Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My 6 Biggest Business Mistakes (Thus Far)

When I started this post it was, initially, entitled my THREE biggest business mistakes. Then it got longer, more occurring to me as I typed. There are many more but I decided to limit it to the six that stayed top of mind, figuring they were probably the most important (thus far), and that I view as also being highly relevant to other folks.

So here they are:

  1. Assuming that what others are doing, who are seemingly successful, is the best way. Studying the competition is one thing. But the best path to take is usually based on a mixture of creative ideas of your own and those stolen from other completely unrelated industries. Study the competition to be different from them and to spot the gaps.
  2. Listening to and considering advice from folks who, while well meaning, have absolutely no idea, credentials, or background in where I was headed. Even those in the same business do not warrant serious consideration unless they are on the same plane that you aspire too. For example, if you desire to be wealthy don't take advice from those who are not wealthy, even if they have your best interests at heart and sound savvy. This also means most talking heads on the television and reporters in general are not the best sources of wisdom. (Though they, or rather those they report on, may be good leads as to who to actually to listen to, talk to, read about, etc. yourself). Ultimately you have to make your own judgments regarding sources of advice. I spend a lot of time figuring out how to discover who to listen to on particular topics so that I can spend less time listening to noise from others who aren't truly helpful or, worse, are spouting B.S.
  3. Not focusing. Once I had narrowed down who I was going to draw inspiration from, there came a point where I should have stopped looking for external inspiration and started applying my new found capabilities and knowledge gleaned from all that studying of other successful folks. Yes, the additional study of systems that had worked for others was beneficial (and continues to be, as I keep up that studying every day). There is no clear "starting line" but at some point I realized that for all the good stuff I was learning for the future I was also to a point where I could do plenty with what I had if only I got to work applying it.
  4. Thinking that marketing (mostly) meant advertising (and also, in part, being cynical about advertising and sales). Marketing IS the business. And I don't mean that statement in the way I might have interpreted it before I knew what I know now. Combined with cynicism I might have written that statement off. But marketing is about everything: the features, the products, the service, the positioning, pricing, every interaction, etc. In fact, there is not one thing that you could name in any organization that isn't about marketing. Nada.
  5. Not studying direct response marketing earlier. Holy crap. If you think good marketing and advertising is about pleasing and artistic advertisements, headlines that are a "play on words" in an attempt to sound cute, and winning awards than you are, worst case, a sitting duck waiting for competition to stomp you. Best case: you are spending money on marketing without any idea what is working and what isn't... and thus no measurable ROI or means to improve it over time (which still means you're a sitting duck: for a savvy competitor who understands direct response to blow you out of the water even as you boost your marketing spending). Effective advertising and promotion does not flow from the hands of graphics designers anymore than a professional baseball player's home run is the result of the guy who mows the grass at the stadium. You may argue it plays a role, and that may technically be true, but there are far bigger factors at work that should be focused on first.
  6. Under-appreciating the importance of mindset. I am not just talking about positive thinking here. I'm talking about feelings about money, success, being wealth, not following the herd, questioning the status-quo, etc. And things like who you hang around with, focusing on results/outcomes over tasks, etc.. A lot of this stuff is sub-conscious or invisible until you start really learning about it so you can recognize it. It's even more difficult to spot because the majority of folks are oblivious to it. You can be ambitious as hell and still fail to reach your goals if your mindset is off-base.
That's all for now. I'm sure there will be to discuss another day. Perhaps a few folks out there will find this post helpful.


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