Entrepreneurs are no different from other people in that we all make mistakes. The difference is that when an entrepreneur makes a mistake, their business suffers. The good news is, many of these mistakes can easily be avoided. Let’s take a look at the five most common mistakes that stifle entrepreneurial success and how to avoid them.

Common mistake #1: Operating without a plan 

Planning and having a business plan are your primary roles as an entrepreneur. In fact, business experts recommend you spend at least 25% of your time as a business owner planning. To begin a business without a plan, and to continue without analyzing and changing your plan as you grow, is a sure way to struggle to succeed. It’s like heading out for a drive and not knowing how to get where you’re going.  

So what’s the cure? Plan! Start with a business plan that outlines your audience, competition, vision and mission, product or service and marketing strategy. Once you have a plan, schedule time into each and every week to plan your business. Analyze what’s working, what isn’t and where you’re going to go from here.

Common mistake #2: Managing your business instead of leading it 

As a small business owner just getting started, it makes sense that you may be the one person who does everything. However, as you grow that practice isn’t going to continue to make sense; you’re going to run out of hours or end up eliminating tasks that are necessary to grow your business. 

You don’t, for example, spend all your time invoicing and bookkeeping if your time could be better spent coaching clients and bringing in profits. Leading your business means knowing that it’s better to focus on your specialized skills and hire or outsource to others for their specialized skills. Leading means building a team of people to help you grow your business rather than trying to do it all yourself.

Common mistake #3: Not having a system 

The most successful entrepreneurs have a system that keeps them productive. It may be something as simple as using Outlook to prioritize your tasks and then not closing the door to your office until they’re all completed. It may be something more complicated. The point isn’t what system you use - that's going to be personal to you - the point is to have a system that helps you stay organized and productive. 

Common mistake #4: Overextending yourself 

It’s so easy to have your fingers in too many cookie jars. When you start experiencing business success, you want more - it’s only natural. So you start other businesses, you launch new products or services and you partner with others. Unfortunately, all this activity pulls your focus in many directions. The result is that you’re only able to devote a small part of your attention to each project rather than your full attention to a single project, and that affects your success. 

The cure? Make sure, before you take anything new on, that you can devote your full attention to the project and give it the focus it deserves.

Common mistake #5: Trusting the wrong people 

Trusting the wrong people doesn’t mean you’re susceptible to scammers, it means that you’re putting your faith and commitment into people who are not going to help you grow your business. This includes partners, employees, contractors and even services. 

Before you take any steps to forge a relationship with anyone, assess whether it’s going to help you grow your business, set goals for the relationship and establish measures to track and evaluate your success. 

If you’ve already made one of these mistakes, not to worry. They’re survivable and may even lead to bigger and better opportunities. Don’t be hard on yourself. Mistakes means you’re actually pushing yourself and striving to achieve your goals, and that in and of itself is a wonderful thing.