to cut corners budget-wise. Thoroughly research which options are available to you, and accept that taking full advantage of advanced marketing technology will mean a substantial investment in both time and money. "The companies that excel in technology are doing really well," Joe notes, "whereas those that don't are finding themselves in a very awkward position."
6. Viewing relationships as transactions. Though Laskowski is a big believer in the power of technology, he views personal relationships -- both internally and externally -- as the most important component of his business. However, he finds that many organizations don't share this value, treating their clients and employees as numbers rather than humans. Doing so results in turned-off clients and unmotivated employees.
The fix: When it comes to interacting with clients, not even the best software can replicate the human touch. "The best technology and processes will only take you so far. Positive working relationships have been instrumental in the growth of this business, and those relationships are mutually beneficial far more often than those that are transactional in nature," Laskowski says. As such, he urges entrepreneurs and business owners to be intentional about how they communicate with their clients and their staff, ensuring that they're not treating their relationships as transactions.
As these CEOs demonstrate -- and as any entrepreneur has experienced -- there are plenty of places where business owners can go wrong.
But the important thing is to view your errors as learning experiences instead of roadblocks. Gragg, Goward, and Laskowski surely faced many obstacles on their path to success, but they didn't let that stop them from forging onwards. After all, even Albert Einstein screws up every now and then.