NBS #16: The 9 Most Common Mistakes New Business Owners Make

Paradoxically, the 9 most common mistakes new business owners make have little to do with a lack of business skills.

Jul 6, 2024

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    In September of 2005, I launched my first “real” business.

    While it was not successful (by any metric and for many reasons), it opened up my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. Most importantly, it taught me the most common mistakes new business owners make, and pushed me to learn how to avoid them. Since then, I’ve owned medical practices, a marketing agency, a podcast production company, a consulting practice, and even build and launch my own offers.

    Almost two decades later, the landscape has changed but the challenges new entrepreneurs face are still the same.

    And here’s the thing that blows most of my clients’ minds:

    Overcoming the most common mistakes new business owners make, requires you to work on yourself, not on your business skills.

    If that made you even remotely curious, I think you’ll enjoy this week’s post. Let’s dive in!

    NBS #16: The 9 Most Common Mistakes New Business Owners Make
    It’s Not Brain Surgery #16

    As a highly-skilled professional, you likely default to searching for clues as to what you “need to learn” whenever you think of doing something you haven’t done before.

    And entrepreneurship is no different. Unfortunately, that search will lead you down the path of business plans, market analysis, offer creation, etc… And while these are all valuable skills to have when running a business, they’re also easy to outsource. Which means a lack of these skills is not amongst the most common mistakes new business owners make.

    In fact, the most common mistakes new business owners make, have little to do with skills and are almost exclusively attributable to self-mastery.

    Personal qualities like discipline, focus, consistency, determination, resilience, and leadership are crucial ingredients for success a as a business owner. Believe it or not, you can build a thriving and impactful lifestyle business without a business plan or a sophisticated marketing strategy. But you won’t get too far if you are unfocused, inconsistent, or give up at the first hurdle.

    The good news is all of these qualities can be developed, regardless of where you’re starting from!

    So in this week’s post, I’ll share with you the 9 most common mistakes new business owners make. Take note of each of them and see whether or not you make (or have made) each of them. This will give you a cue as to what quality you need to work on first.

    Mistake #1: Seeking “Perfection”

    Perfectionism is nothing more than fear on disguise.

    Sometimes, the fear is justified – like when a surgeon triple checks her sutures. But 99.9% of the time, it’s not. And what do we fear? We fear being judged by others. Being wrong. Fear being ridiculed. We fear failing.

    The solution is to alchemize failure (shoutout to my Heroic mentor Brian Johnson).

    Here’s how I do it:
    Step 1: You do something and you either succeed or fail.
    Step 2: When (not if) you fail, you learn.
    Step 3: Realize if you’re learning, you’re succeeding.

    Perfectionism (fear) is at the top of the most common mistakes new business owners make because (1) it is the most common one. And (2), it is the most prevalent and the one we never really overcome. I still find myself falling prey to “perfectionism” every time I’m launching a new offer or program…

    Mistake #2: Overcomplicating

    When you’re starting out, it’s easy to overcomplicate things.

    Once again, this is fear taking the wheel. Overcomplicating things keeps you “busy” but static. It tricks you into feeling like you’re making progress when all you’re really doing is procrastinating.

    The solution is to start with MVPs (minimum viable products) and gain traction.

    Some examples of this are:

    • Launching today with just a landing page on a free Convertkit  plan instead of waiting until you have the perfect logo, colors and fully responsive website.
    • Set up your storefront for free with Payhip and start selling your ebook or 1:1 coaching in minutes.
    • Record and edit your podcast using Descript before you go all out and hire an audio editor.
    • Validate and refine your ideas on X or LinkedIn before you spend months writing a book.

    Mistake #3: Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

    Out of the most common mistakes new business owners make, this is the one that grinds my gears the most.

    Unlike the rest, this is something you can quickly train yourself to identify and, with some work, permanently overcome. And once you do, you’ll start noticing how prevalent this mentality is around all of us. (Which is why it grinds my gears, by the way…)

    But seriously, stop looking for reasons why your ideas won’t work!

    Instead, make it a habit to first think of reasons why your ideas will work. Think of people who will pay for what you want to create. Think of how you’ll reach these people.

    And no, you’re not “being realistic” by thinking worst-case scenario.

    You’re being self-defeatist. And it trains your brain to look for problems when it could just as easily be looking for solutions.

    Mistake #4: Doing It All Yourself

    As an expert you’ve trained to do the important things yourself (think of a surgeon, a litigator, or a NASA engineer).

    But this training works against you when you become a business owner. Since everything in a business is new for you, everything feels important. And if everything is important, then you must be the one doing it, right?


