What a difference only a few years makes. If someone came up to me on the street when I was in my twenties and asked me, “What are you doing with your life, Andy?” I probably would’ve laughed, swore at them for no reason, and texted my dealer to see when I could get my next fix.
I lived with one sole agenda during that earlier, darker period of my life when drugs and alcohol were all that mattered to me, and I didn’t care who I had to hurt along the way. I was cold and mean to them all: family, friends, and even just strangers. And as I slowly realized what I’d done with these relationships as well as with my career, I only turned to these substances more and more. Meth and alcohol were all that I looked for, day in and day out. I hit rock bottom with zero when, in 2003, I was locked up on drug charges and spent the next two years wasting away in prison.
But it wasn’t all for nothing. In prison, I was able to get support through a the Alcoholics Anonymous chapter, and this process allowed me to practice the 12 Principles of Recovery. This was truly the beginning of a new life for me. After getting out of prison, I enrolled in an web development course at the behest of a mentor, and I dived into it with all my effort. After a few months in the program I had regained enough of my self-esteem to run with my new passion and start a venture of my own.
And I’ve never looked back since. Sure, running a startup comes with its good days and its bad days, but I’m really happy to be channelling my efforts toward something productive, compared to what I was doing only a handful of years before.
In this new life I live, I get genuinely energized and inspired by learning and practicing what it takes to run my own business. And it’s a better feeling than I used to feel when I was abusing drugs and alcohol with people who I thought were friends.
Staying substance-free is my personal battle every day, and it’s taught me a lot about how to run a small business of my own. It’s given me a number of things that someone running a startup should avoid if they want their business to succeed.
So, in this post, I want to share with you 5 common mistakes that you should watch out for as you’re running your own startup.
Thinking You Can Do It All By Yourself
It takes a hell of a lot of personal motivation and drive to decide to run your own startup. If you don’t have an insane amount of confidence in yourself you’ll be struggling to make even the most simple decisions that every business owner must on a daily basis. If you run a startup, you’re your own advocate and I bet barely a day goes by without you convincing at least three other people of that fact.
But you can’t do it alone. You simply won’t make it.
Without the support for young, aspiring developers in the early 2000s, we wouldn’t even know of startups that are common household names today, like Facebook and Twitter. Nobody did it by his or herself.
In my case, my mom was the hero in my life who pulled me out of my daily nightmare of drug and alcohol abuse, and she also provided me with my first bit of seed funding when I designed a business plan for my own startup.
Successful entrepreneurs have great ideas and a great will to act on them. But if you’re pulling a series of all-nighters to make sure you keep up with all you need to do, something’s not working. This mentality can be unhealthy very quickly, and your business will not thrive because of it. Reach out to a friend, hire an employee (even just part time), and begin to surround yourself with other people who share your passion. You won’t regret it.
Missing Out On Taking Good Risks
As someone who has suffered from drug abuse, there are a number of ways that risk has brought pain and suffering in my life. Friendships I’ve lost due to my substance addiction, family relationships that I’ve ruined, and wasting too many years of my life with substances—there are countless examples of my risking everything for a quick high.
Risk in the business world, though, shouldn’t be avoided completely. In fact, whether it works out or not, the process of taking a good risk is absolutely necessary. If you need to take a loan to expand your product offerings or hire a few employees to directly rival a competitor, you could be taking a risk. And this could be what puts your startup in the red for the next month or two.
Building my business from the ground up, I’ve learned through making many decisions that a good founder of a startup must embrace good risks if they want to have a chance at making it big. Just don’t throw it all away like I did almost ten years ago, for some simple thrill.
Setting Too Many Goals and Working Toward Them All
I talk to other people who are just beginning to run their own business all the time, and I hear a lot of the same complaints. “I know there are so many things I need to do, Andy, but I just don’t know what to focus on.” With the mountains of work, daily email correspondence with clients, employee training and communication, and the many online distractions that we’re all susceptible to, it makes sense how it may seem like there is no end in sight. That sentiment is shared by so many founders.
And if you treat it like you need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with every aspect of your business, you will be stretched too thin, and you’ll get very little done at all.
Instead you should take at least a few hours over the course of a week to specifically define your goals for your latest project, whether its launching a new product line or expanding into a new market, and stick to these and these only.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” ladies and gentlemen, and you building your startup in a careful and calculated way is the best way for your business to start small, do what it does best, and grow into something bigger and extremely successful.
Forgetting About Self-Care
With all the long nights of work while at the same time trying to cut back on excessive spending, working out and eating healthy may seem wasteful and counterproductive to your immediate goals. This mindset needs to change. Fast.
After destroying my mind and body with drugs and alcohol during my younger years, I feel that I can speak personally to the absolute importance of avoiding this mistake. While in prison, I turned to hours in the weight room mostly just to get my mind of the boredom of the place and deal with withdrawals. It turned out to become so much more for me.
After a month or so, I was working out consistently, and I began to feel so much better. With my mind cleared and my muscles aching, I knew that I was finally taking care of myself for once. And staying in shape, along with eating right, is still my daily escape when running my own business just gets too stressful.
I hope that my story and my experiences can help you avoid some of the common mistakes that I made when I was first leaping into running my own business. It’s been a long road to recovery for me, but I’d learned so much that I apply to my own business since day 1.
If you want your startup to not just succeed but completely thrive, you need to stop thinking that you don’t need any help from others, missing out on taking good risks, setting too many goals and wearing yourself out, and forgetting to lead a healthy lifestyle outside of the office. I wish you and your business the best in its next few months. It’s an exciting time to be a founder, and I trust that you’ll take the right steps you need—and avoid the common reasons why startups fail.
Do you have any other essential mistakes that someone running their own startup should hear? I’d love to read your thoughts, so please leave a comment below with any others tips you have.