Tips & Tricks

10 Mistakes First-Time Entrepreneurs Make (and How to Avoid Them)

By June 26, 2015 March 16th, 2020 31 Comments

I have been a first-time entrepreneur and I’ve known and mentored many. In my experience and theirs, I’ve come across so many mistakes that are made that can often times lead to failure. I want you to learn from my mistakes so you can avoid them and achieve success even FASTER.

1. Negative mindset.

People often just don’t believe in themselves for whatever reason. They think, “It’s not possible for me, there’s something missing, I don’t have the abilities, I don’t have the friends, I don’t have the brains, I don’t have the tools.” There always seems to be an excuse. Thinking this way is self-destructive. What ends up happening once they start believing those things is they become their reality. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How do you avoid this?

Believe in yourself.

This is the number one most effective way to help you grow. Once I started believing in myself, my business exploded. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was because I finally had the confidence to make decisions and actually push through.

There are no excuses. You are no different than anybody else.  You can achieve this. But first, you must believe you can do it.

2. Thinking your business is just a hobby.

Oftentimes people jump on different business opportunities and they kind of just dabble with it. Then they get frustrated because they aren’t seeing success. In those situations, that person hasn’t really committed to this being a business and they’re doing it more as a hobby. My point to them is, “Relax. If you’re just doing this as a hobby to have fun, then don’t get so stressed out.” And that’s fine if you want it to be a hobby, but don’t expect to be overwhelmingly successful.

How to avoid this mistake?

Treat your business like a real business.

And work your ass off. When I first got started up until a very short time ago, I was working easily 10-12 hours every single day. It’s not because I was forced to…it was a choice. I wanted to grow a real, successful business. Focus on it as a real business and treat it just like a job.

3. Poor workspace.

Having a poor workspace can be detrimental to your productivity and your sanity. When I first got started, I didn’t want to inconvenience my family and so I hid myself in a corner in the basement. I was robbing myself of sunlight. I was robbing myself of human interaction. I was in a place in my house I didn’t even want to be. It was my least favorite position in the house. Within about three weeks, I was terribly depressed and I had no motivation.

How to avoid this mistake?

Prioritize upgrading your workspace.

Create a workspace that is bright, quiet, and a place you feel happy to be, where you look forward to going. Being a entrepreneur is freaking fun! Don’t punish yourself. Give yourself wonderful things. Set yourself up for success right away. Make yourself comfortable and your space enjoyable. Put things around you that make you happy. I always have pictures hanging on my walls around me where I work for motivation. Make your workspace your space.

4. Getting distracted.

Getting distracted is a mistake that most of us make on a daily basis. You’re juggling so many things outside your business: family, extracurricular activities, errands, grocery shopping…so you don’t have much time in the day!

If you’re going to focus on getting your business started, you need to dedicate time to it every day, and shut everything else off during that dedicated time.

Shut off your phone. Shut off your TV. Don’t get sucked in to social media. You only have so much time you can dedicate each day to your business.

In order to keep yourself on task, tell yourself, “I have an hour to work right now. I need to make sure that every distraction is off.” The first thing you should do when you sit down is to clearly understand what your goal is for that work period.

Every time you are in the zone and working and get pulled out of it, at minimum, it’s 15 minutes lost productivity because you have to get your mindset back there and you have to get the whole flow going. That zone is so incredibly powerful and when you’re in that zone with no distractions you’re at your prime effectiveness.

Break your time up into 50 minute blocks. Take a 5-10 minute break between each block. During those 5-10 minutes, check your email, your phone and get up and walk around. Once the 5-10 minutes is up however, shut it all down and GET BACK TO WORK!

5. Poor money management.

By definition, entrepreneurs naturally have more risk involved than anyone else in their business.  Typically when they get started, they want to take action and every business, whether a start-up or a well established company, has an insatiable appetite to spend money. Unless you have an unlimited amount of money, which I doubt is the case, spending frivolously will hurt your business.

