The 3 Most Common Business Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make (And How to Avoid Them)

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Marissa Taffer
Marissa Taffer363
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Girlboss or BossBabe? Whether you’re killing it, crushing it or being a goal-getter, behind all these cliches is really just a bunch of real, strong women with ambition to succeed in business. We all see the shiny Instagram posts of influencers claiming they only work three hours a day while sitting by a pool in the south of France, but how do real women succeed in business? With a lot of hard work and support!

What does it mean to succeed in business?

Success in business means different things for everyone. For you, maybe it's a promotion, hitting a certain salary threshold or getting an industry award. It could also be achieving financial freedom or work-life balance.

Once you have decided what it means to you, then you’ll be able to put together a plan to achieve your business goals. 

5 steps to succeed in business.

1. Define your goals.

Now that you know what success in business means to you, it's time to define your personal goals. You should set goals that are both short term (this quarter or this year) and longer-term (within the next 2-5 years). The further out you set goals, the higher the likelihood that your goals and definition of success in business might change. 

2. Plan the steps needed to achieve your goals. 

You have a better chance of achieving the goals that you set if they’re SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. Being successful in business is not a SMART goal. While you may be able to plan some steps to success, it's not specific or measurable. Getting promoted to marketing director in two years, however, is a smart goal. It's a specific title, progress is measurable, you can determine the steps you’ll need to get there, two years is a realistic timeframe and by defining the two-year period, you’ve made your goal time-bound. 

So, what do you need to do to get the promotion? Common steps include being sure you’re going beyond your job description, exceeding performance targets, networking with senior leaders in your company, advocating for your promotion and learning additional marketing/leadership skills.

3. Share your plans with your colleagues. 

To achieve your business goals, you may wish to let your colleagues know what you’re working on. If you work for a company with a collaborative and supportive culture, they can be your support, cheerleaders and help you spot additional opportunities in the organization to help you learn, grow and achieve your goals. 

4. Check-in with yourself or your manager regularly. 

Regular check-ins on your progress will help you stay accountable and on track. Just like if you have a weight loss goal and you weigh yourself regularly, checking in on your progress will give you feedback and make sure you don’t go too far off course. 

This is especially helpful with longer-term goals.  Your manager (or a trusted peer) can give you valuable insight and advice to help you achieve your goal. For example, if you're looking for a more senior management role, you may want to ask to lead some projects or meetings. 

Tell your manager or a peer about your goal and ask them for feedback. You can also ask your direct reports (if you have any) for feedback on your management or leadership style. Don't wait for performance-review time to roll around. By asking for feedback and checking in regularly, you'll be more likely to stay on track. 

5. Celebrate your successes and learn from your failures. 

Someone once said it’s about the journey, not the destination. Achieving goals is a bit like that too. Make sure to celebrate all of the success along the way, and learn from setbacks and failures. If you asked for a 20% raise and only got 10%, make sure to celebrate your win, but also ask yourself or your manager what you can do to get the next 10% increase. 

If you make a big mistake in business (and everyone does at least once) make sure you take some time to think about how you'll handle a similar situation the next time you are faced with it. If you hired the wrong person for the role and then let them stay on your team for six months while everyone else was miserable, think about how to make sure you screen better the next time around and work with HR to put a plan in place so that if you have to move someone to a different role or out of the organization, you can do so with minimal impact to the business. 

3 mistakes to avoid.

1. Not setting SMART goals.

By not setting SMART goals, you leave yourself open for failure. Look at what we can learn about successful goals using budgeting. 

I want to be financially free is not a SMART goal and will take a lot of hard work and guessing to get there. I want to save $1,000,000 in 10 years — depending on your salary and other factors — is better but might not be realistic. Saving $10,000 this year might be a more appropriate SMART goal. You can set steps like transfer $600 every month into a high-yield savings account and then add a catch-up contribution when you get your year-end bonus of $2,800. You can also do things like add more money to your contribution on your birthday or when you get a raise or promotion. These little steps will add up to help you exceed your savings goals and set yourself up for financial freedom in the long-term. 

2. Believing work is beneath you.

While you want to use work assignments to stretch, grow and learn, sometimes you will have to handle administrative tasks that could be performed by a more junior member of your team. Sometimes needs come up like filling in spreadsheets, stuffing bags for a conference or creating name badges. While you don’t always want to be the one handling the office housework, stepping up and stepping in when needed can go a long way. You should approach this (occasional) work with a positive attitude and bring your A-game. Don’t let anyone hear you complain or talk down about the tasks at hand. You never know who might be watching you. 

3. Settling for less.

While it is exciting to be offered a new role, a promotion or other step up in your career, be sure you are being compensated fairly. Don’t play small now — you were chosen for a reason.  Make sure you negotiate for raises, raise your hand for stretch assignments and have the hard, uncomfortable conversations. Ask for feedback, and question policies or compensation you feel is unfair. 

Your success is what you make it. Set your goals, ask for help and remember never to settle for less. While you really do need to try hard, you can succeed in business in whatever way you choose to define success.

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