Mistakes You Must Avoid When Starting a Business
Updated: Jul 5
What NOT to do when starting your business
I’m a third-generation business owner, and I’ve successfully led a profitable business for six years. In honor of Black Business month, I’m sharing the advice that’s helped me navigate running a company, parenting, and enjoying my life. I’ve learned from experience, and my lessons reflect the best advice I’ve received on my journey. If you have ever considered having a business, bookmark this article please.
Starting your own business can be the most rewarding experience in your life. Over the last six years, I’ve become an advocate for entrepreneurship because I’ve experienced freedom and fear firsthand.
I’ve made mistakes. Some mistakes were bigger than others, but I survived them all. Business is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like risk, being a business owner may not be right for you. But if you have a vision that’s too big for a day job, consider starting your own business.
Five mistakes to avoid to be successful in business
Not knowing why you are in business. Get real clear about WHY you want to be a business owner. You can definitely have a lifestyle business that centers around your schedule more than your financial goals. You can have a hobby too. But a business owner must do the work on time, whether they feel like it or not.
Ownership comes with a cost. When the tough moments hit, remember why you chose to be an entrepreneur and not an employee.
Set a clear vision and post it somewhere you’ll see it daily. My vision is to amplify the voices of leaders positively impacting the world.
Operationalize it! I sign every email with “I’m here to help!” It reminds me of my purpose consistently throughout the day, especially when you are having a rough day or delivering a difficult message.
Expecting to borrow money. My Dad told me early on to build credit but don’t expect it. When COVID shut down hit, I pivoted in-person events to virtual, but the clients that didn’t terminate contracts wanted discounts, and business slowed significantly. When PPP was announced, I applied with no luck. I asked friends how to navigate the online applications and sought technical assistance to figure out what I was doing wrong. The answer was resounding- you need a relationship and a track record. Especially as a new business, it takes time to build business credit.
Stay Black. Think local. Consider a Black bank like Independence Bank. Smaller regional banks also focus more on local small businesses and the self-employed. Make an appointment with a banker and build your relationship today.
Understand credit terms. Interest is the cost of borrowing money. So if you borrow $5, you’ll pay back $7. If you can’t pay the loan back in full, your assets, like your home, can be collateral.
You can self-finance your business through your savings, credit cards, 401k, or selling your assets. I had clients that funded my business through their payments. If you are a skills or service-based business, consider the least amount of money you need to get a client. As a writer, I only needed a laptop, email domain, internet, and phone to start.
Not promoting your services to your target market. I joined Leverette Weekes after almost a decade as an executive at McDonald’s, 3M, and Comcast. I had relationships with communications and DEI leaders who had budgets and needed my services. But I hesitated to tell them what I was doing or how they could work with me. Even today, I’ll sometimes forget to mention my book, Getting Unstuck, and Sunrise Affirmation cards.
People need the services you offer and want to work with YOU.
People are busy and bombarded with information, so they need you to break through and remind them of how you can help.
Not starting with the end in mind. Do you want to work for the rest of your life? Decide at the beginning what you want to happen when you no longer want to do this. Leverette Weekes was dormant for thirty years, and I have no intentions to sell it. I’m leaving the door open for my sons and, hopefully, their children to have a brand that aligns with our values.
Few businesses are built to sell. Consider your exit strategy before you build your business, so you always have the freedom to change your mind.
Not investing in your team. When you are in business, your whole family is in business. I remember growing up and seeing Leverette Weekes marketing materials all over our house. On Saturday mornings, we would drive around, check properties, and pick up rent checks. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle. It’s a commitment that impacts everyone around you. Take time before you start to set expectations for what is sacred and what can be sacrificed..
Budgets and time will be tight, especially in the beginning if you are self-financing. Trips and vacations might be postponed until you are profitable and feel comfortable stepping away.
You are your greatest asset. Expect to invest more time than in previous roles to set up your business, hire people, and learn new systems.
We need more Black businesses in every sector. Believe in yourself and have the courage to invest in your idea. If you avoid these mistakes, you can overcome the common obstacles that keep people out of business and enjoy the freedom of being your own boss. And if you get stuck, I’m here to help! Meredith