What happens if you’re not budgeting is you’re going to find yourself cash-strapped. You also have no control. You have no idea what’s going on because chances are your books are a mess. You’re just spending. A year from now all of a sudden you’ll find out you’ve wasted so much money. You’ve got recurrent subscriptions happening that you don’t even use anymore. You have money missing from accounts that you didn’t realize what happened to it. It’s just ridiculously ineffective for a new entrepreneur starting a business.

How to avoid this mistake?

Pick up healthy money management habits right out of the gate.

Create a separate bank account for your business. Legitimize your business and start getting accountants involved as soon as possible. If you can’t afford to get accountants from the get go, manage your money. Make sure everything that’s spent on the business is budgeted and tracked. Always have a little bit of a reserve if possible.

6. Lack of or improper goal setting.

It is so easy to ineffectively and improperly set goals that I wish we could reinvent a word to replace goal-setting. Improper or lack of goal-setting can lead to your business stagnating or failing.

As they say, “If you don’t know where you’re going you’re never going to get there.” If you don’t have goals, you don’t even know what you’re trying to do.

How to avoid this mistake?

Set goals that are specific and impactful.

Goals should  be specific so that there is no question of whether or not you’ve achieved it. For example, if your goal is “At the end of this year, I want to be making $750,000 cash with a 20% net revenue and I’m selling 8 products.” There is no question whether or not you achieve it at the end of the year.

Goals should also be impactful, meaning that when it’s achieved, it has affected your business in a positive way. If it’s something that when you achieve it, it doesn’t affect your business, why are you wasting your time on it?

Along with goal-setting comes task-setting. A goal is something that once all your tasks are done, you’ve achieved that goal. Goals are not tasks.

For example, if you want to lose weight, the weight loss is your goal. Your tasks are the specific items you need to do to achieve that goal (diet and exercise). It’s the same as creating goals with your business. You create that goal and then you have to make the lists of tasks to be able to achieve that goal.

Follow this process: Create 90-day goals and set your tasks along with those goals. Then, every two weeks, make more new tasks, or update the tasks to get to your goal.

7. Analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis is feeling like you just don’t have enough information to make the next step. It can come from a distrust in yourself and can cause difficulty in decision-making.

How to overcome it: use your community and networking resources.

If you do everything on your own, you may talk yourself out of your decisions. You get analysis paralysis out of fear. Create a network of like-minded people who can help support you, that believe in you so that when you do have concerns you can ask them, get a response. Then at that point it’s your choice to take action.

Businesses are inherently risky, and there’s never going to be a perfect answer. The people who are the most successful are the action takers.

You’re never going to know whether or not you made the right choice until you make that choice. If you wait too long to make a decision, you can get so far behind. Take action.

8. Being too afraid or lazy to delegate the right way.

In my past, I remember needing to hire people, and using some online hiring sources. I was lazy at the time, so I’d throw quick job descriptions together. The people I’d hire wouldn’t do as good of a job as I’d hoped, so I’d say “Oh, it’s just easier for me to do it,” and “I don’t have time to train someone.”

That is short term thinking. You may save an hour a day for a week or so by not training someone, but I guarantee you will lose hours upon hours of time in the long run. It is so worth it.

When you’re growing a business, there are going to be things that you’re amazing at, and there are going to be things you’re not the best at.

Find the things that you’re not the best at that other people can do better than you, or at least 80% as well as you.

They don’t need to be 100% perfect at the beginning, as long as they’re trainable.

Understand what are the things that you need help with and where are the areas that are the biggest return on investment for your time.

As an owner and entrepreneur, your focus should be on growing the business, making sure that internally the business is running well, and pushing the business forward. Not doing menial tasks that you could easily hire out.

Never be afraid to hire smarter people.

When you’re hiring people make sure those people understand clearly that you need to hire the smartest people. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen is people not hiring someone out of fear that they will be better than them and take their job. This is not the right way to think. Hire the best and delegate effectively.

9. Thinking in the now instead of in the future

Being focused on the now versus the future can really hurt you. Many entrepreneurs go into staring their business thinking, “I need to make money now.” They are actually shooting themselves in the foot. This kind of thinking can cause customers to not want to do business with you down the road.

If you’re always just focused on instant gratification, you’ll never reach your long term goals.

