7 business mistakes you ought to avoid

August 24, 2011

– Neil Patel is a serial entrepreneur who blogs about business at Quick Sprout and is the co-founder of KISSmetrics. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

After 10 years of being an entrepreneur, you probably think that I have everything figured out, right? Sadly, I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, to a large extent I know what I’m doing, but just like my first day as an entrepreneur I’m still making mistakes.

The mistakes aren’t the same rookie ones I’ve made before, but instead they are bigger mistakes. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve made over the last few years that you should avoid:

Business mistake No.  1: Don’t get too personal with your employees

I love helping my employees out. When they are happy, it makes me happy. But over time what you’ll realize is that the closer you get with your employees, the more likely they’ll push their problems onto you.

I don’t mind helping people out with their problems, but if they can’t learn to solve them by themselves, how will they ever grow as individuals? So instead of babying people 24/7 make sure you help them out a bit, but don’t be afraid to watch them fall. When they fall, they learn how to pick themselves back up, and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

Business mistake No. 2: Don’t be too generous

I have a tendency to be a bit too generous with co-workers. When you give them everything they ask for, they show gratitude. But often times that quickly fades, and they start expecting things from you.

You have to work hard to earn your money, your employees should too. If someone wants a new desk, don’t just give it to them, ask them why they deserve the desk.

You’ll be surprised as to what you can get your employees to do by making them earn the things they want. The best part about this, is that it will give them a sense of accomplishment.

Business mistake No. 3: Good talent costs a pretty penny

I used to be a big believer in hiring low-wage employees and training them to get whatever work I needed done. The problem with this is that you’ll spend the majority of your time micromanaging people instead of focusing on growing your business.

These days I’m a big believer in hiring people who are smarter than me, and compensating them very well so that they’ll never leave. When you are a new businessperson this may be a bit tough, but with a good stock option plan you should be able to get around this.

If you hire smart employees not only will they do a good job, but you won’t have to train or micromanage them as much. Plus they’ll stick with you for a very long time if you treat them right.

Business mistake No. 4: Never stop networking

I have a really big network. Big enough where I can make six-figure deals with companies without doing much work. The problem is, I’ve gotten too comfortable over the years, which is why I’ve haven’t been networking as much.

You don’t have to network 24/7 to build a strong network, but you should never stop networking as there are always up-and-coming people that you should know. If I kept on speaking at conferences, blogged more often, and went to local business events, I would be a lot further than I am now.

Networking has always paid off for me. Keep in mind networking only takes 3 to 12 months before it pays off. If I could turn back time, I wish I would have networked a lot more over the last 3 years as it would have caused my business to be a lot bigger than it currently is.

Business mistake No. 5: Be loud but not too loud

I’m young and as some young people tend to do, they don’t care what others think. I always felt like I was on cloud 9 and for the longest time I would say whatever I would want.

Although being upfront and blunt with people has helped me build a strong personal brand, it has also lost me a few seven-figure deals. Over time I have learned when to open my mouth and when to keep it shut. But when my older friends warned me about this a few years ago I ignored them, when I shouldn’t have.

Don’t make the same mistake I did and watch what you say around others. Some times giving advice when people don’t want it or cursing can tarnish your image.

Business mistake No. 6: Cash is king

Your business will have it’s up and its down. Sometimes things are great and sometimes you’ll lose a business deal. People will quit on you, and you may even go through a lawsuit or two.

Always be prepared for the bad times, and conserve your cash. Make sure you always think twice about spending your money… even when times are good.

It’s hard to predict when things are going to go south, which is why it’s always good to have cash in your bank account.

Over the years I have made mistakes. When times are good you blow money on fancy office furniture or you take a higher salary when you don’t really need the money. Always conserve capital, because things will eventually slow down.

Business mistake No. 7: Press is power

I’ve been a big believer that revenue and profit is all that matters in business. The problem is, other people don’t. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions and fund raising, you’ll be surprised how much press can help.

If the big blogs, newspapers, and magazines think your company is the next hottest thing, it’s going to be that much easier to raise venture capital, sell your company, or even close business deals.

My business partner and I hate getting press for no reason. Many of our competitors get press for the smallest things. It has worked well for them and if I could, I would turn back the clock and try to get at least one big press piece written on my company each month.

Don’t take press for granted! Get as much of it as you can.


Just like every other entrepreneur out there, I make mistakes. There is nothing wrong with making them as long as you learn from them.

Don’t be afraid to fall, just get up and prevent it from happening again. All entrepreneurs make mistakes, but what separates the great ones from the pack, is that they learn from their mistakes.

What other mistakes do you think entrepreneurs should avoid?

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Great tips Neil, experience is absolutely the best teacher. I also like your aspect as an entrepreneur. Don’t be afraid to get wrong, all of us had been there when just starting. The most important is you need to learn from your mistakes and develop it to a better new you. Just like before when I’m starting to hire staff for my small business. I didn’t realize that I made I wrong decision, hiring staff from job sites like monster.com. Until I read some tips ( https://www.staff.com/blog/why-hiring-on ly-on-job-sites-could-be-a-mistake-for-y our-business/ )regarding mistakes when hiring staff. I found out that there are applicants who are good only on interviews but screw up on the actual work.

Posted by JL32 | Report as abusive