By Paula Burkes The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kitt Letcher is the President and CEO of Central Oklahoma's Better Business Bureau. In this Q&A she shares ways in which entrepreneurs can best set themselves up for success.
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
Q: What's one of the most common mistakes first-time business owners make?
A: Probably the most common one is trying to do everything at once. Obviously time is precious when you're an entrepreneur, and there's hundreds of things you can do, but you have only so many hours in a day. Effective prioritization can sometimes be one of your hardest and most important jobs starting out.
Q: What's a common issue about which many entrepreneurs may be afraid to talk?
A: Many lack confidence as the result of a prior experience. Usually people already feel overwhelmed with the work of starting a business, and that leads confidence issues because people feel like there are more "things" that they don't know how to do. It's important to remember that there isn't one right way to do "these things," whether it's managing a sales team, building a product line or something else. Moreover, when they start, many people don't know how to do a lot of things. But that's how you learn.
Q: What's an important but overlooked skill to have as a first-time business owner?
A: Delegation. It's one of the most important skills someone who is founding their own company needs, or else they'll burn out quickly and not be able to scale. This mainly comes from seeing entrepreneurs trying desperately to be good at everything. Don't get me wrong, it's helpful to have a basic working knowledge of a variety of areas of business (such as marketing, operations and sales), but you can't do everything yourself and expect to be successful.
Q: But what happens if you're worried about employees failing at what you delegate to them?
A: Not letting people fail is another common issue some entrepreneurs face. Sometimes people will fail, and as scary as that is, you need to let it happen. That's how people learn, and if they don't learn from it, then you might learn that they aren't a good fit for your business. Learning from failure is important and sometimes a failure sheds light on areas in your business that can be fixed or improved, like processes or communication.
Q: Do you have any other advice for entrepreneurs?
A: Don't be of the mindset that things will stay as good as they are. It's optimistic to think that your momentum will stay at the same pace; that revenue will only go up and never trend down. However, you need to realize there are a lot of things that could happen. The marketplace can change or shift, new competition could open in your market, some of your backers and/or capital could dry up, you could bring on employees who damage your company, etc. Far too often people become complacent, assuming that once they've reached a certain level, it will continue on. The best thing to do from the start is to constantly continue working, brainstorming and maintaining your current performance levels, while continuing to drive toward higher levels of success.