How to avoid this type of thinking?

You must have a long term plan and stick to it.

Set your goals (as discussed in point 6), create tasks for those goals, and keep those in mind whenever you think of doing something that may only result in short-term success.

Whether it’s an email you’re sending to customers, or your landing page copy. Always think, “What are the consequences of this? How will my audience respond to this?” Always think future. Don’t just go for the right now.

10. Poor customer service.

Your customers are an asset. A huge asset. In fact, they are the biggest asset in your company because they’re the source of your revenue. Does that not deem them to be the most critical aspect of your business? If your customer is your most critical aspect of your business, shouldn’t they be treated as the most critical important aspect of your business?

So often that doesn’t happen. So many businesses just focus on the now, the money.  They don’t want to engage with the customer.

That’s poor customer service and it provides a terrible customer experience. Why would someone ever want to buy from you again? Why would someone ever want to recommend you to anybody? In fact, why would that person not want to not recommend you to their friends?

How to avoid this mistake?

Focus on your most vital asset, the source of your revenue: your customer.

Keep them top of mind from the very second you start planning everything with your business. Know your customer. Know as much about your customer as you possibly can.

Understand them and give them the most incredible customer support and customer experience you can and your business will flourish.


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  • Selina Lindsay says:

    Love this info!! And your kid, Jill!!

  • Invaluable advice to any Small Business owner starting up. But number ten should be number one. Without the customer and ensuring that you provide the best service to them. The customers have so many other choices to go and get quality services elsewhere which means that you will lose them and it’s harder and far more expensive to attract NB than to maintain a quality service to your existing customer so they won’t look else where. If you lose the customers 2-10 don’t matter anymore.

    • Jason Katzenback says:

      Absolutely!! The customer should always be #1. I wanted to save the best for last though! 🙂

  • Joanne says:

    Fantastic article. You hit the very things that can catapult or derail someone starting a business.

  • Jens says:

    It took me ages to decide the format of my goal setting.
    Right now i decided it.

  • Ali Azfar says:

    This certainly comes from the heart. Awesome article!

  • Artur says:

    Great Article. Thank you Jason for sharing that information. I agree with all 10 points and I believe there is no hierarchy, all of them are important.

    I would add a small point, or sub-point to the Poor work space is to celebrate milestones. Without feeding and making happy the child in ourselves, working like crazy, especially on the beginning of the business, I am not saying working hard, but like crazy, you will finally start to feel a lot of pain which is going to associated with your start up, and then starting to sabotage yourself.

    Thus, celebrating and keeping happy is also important here. Once more thanks for sharing. All the best.

    • Jason Katzenback says:

      Absolutely, that is a great additional point. Celebrating milestones and wins helps keep us focused and passionate. Thanks Artur!

  • Tony says:

    Jason, this info is repeat and repeat from you thousands of times,
    nothing is new to share?

    Anyway, repetition is mother skills.

    Good luck!

  • Jessica says:

    This is perfectly spot on, thank you Jason! I agree with every single point! Hope for more kicking-butt-like posts that keep us going 🙂

  • Thanks Jason! This is exactly what I needed to hear. I am more of a sprinter than a marathon runner and I tend to hit the ground running hard and then start to slack off. I love what you said about work space. So important to create the right energy to prosper in. I also am famous for saying ” Oh I only have an hour, not much can get done.” But, as you say, if I know exactly what I want to get done in that hour and focus in, I will make a dent…evenif it’s a small one. Great shot of inspired wisdom. Thanks Jason.

  • Bruce Fredenburg says:

    Thank you Jason. I always appreciate your ideas and encouragement. Our Amazon Business was doing well when we hit an unexpected set back that has required us to re-brand and re-list our product with a new ASIN losing all of our reviews. This happened as were about to introduce a new product. We are reviewing the new videos and incorporating the new training as we are moving forward. Your post is helping me maintain my short and long term focus and confidence. I continue to be grateful to both you and Matt for creating this training

  • Johanna says:

    Those were all good points. The biggest one for me was #3, about having a good work space. I took that to heart, and I’m working on improving my work space today. 🙂

  • Malik Furqan says:

    Thanks for the very important information Jason. For me setting a clear goal with tasks is an important one. The fact that as you complete all tasks you reach your goal is such a simple strategy but very effective. I hope I am able to do this.

