How Startups Get Shut Down: The 5 Ways To Screw Up Your Startup

by Michael Park

There’s no doubt that us Gen-Yers are an entrepreneurial generation. We’ve been raised by parents who found success and who want nothing more than for us to exceed their own level of success. We’ve been given the educational opportunities to reach for success (even if that education was overpriced). And after our initial 20+ years or so of chasing that success, we’ve arrived at an economy, which has no place for us.

Even though the national unemployment rate has fallen to a respectable 7.4 percent, our generation is carrying the brunt of that, with 5.5 million 20-somethings still unemployed. Even those of us lucky enough to at least be earning a steady paycheck are often overqualified for our jobs, or deeply dissatisfied with the kind of work we’re stuck doing. It’s no surprise, then, that our generation has turned to entrepreneurship as a solution. Can’t find a job? Have a job, but hate your boss? Tired of long hours of pointless work? Start your own company!

But, just because you have the enthusiasm, energy, and a good idea doesn’t mean you’ll make it. Business acumen doesn’t come naturally to all of us - even those of us with an MBA - and mistakes in start-ups can be rampant and even deadly to a young company. What seems like a great idea, and may even be a great idea at a larger company, can be poison to a start up. So, here’s a list of some of the most common mistakes start-ups make and how to avoid them in your own.

1) Increasing inter-office communication

Having a moment of inspiration late at night? Send an email to your colleagues! Noticing a problem in office dynamics? Call a meeting!

Here’s the problem with emails and meetings: people don’t read emails, and they don’t pay attention in meetings. Sure, sometimes emails or meetings are necessary, but nothing is more valuable than your time and the time of the people you work with. So, only send the emails and hold the meetings that are absolutely necessary and keep them short.

Respect the time of your coworkers, employees and clients, and acknowledge the fact that no one’s going to read a big block of text that shows up in their inbox. Instead, try text messages or programs like Asana to keep communication short, sweet and to-the-point.

2) Rent a big office to impress potential investors

Need more funding for your company? Impress potential clients and investors with a fancy office in a downtown high rise! 

Absolutely do not make the mistake of thinking that appearance is everything (it’s important, but it’s not everything). Working out of an office you rent when you could just as easily work out of your home or local coffee shop is nothing more than a blatant waste of money. When it comes to attracting investors, it’s downright business suicide. To an investor’s eyes, unnecessary office space is unnecessary overhead - nothing more than a waste of money.

3) Make big promises

Yes, we’ll absolutely have your website finished by the end of the month. No problem, we can add all of those features in just a few days!

Think a task is going to take you a week? Say it will take you two weeks. Think a project is going to cost $500? Say it will cost $600, or even $700. While you don’t want to overestimate to the point of scaring away potential clients, you don’t want to set up any clients for disappointment, either. In any business, whether it’s a start-up or otherwise, the best bet is to under-promise and over-serve.

If you tell a client something will cost $500, and you end up going over budget, you’re met with anger and disappointment. On the other hand, if you tell a client something will cost $600, but it costs $500, you’re met with pleasant surprise, gratitude, and most importantly, a satisfied customer.

4) Grow too quickly

There’s enough market space in New York to open an office there, too! And then we’ll have to hire an office manager, three more staff, someone for HR, an accountant…

Growth for a start-up is exciting! But remember that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Growth should always be sustainable, and if you have to overstretch your resources or go into an unreasonable amount of debt to take the next step for your company, maybe it’s not the right next step. Remain budget-conscious and prudent enough to assess and exercise risk carefully, and don’t forget your roots - why you started the company and what you want it to stand for. If growth happens too quickly, or heads in the wrong direction, you risk doing so at the expense of your original idea, product quality, or company values.

5) Plan, plan, plan

We should hold a marketing event some time. We could serve drinks and invite other local businesses in the industry to attend. And we could do this and this and this…

Planning is great. It’s exciting to come up with new ideas and dream for the future. The problem is when the future never becomes the present. Most of us have big ideas we would like to see come to fruition, but when it comes to execution, we never seem to be able to get around to it. We get bogged down in the planning.

When you’re in a start-up, you might spend a lot of time discussing plans for the future, but you’d better spend even more time actually doing the things you’ve envisioned. Procrastinating is always easier than being proactive, so quit daydreaming and pondering the “what-if’s.” Stand up and make it happen. It’s really that simple.

Chelsea Stone | Elite.

Career Hack is a portal that helps Gen-Y destroy student loan debt, launch international careers and startups, as well as survive and thrive in the new global economy.