The one mistake entrepreneurs should avoid

By Desh Deshpande

(Editor’s note: This is Part-18 of the weekly video column with philanthropist and serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, with excerpts from his book “On Entrepreneurship and Impact.” This column appears every Monday.)

Desh Deshpande

A question often asked is –  “What is the most common mistake entrepreneurs make?”

When I reflected on this question, I could think of several mistakes most of us have made at some point as entrepreneurs but the ONE thing that most entrepreneurs need to be careful about is:

Trying to do too much.

Entrepreneurs don’t lack commitment. Most entrepreneurs are very committed. The problem is  they sometimes commit to too many things.

Let me double-click on this a little bit…

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are getting into entrepreneurship because they think it’s easy. The media is partly to blame for this. When someone reads a “rags to riches” story of entrepreneurs who have made it happen, it is bound to make a wantrepreneur think entrepreneurship must be easy. This is the wrong mindset to have, as you end up adding more to your plate than you can handle.

Entrepreneurship in general gets more complex every step of the way. As you start to tackle the tasks that you’ve taken on, there will always be a need for more resources, more time, and more money. This is a new feeling for a first time entrepreneur. When an entrepreneur runs out of resources the company ultimately fails.

How can you avoid this?

New entrepreneurs need to figure out how to match the amount of resources to the problem they are trying to solve. If the problem is under-resourced, you are guaranteed to fail due to…yes, you guessed it right –  the lack of resources.

Another important tip for new entrepreneurs is that you need to find your market. If customers come to you and say, “I’ll buy your product if you had X”, then you haven’t yet found your market. This also leads to the “trying to do too much” problem, because you end up trying to appease all of the customers by adding in the many different requested features.

Don’t confuse this with pivoting. It’s completely acceptable to pivot. If your company does “A”, and 10 people say you should be doing “B”, then it’s completely fine to pivot and stop doing “A”, and focus on “B”. The problem occurs when you try to do “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”, and you don’t have the resources to test the marketplace for all the features. It’s completely fine to change if many people request the SAME thing, but if you find yourself pulled in different directions to add 10 different things, then you have not yet focused your company on a viable product and market. You may need to further refine your idea or find another area where you can effectively serve your target customer and find your place as a company.

I want to leave you with one final piece of advice: don’t hedge your bets by trying too many things. As a small startup you need to be laser focused on your main value proposition. Big companies can afford to hedge their bets as they have the resources to do so. With limited resources, small startups should only focus on THE area that provides value and should not spread their limited resources too thinly over multiple areas.

In summary, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, don’t burn yourself out by doing too much at once. Focus on the most appropriate problem with the resources available to you, and magic will happen

 (About Desh Deshpande: During his entrepreneurial career spanning over three decades, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande has built several companies. He has injected his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship into a number of social impact initiatives in India, the USA and Canada. He has been recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments by many institutions including being named co-chair of President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He currently also serves as a Life Member of the MIT corporation. He resides in Boston together with his wife, Jaishree.)

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