    The fastest way to burn out and enslave yourself to your business is doing everything yourself. It’s tempting because you don’t have to pay anyone and things are done exactly how you want them. But it’s simply not scalable. Or sustainable.

    Depending on the business you start, you need to figure out what your vital functions are (those few tasks only you can do), and get others to do the rest while you oversee and manage.


    Remember: not because you can create a website, compose emails, or do your bookkeeping, does it mean you should.

    Mistake #5: Delegation By Abdication

    The other extreme of the pendulum is when you become a business owner and delegate every task –big and small–, without training, oversight or supervision of any kind.

    This is not delegation, it’s abdication.

    You feel like you’re empowering your team to make decisions and run the business, when in reality you’re communicating the business is not important to you. Which often results in expensive mistakes.

    Mistake #6: Lack Of Strategy

    Everyone has an idea of what they want to achieve with their business, but very few have a clear plan or strategy to get there.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to hire someone to create a detailed business plan. It’s much simpler than that. You just need to define your end goal and then break it down into yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals.

    Figure out what your key metrics should be and start tracking them.

    Tracking is the most important piece of the puzzle. Having a plan is crucial but if you don’t track your metrics, it won’t be any better than those long-forgotten new year’s resolutions…

    Mistake #7: Eye-Balling Your Budget

    When you become a business owner, you no longer “get paid” the first of the month.

    You’re now getting paid randomly throughout the month. Which often leads to “feast and famine” cycles: when you have money, everything feels fine and you spend freely. But as the money starts running low, you stress and put off paying even for things you actually need.

    When you don’t have a clear budget you end up overspending on unnecessary tools or overpriced freelancers, while not being able to afford the right tools and team members.

    Now, before you go out looking to hire an accountant or CFO, know this too, can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or a Notion database where you list out the important expenses (rent, utilities, salaries, software), subtract them from your expected income, and allocate the rest.

    A great resource I often recommend to my clients is the book “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz.

    Mistake #8: Not Managing Yourself

    Almost two decades after starting my very first business, I still struggle with this myself.

    The freedom you buy as an entrepreneur is not easy to handle. Specially when you’ve spent years as an employee and suddenly find yourself without a boss looking over your shoulder setting your hours and managing your schedule.

    Yes, you get to choose what you work on. And when. You get to choose how long your lunch break is. You decide if you want to spend the day in your PJs or workout clothes, etc…

    But ask anyone who has left a job to “be their own boss” and they’ll tell you this freedom is a double-edged sword.

    I know you think you’re completely capable of managing yourself. I used to think so myself. After all, I got myself into and through medical school… But the reality is most of us are not inherently capable of doing so.

    For example, I’ve learned I need to set clear boundaries and rules for myself if I am to be remotely productive. I could work from home but I still pay for an office to get me out of my house and away from potential distractions.

    As I always say, I set these rules to protect myself from myself.

    If you’re wondering whether you “suffer” from this or not, do an activity audit for a week and you’ll soon find out.

    Mistake #9: Incongruence

    This is the least obvious one but addressing it has given me the biggest ROI of them all.

    There are two areas of incongruence to overcome:

    1. When your words don’t match your actions
    2. When you take before you give

    When your words and your actions are not aligned, you’ll get the results your actions dictate. For example, you can say you eat healthy and work out but if you secretly don’t, you’ll stay overweight.

    I used to say I was “super busy” but in upon closer inspection, I was wasting a lot of time… Unsurprisingly, my results were those of a time-waster.

    The second one is a bit harder to grasp.

    I resisted it for years because it simply didn’t “make sense” to me – intellectually. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to make sense for it to be true. At least that’s how I choose to see it now (because it still does not intellectually make sense to me…).

    Here are a few ways in which you can try giving before you ask:

    • If you want to get more reviews for your business, go leave some reviews for your peers or for a business you frequent.
    • If you want people to happily pay your prices, start happily paying for the services you use.
    • If you want your friends to support your business, start by supporting your friends’ businesses.

    And these are the 9 most common mistakes new business owners make

    Now comes the fun part: growing into the successful business owner you strive to be!

    All you need to get started down this path is to go through the list, identify one of the mistakes you’re making and start developing the personal qualities required. My go-to method at the moment is using the Heroic App and swiping targets every day.

    It’s addictive – in a fun and positive way! Let me know if you do decide to give it a shot. I’m a Heroic coach myself and happy to answer any questions about it.

    As always, thanks for reading!

    See you next Saturday,
    🤟🏻 Dr E

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