Starting a business from scratch comes with its fair share of challenges. Mistakes are bound to be made along the way. In fact, this never really ends. Entrepreneurship is a journey, not a destination. I’ve made my fair share of blunders, missteps, and wrong moves. Some I’ve been wise enough to not repeat. Others, not so much.
Only 10 percent of startups are successful, and I’m sure even those 10 percent have battle wounds they’re still recovering from. Even founders like Bill Gates and Mark Cuban could name more than a few hard lessons they’ve had to learn on their paths to success. This may seem like a grim outlook, but any successful entrepreneur will tell you it’s worth the struggle.
Luckily, there are countless people who have blazed the startup trail before you, myself included. I’ve found that the most successful entrepreneurs ask questions and listen. So here are four of my favorite nuggets of life lessons that may help you along your journey:
1. Try not to care too much.
The biggest mistake I see young entrepreneurs make is that they’re too in love with their product or business model. I get it — your business is your baby. It’s a part of you. You’ve nurtured and loved it since its inception. You’ve had sleepless nights, dedicated countless weekends, and missed major events to get it off the ground.
It’s time to get a grip. Unless you’re opening a 911 call center, your company is not saving lives. I love that you’re passionate about what you do. It might end up blinding you to some major flaws in its model or service.
Never be too stubborn to know when it’s time to make changes and adapt. And don’t give up your entire life trying to do so.
2. You can’t do it all, so stop trying.
I used to feel that I had to be part of every decision, no matter how small. So I get it when you’re too afraid to let go and trust others, especially when you’re used to wearing a lot of different hats.
Having control over every aspect of your business may seem to be working, but it’s no way to scale. It’s tempting to try to do everything yourself to cut costs, but you need to learn to delegate things to people who are better suited. Let go and focus on your strengths.
3. Take your blinders off.
You need to have a bit of an ego to venture into the startup business. Ego is often a driving force to success. The problem is when your ego gets in your way, and leads you to think your competition isn’t as good as they actually are.
It’s easy to underestimate the companies you’re up against. Don’t fall into this trap. When I started my company, you better believe I did my research on the other players in the game. What are they doing right? What can be improved? Always know what the competition is up to so you don’t run the risk of falling behind.
4. Confusing a friend with a partner.
Business partners are more like spouses. You value their talent and good qualities, but you sometimes have to put up with their not-so-positive traits. Just like marriage, you need to make sure you trust and know your partner well before committing.
Some people are meant to have a partner, others are not. If you feel like you’d work better with a counterpart, be sure to ask a few key questions before saying “I do.” Is this person as invested as me? Will this person push me to be more successful? Is this person going to bail out if things get tough?
If you dive head first into a partnership without being sure of it, it can end up costing you a lot of time and money. Choose wisely.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.