December 21, 2020 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
We all know the year 2020 presented the world with a number of challenges in the entrepreneurial space. The following are the 15 things to avoid as an entrepreneur in the year 2021.
1. Lose your focus
When you forget why you got into business in the first place, you are well on the path to failure. Examples include not caring about your customers and not being able to address their concerns and needs from a product or service perspective. Always keep your customer’s needs at the center of how your products and services are developed. Continuously make sure that you are reaching out to your customers and constantly evaluate if you are on the right track.
2. Lack of leadership
Organizational leadership encompasses numerous concepts and ideals, with sales, marketing, operations and personnel management just the tip of the iceberg. When organizations and leaders start making the wrong decisions, it’s typically the start of a bad outcome. In 2021, take the time to focus on leadership and creating value.
3. Not caring about your employees
As an employer and as an organization, if your employees are not happy, motivated or engaged, it is impossible for them to serve your client base diligently on a daily basis. Successful organizations work on their inside game and internal structure before they start going out to generate revenue and tackling larger goals.
4. Not working with partners
Successful organizations always look for opportunities to work with others. Successful leaders understand that winning is about collaboration. Start out by seeking 10 partnership opportunities with potential partners and work on something small to start off with. Consistency is key to winning the game.
5. Build walls
Successful organizations tear down walls. Never build walls with your stakeholders. This includes competition, industry organizations, associations, the media and any other organization. Be the person who tears down the walls and helps others connect and build a better industry. Become the leader that others can look up to and ask for help because they trust that you can help tear down walls.
6. Ignore your clients
Never ignore your customers. Many times, organizations focus too much on internal happenings. One of the companies that I worked with in my career was focused on how good their products were and internal processes that were more complicated than needed. This led to them not paying attention to the voice of the customer and what the customer ultimately wanted. The result? Declining revenue and organizational degradation.
7. Not holding people accountable
Accountability is key to organizational success. Experts suggest that accountability is one of the top reasons why organizations succeed. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) says that we have a 65% chance of attaining a goal if we commit to it. There are many studies that prove that personal accountability, organizational accountability and using accountability coaches helps increase the possibility and chance of completing a goal. You can elevate your organization’s accountability by driving a culture of being held accountable.
8. Not creating a culture of execution
Execution is probably the most important element in successfully reaching a goal. Many of us endlessly plan things, but fall short when it’s time to execute. Use the pursuit of consistent execution as a tool to get ahead. Make sure you deliver on the promise that you have made to your customers, employees and other stakeholders by executing on your stated tasks and goals.
9. Not taking any risk
Many industries today are suffering because they refuse to take any risks. Service industries such as legal and accounting, for example, are battling technology and the decline of traditional business models because they refuse to adapt to a new way of conducting business. Business risk is not only a financial risk, but it’s also about exploring new areas of opportunity, creating new revenue streams and exploring avenues that have not been explored in the past.
10. Not having standards
Have you ever heard of an automobile company that had zero safety standards? What about an airline that has no operational standards? It’s impossible for some industries to not follow standards because a lack of standards can lead to dire consequences. Make sure that you operate with high standards. This means doing the best, expecting the best and creating a mindset of quality and a minimum level of acceptable standards within your organization, across the board.
11. Letting people get their way
Organizational bullies are people who get their way. These could be people at a strong position within your organization who have developed a habit of getting away with actions that undermine organizational standards. Keeping your organization’s culture free from organizational bullies is a tough task for leaders. However, it is important that everyone who is part of your organization knows the value you create, the culture you have and respect everyone they come across within the organization. This also goes into respecting organizational policies, the vision of the leadership and what you stand for.
12. Focus too much on competition
Some industries are very focused on what the competition is doing. In a small market with many companies offering the same products and essentially targeting a very small number of customers, competition and getting ahead can be a “do or die” situation. If all your focus is on competition, you start lagging in being an innovative and out-of-the-box thinker. Do not focus strictly on the competition, but work on your inner game, making your product and solutions more valuable for your customers and raising your standards
13. Ignoring your critics
Have you ever had critics who are always on your case? If not, then you have not really made an impact on your industry. This way of thinking is a bit non-traditional. You should always have critics and those who point you in the right direction, helping you identify both areas where you face challenges and areas where opportunities exist. Pay attention to those who point a finger at you and help guide you in the right direction.
14. Being socially awkward
In 2021, you must become a socially engaged organization. This means supporting social causes, meeting other people with similar interests, helping your employees be part of social change, involving your organization in initiatives and ideas that are beyond just what you do professionally as an organization. At a local level, you may find a school basketball team that needs support or a conservation project seeking volunteers. These projects and opportunities are a means to get your employees engaged and work closely with the communities that support you as an organization. Get involved and do not be a socially awkward organization.
15. Stop learning
If you have stopped learning as an individual and as an organization, then there is nothing much that can be done. Look at some of the industries that are dying a slow death today, including the accounting industry. Traditional accounting firms are facing an uphill task in surviving as technology is crushing firms that refuse to change and adapt to a new way of doing business. Always stay hungry as an organization and ensure that everyone within your company is learning something new.
Success as an organization, as a leader or as an individual contributor, is a blend of many different things, but there are plenty of opportunities to you can make headway and succeed in 2021 as an entrepreneur and as a business.