  • peter geary says:

    cheers J

  • Alan Dupre says:

    Hi Jason – thanks for the tips, pep-talk and personal care. I’m enrolled in ASM5 and know it is the answer to what I need to achieve, yet I’m running into serious time management issues! Full-time job with commute, new baby (grand child) in the house and currently busy 9-6 Saturday, Sunday and 2 nights per week for the next few months. Yikes. Then when I make some time, it doesn’t seem to be enough to gain some traction or I’m just all out of ‘drive’. I’ll start with removing more distractions when I am working on ASM and the 90-day goal and task setting actions and see how it goes. I’ll keep you informed and look for more tips (for just a little bit of time!)
    Thanks – Alan

  • Gord Singer says:

    Completed Module 1-3 and all action steps required. Just follow the course. I was full of confidence and had a clear understanding of the direction I was taking. Everything was going great! Module 4 and BAM! I know zero about computers, on-line anything and the terms associated. Ask me to build you an airport – fine I can do that. Just overwhelmed and lost and found, in just 1 hr, that most of these 10 “issues” are now me. So I will change things up as I am far to stubborn to give up and change my attitude towards tackling module 4 again. Thanks for the blog Jason.

  • Cheri Myers says:

    Point on…Thanks!

  • Briarley says:

    All so obvious but we still fall into the traps, thanks for pointing them out. Better focus needed. Thank you.

  • Kimmi Thomas says:

    I ran my own business out of my home for 20 years but this has been a good review. We have had EVERYTHING hit us since the course launched. Graduation, company (expected & unexpected), cancer, death, cars…yes cars (plural) breaking down :/, health issues, health issues with both sets of parents, and the important prelude to one child deploying to marine boot camp. It has been super frustrating and we fight every day to get our ASM time in. Thanks for this list that pushes us even more. We NEED IT!!

  • Rita Gorlato says:

    Hi Jason

    Very ready to give up. I have good product, images, but really lost in terms of social media. I get a few sales then it all stops. This will be my last effort. It has to work or I will be very ashamed of myself. Thank you for your great effort.

    • Good product and images sounds like what you need to do is get Amazon sponsored ads running. If you are an ASM member, go back through the training and get an auto-targeting campaign set up and bid higher for a couple weeks to get lots of terms dug up. Then go through the terms and find the best ones, then optimize your listing for those terms and run manual campaigns with those profitable keywords. Believe me, you do NOT want to give up. If you have a good product… then you can make this work. Get in the community and ask for help and FOLLOW THE TRAINING 🙂

      You can do this!

    • Janet Wallace says:

      Hello Rita,
      To encourage you not to give up, I want to share something I read just now that you might find useful. It’s an earlier blog post about an ASMer that got to 50K in four months, while working full time. The part that I took away was that he tweaked and tested his marketing copy. He kept tweaking (changing it, adjusting small things like the title or product description) and testing to see if the results improved. Also, he learned this by talking to people at the Live Event, asking what he could improve. I’m not as far along as you, but I have my ticket to the live event, and I plan to talk to as many people as I can. If you have a product and pictures, you are further along than many. Try feeling proud about your accomplishments rather than ashamed. (Just try saying positive things about your ASM experiences for 10 minutes; you can go back to shame if you really wanna.) The road to success always has “failures” along the way.

  • Sonali Lindsay says:

    This is motivational advice. Thanks for that Jason ..! I have been stuck in module 4-5 and trying to get pass that asap. Hopefully it will be done soon. I am still batting along although I think I am quite behind in the course progress.
    However I am trying hard to get back on track.
    Will be there.

  • Nico Jannasch says:

    I’ve actually been blown away by those ‘little’ recurring payments.

    Paying a few buck for website hosting on Squarespace, a few bucks for my team’s email accounts, a little money for a Skype subscription, and (my favorite) Audible subscription… My monthly costs really add up!!

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