ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

3 First-Time Entrepreneur’s Mistakes I Made

How you should avoid them

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

“The one man to distrust, however, is the man who never makes a mistake, never commits a blunder, never fails in what he tries to do. He is either a phony, or he stays with the safe, the tried, and the trivial.” —Peter Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

There is no way you will not make mistakes at your company. That’s part of the entrepreneurial journey. As you build a company, you will face different challenges, and rarely, you are going to make things right in your first attempt. I believe resilience is one of the essential characteristics an entrepreneur should have. Without it, you will give up the first-moment things don’t go the way you planned.

I founded my first company in 2012, and during my entrepreneurial journey, I made many mistakes. Later on, I found out that I made many classical first-time entrepreneur’s mistakes. You make different kinds of errors in different stages of the company. The important thing is that you always learn from them and keep working to make things right for your company.

#1 I didn’t have complementary members to me

“It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” — Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself

My first company started with three programmers (me being one of them) and one artist. We had no complementary skills, which made our job very difficult. It was only after I had fights with my partners, and they left that I learned about the minimum viable team profile, which consists of:

  • Hacker (technology)
  • Hipster (design)
  • Hustler (business)

At first, I tried to do a little of the three things, but I couldn’t do anything right in the end. Eventually, I focused on being the Hustler (after all, I was the CEO), even though I continued acting as a programmer. My programming time was gradually decreasing until I completely stopped this function in early 2018. Having complementary members helped me focus on my strengths, which helped me make my company grow.

It is necessary to learn many new things to make a company work. For this, it is crucial to understand how each person can help. It is not productive when a company has more than one person fixing the same issue. It is better to be a very good person in one role than average in many. Understand how your industry works, how you fit on the minimum viable team profile and find people complementary to you.

#2 I didn’t have a clear focus for the company

“Plan, organize, integrate, motivate, and measure.” —Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

When I started my first company, I wanted to make games. However, I didn’t know precisely what kind to create. The games industry is vast, and there are a lot of different games one can develop. At the same time, one of my partners wanted to create advergames, which are games designed for brands. We were not aligned.

We tried to do a little of both, but that didn’t work. We were making advergames for other brands and developing our own games at the same time. We had no focus, and because of that, we didn’t have good results. Also, there were a lot of fights between my partners and me about what we should prioritize.

After two years of hard work and little results, my three partners decided to leave the company. When that happened, I decided to change its strategy and to focus on a specific type of game to develop. After one year of working with a clear focus, my company became profitable with our own games, and two years later, we raised US$ 1 million to help us grow even more.

#3 I wasn’t working smart

“If there is any ‘one secret’ of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.” —Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

There is a myth that those who work harder produce more. That is true if you live in the Industrial Revolution era back in the 17th, 18th, or 19th century where the main job was to perform manual tasks. Today we live in the knowledge worker’s age, and working more does not always mean producing more. Unfortunately, many companies and people do not think that way.

When I started my company, I followed that same line. There were many hours worked and many nights spent. My life became only work, but I had weak results. For a long time, I believed that just hard work would be enough for success. If that were true, construction workers would be the wealthiest people in the world. Working hard isn’t enough. It would help if you also worked smart.

Today I see that there are better ways to obtain more expressive results. Figuring out how to work less made me have to become a more organized person. I had to learn to prioritize my work and think better before starting any task. Working smart allowed me to be more productive at work, which led my company to better results and myself to live a healthier life.

Final thoughts

“Today is always the result of actions and decisions taken yesterday. Man, however, whatever his title or rank, cannot foresee the future. Yesterday’s actions and decisions, no matter how courageous or wise they may have been, inevitably become today’s problems.” —Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

It’s always better to learn from the mistakes of others. For that, I had incredible mentors helping me in my journey. I would have made many more mistakes if it wasn’t for them. Mentors are people that had gone through what you are dealing with now and can help you. You won’t stop making mistakes, but you certainly will make fewer and grow faster as a person and professional.

I keep making mistakes today, but I am always trying to learn from them. I built a fantastic company with people working from their homes all over Brazil and the world (we were a company 100% remote). We worked as a team with complementary skills; we had clear goals focusing on activities that would help us achieve the results we wanted; and we were always looking for ways to improve our performance to work smarter and not just harder. All of that should be part of the entrepreneur’s life.

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João V Souza

João V Souza

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