Avoiding the follies of the small business bootstrapper’s disposition

It takes a special type of person to take the plunge and start a company from thin air. It takes a whole lot of vision, faith, innovation and drive. You have to believe that what you’re working on is so distinctive and great that no matter how tough things get, it’ll all pan out, and everyone who’s depending on you for their livelihoods will be alright. And despite the statistics that indicate your new venture is likely to fail, you carry on as if it won’t.

Lone achiever

That’s no small burden to carry around, but it’s one that every small business or startup founder eventually becomes familiar with. But because it’s an experience shared by many, the pitfalls of the “bootstrapper’s disposition” are starting to be discussed, understood and even predicted.

“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology,” Andreessen Horowitz’s Ben Horowitz wrote a few years ago. “Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs all with the same experience.”

Keeping it all together isn’t easy, but by avoiding the common mistakes that come along with so much drive in the face of adversity, aspiring entrepreneurs can at least minimize the headspace management challenges involved.

Unexpected business challenges

So familiarize yourself with the pitfalls before you get started. It is, of course, impossible to anticipate and avoid every emotional danger that will one day rear its head, but knowing what the common unhelpful patterns are makes it easier to stay away from them. Based on the behaviors that many entrepreneurs have found to be triggers for emotional volatility, here are five mistakes you really want to watch out for.

1. Not having enough of a braintrust

Once again, it’s your vision and you know best, right? Well, not necessarily. You are an expert in your niche, but there are many aspects of running a business that you could use advice on.

A helping Hand

How about finding a mentor or an entrepreneurial peer to periodically touch base with? Why not take advice from attorneys, accountants, marketers and salespeople who are experts in their own niche fields that ought to inform yours? They can help you take your business to the next level and avoid rookie mistakes.

2. Ineffective delegating

When you start a business, you are turning your vision into reality. Since it’s your vision, it’s hard to imagine that others can see it too and help make your dream a successful business. Sometimes small business owners feel overwhelmed, hire employees to help shoulder the burden, but then don’t give them significant responsibilities for fear that they won’t succeed at them.

Too cool to delegate

The end result is a worn-out business owner trying to do too much at once and ultimately failing to do it all. Instead of being this type of business owner, hire talented staff and give them as much responsibility as possible. Free yourself up for tasks that no one else can do, that you enjoy and that you are particularly good at.

3. Being too emotional

A new business goes through highs and lows, and it’s easy to get swept away. “It’s such a roller coaster, and you are not able to ride either good or bad,” Mike Salguero of CustomMade told BetaBoston.com. “You just yank the excitement out of the whole thing, because you have be steady.”

All riled up

Founders of new businesses often go through anxiety, depression, loss of motivation and feelings of isolation. Keep in mind that getting a business off the ground is a marathon rather than a sprint, so concentrate on being optimistic for the long-term and don’t sweat the challenges of the short-term.

4. De-prioritizing communication

You know why your product or service is different or better than everyone else’s. But are you conveying this to your team and potential customers? Be sure that you are listening to your colleagues as well as talking, so you can understand what they need and let them know you have it.

Communicating with the team

And talk to your customers about their experiences and recommendations too! Be clear about who you are and what value you bring to them. Be concise so their eyes don’t glaze over halfway through your spiel. And be compelling – persuade your customers to take the action you want them to, even if their original idea was something different.

5. Shunning strategy

Flying by the seat of your pants might sound romantic, but it’s a recipe for failure. In order to succeed at business, whether small or large, it’s important to follow a plan. A detailed business plan helps obtain financing for projects, simplify decision-making processes, allow an entrepreneur to meet goals, and help improve the business.

Strategy for success

Formal planning should include research and consultation with experts in various fields. Plans can’t always be followed to the letter, but they should serve as a guide and lead the business toward its long-term goals.