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The misfires of gun entrepreneurs (and what you can learn from them)

When it comes to running your own show, it's pretty much a given that you’re going to drop the ball at some point. But what about big-shot entrepreneurs? Do they ever put a foot wrong?

by Jo Foster
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When it comes to running your own show, there are so many moving parts. It’s almost inevitable that at some point you’re going to drop the ball. But what about big-shot entrepreneurs? Yep, they make mistakes too!

If you look around at famous entrepreneurs, you’ll see a few key blind spots popping up again and again. Here are some of the big ones we found:

Hiring the wrong people.

Whether you’re picking a co-founder or your first employee, it may surprise you to know that this isn’t an art – it’s a science. The key is to build a team that prioritizes diversity over similarity, and to do that you first need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your existing team so you can hire people who fill the gaps. It’s also important to continue monitoring this as your business grows.


Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla:

The biggest mistake that I’ve made, and I’m trying to correct for that, is to put too much of a weighting on somebody’s talent and not enough on their personality. I think it actually matters whether somebody has a good heart. It really does, and I’ve made the mistake of thinking that sometimes it’s just about the brain.

Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop:

Another worst business mistake I’ve made is employing the wrong people. Just an appalling litany – I mean Harvard Business Review ought to do a case study of how many crap individuals we employed thinking they would shepherd the company in the right way, and they were absolutely wrong for the company. We didn’t spend enough time with the headhunters saying, ‘These are the kinds of people we want.’ In a way, we gave up to their intelligence how to find the right people.

Not listening to your gut instinct.

Ever heard of a little device called an iPod? Well, while you could hardly call Sir Richard Branson a failed entrepreneur, when asked about his biggest mistake, he recalled the time he joked about a device called a ‘Music Box’ that would store all of your music. The failure to act on his gut instinct and create his idea cost him, and the rest is history. As Branson recalls:

iTunes went on to change the music industry forever and resulted in the closure of Virgin Megastores. Perhaps not acting upon my joke and creating the Music Box for real was my biggest mistake!

Yep, that one’s a corker!

Trying to do too many things at once.

Running your own business means wearing many different hats throughout the day. But as Neil Patel recalls, the key to his business success was to ditch multitasking and start focusing on one thing.

Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics:

One of the biggest lessons I learned was not to spread myself too thin. Like other entrepreneurs, I love trying to do multiple things at once. But once I learned to focus all of my time and energy into one business, I was able to make it grow faster than all of my previous businesses.

Failure to get started.

Just like going with your gut instinct, having more energy to start projects and keep things moving is something that can really skyrocket your startup to success.

Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow:

The worst decision is indecision. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to move quickly and go with your gut. Also, at the end of the day there is no right way or one way to run a business. I used to be so focused on doing things precisely like others who had success before me to avoid hitting snags, but that can ultimately hold you back. Ask questions, acquire mentors, gather knowledge and then make an educated decision and do what’s best for your business

Wade Foster, CEO and co-founder of Zapier:

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is ‘start now’. Almost every decision I’ve made that’s led to something awesome would have been way more awesome had I simply decided to start sooner.

Being too much of a perfectionist.

Sure it’s one thing to do things right, but it’s another being a perfectionist when it comes to the finer details. In fact, it’s this over-focus on details that can cause entrepreneurs to fail to see the big picture.

Lewis Howes, lifestyle entrepreneur and creator of The School of Greatness podcast:

I used to be so worried about how things looked that I was creating and how I thought people would perceive me if I ‘messed up’ with something. Truth is, that energy took me away from living my vision and creating something that people were inspired by.



So there you have it, even well-seasoned entrepreneurs have blind spots. Time to find out what yours might be, don’t you think?

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