Call them rookie mistakes or lessons learned. Most new business owners find out the hard way what not to do when building and growing a business. But, on the positive side, while new business mistakes are disheartening, they also help you build a stronger business in the long run.


We asked business owners the biggest mistakes they made when starting their business. Here’s how they responded:


Not having a formal sales strategy and plan

When starting my marketing company, I was the only one who had all the information required to make the sale. I hired salesperson after salesperson, but they always failed. Being a rookie owner, I assumed it was bad luck. Little did I know that there was no sales system to follow. I could sell because of my unique product knowledge and experience, but for anyone else, it didn’t work. We’re now redesigning the sales system so when we go back to hire, the new reps have a clear game plan to execute. This was an expensive lesson.

Brian Robben, CEO, Robben Media, Cincinnati


Carving a niche too late

Over six years ago, I started my massage practice. I was taking clients for all kinds of different massage styles. I pretty quickly learned what kind of massage I loved doing and was especially good at, but it took me two years too many to realize I needed to “niche down” and focus my business on the type and style of massage I do best. Why is this so important? Because having a specialty allows me to better attract customers looking for what I offer. But also, focusing on the work that I enjoy and am good at for clients is where business owner happiness lives!

—Brittany Herzberg, founder, B Here Massage Therapy, Richmond, Vermont


Targeting the wrong audience

The biggest mistake I made as a business owner was not being in the right place when it came to finding potential clients. I was selling a service that cost thousands of dollars a month, yet I was attending free networking events where entrepreneurs were in the early stages of starting their business. I went to these week after week, month after month, and found no success. None of these people could afford my services. Once I started attending Chamber of Commerce and other paid networking events, my business took off.

Brett Prentiss, co-founder, Instinct Marketing, Sacramento, California


Wasting time

​​Working in different industries and starting my own company made me realize that time is my most valuable asset, yet it is also the most readily wasted. When starting my business, I wish I would have structured my day better to create the most impact. I’ve  learned that setting clearly defined expectations for each day, week and month gives me a far better idea of whether I’m on pace to meet my objectives.

Lucas Travis, founder, Inboard Skate, Leesville, Louisiana


Not building an online audience sooner

We sell business software, and in the past year I’ve focused on building my following on LinkedIn, but I regret not starting that process sooner. I wish I had started before we even launched our product. That audience allows my company to nurture relationships

with business owners so they’ll think of us when they need a website. But it also allows us to get quick feedback on software feature ideas, understand which benefits are resonating and attract more customers and partners. The quality and quantity of the content we provide through LinkedIn even gives our current customers confidence they’ve made a wise decision to work with us.

Dawn Verbrigghe, CEO and founder, Jottful, Ann Arbor, Michigan


Trying to get ‘everything perfect’ before launch


“Had I launched sooner, I could have gotten important honest feedback from my customers and potential clients.”


I spent three years working on “getting everything perfect” before my business went live. This was time wasted, because had I launched sooner, I could have gotten important honest feedback from my customers and potential clients. All the adjustments that I have made to my service so far have been based on customer feedback and what the market has dictated—not what I thought the answers were pre-launch. I should never have hyper-focused on the minute details that no one saw as I did anyway.

Jaclyn Strauss, founder, My Macro Memoir, Fort Lauderdale, Florida


Choosing the wrong business partner

I made the mistake of going into business with someone I was dating. We had a lease for an office downtown together and started merging both of our businesses together. He did web services, and I did social media management and branding. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out, and we didn’t want to be around each other after that. It was hard to have to tell a few clients that we were no longer able to help them with projects. I am happy I made a clean break and focused on my own business after that. That was 11 years ago, and now I am happily married to someone who doesn’t work in the same industry as me.

Shana Bull, founder, Shana Bull Digital Marketing, Concord, California



What would you have done differently when starting your business? Share your insights in the comments section below!

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