Starting a business is like starting high school. You're the little fish in a dauntingly huge pond, and all you want is to be let in. New business ventures are similar: They come packaged with promise. But beginners who are ill-equipped to respond to their vulnerabilities can end up making regrettable mistakes.
When Julia Louis-Dreyfus joined Saturday Night Live in 1982 as the youngest female cast member, she compared turning 21 to turning into Cinderella. But midnight came all too soon for Louis-Dreyfus. Unable to withstand the demands of a cutthroat environment, she cut her SNL career short and moved on.
Even though you’re a beginner, you don't have to fall prey to the same know-nothing-newbie syndrome. Opportunities aren't created, they're discovered. Julia Louis-Dreyfus actually met her future Seinfeld producer on the set of Saturday Night Live before she left.
She would have given anything to have been a little less terrified of the guys on that next, uber-successful project. But she took the time to shake one more hand. And the rest is comedy legend.
Here are some unmistakable signs that you're headed for newbie snafus and how you can rock out your authority as a business owner even while you're starting up.
1. You get caught with your payroll pants down.
You spent too much. Or you didn't replace your cash flow. Money's low, and you can't pay yourself to continue to work.
Inside tip: Know when to pivot. Take your payroll pulse often, and alert yourself to the warning signs of diminishing cash flow. Whether the funding challenge is an emergency fund, side-hustle income or even a temporary job, always respond with a backup plan to cover your expenses. Be proactive about your income, and you'll grow your profit in a sustainable way.
2. Even high-schoolers have more social media followers than you.
Your platitude memes and RSS feeds aren't gaining you any social traction. Even the people at your weekend networking brunch keep asking you your name. It's a noisy world out there, and no one is listening to you.
Inside tip: Build your social proof. Partner to help other entrepreneurs. Connect with those who are ahead of you. They're the gatekeepers to the world of influence. Developing valuable exchanges with the authorities in your space expands your own influence, even as a beginner.
3. Your to-do list rivals an encyclopedia.
You mistake project goals for action plans. You're drowning in a sea of overwhelm. Productivity has become stagnant, and you fill your time with busy work.
Inside tip: Set attainable goals. Envision your end result, set your milestones, then develop actionable steps to attain each landmark. Take the time to schedule every day of your week with two-to-three action items. Realistic planning sets you on the path to achieve your outcomes from the start.
4. You're all about your product, not your people.
You've let your concept come before your customers. Building your ideas has taken over building your relationships. People aren't visiting your website, and you're not giving them a reason to buy from you.
Inside tip: Make people your priority. The key to your success is loyal customers. If you can't influence people to know, like and trust you, none of your products will compensate. Build genuine friendships with your audience, and you'll build your customer base from day one.
Starting a business is hard, especially if it's your first. And the reality is, sometimes we misstep. Newbie mistakes can sting the worst. But they don't have to get in the way of you realizing your potential. Take the time to notice the opportunities in front of you. Take the time to map out your goals.
Connect meaningfully with those you can help and with those who can help you. And once you’ve accomplished all of that, take the time to shake one more hand.