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The Top 5 Mistakes of Entrepreneurs and What They Would Do Next Time

By March 19, 2013Article

If entrepreneurs could “do it all over again,” what mistakes they vowed never to repeat again would stand out above the rest? Here are the top five mistakes mentioned repeatedly by TriNet clients — with thoughts on how to do it better the second time around.  
1. Failure to hire the best talent and to hire the right fit
How often have your new hires been the “best of their breed”? And did you make the hire because you had the close-to-ideal position available for your candidate? If the answer to either question is no, you’re at risk. Consider for a moment: if your staffers are “customer facing,” can you afford to present clients or customers with a less skilled, less experienced employee, or someone who’s obviously not ideal for their job and title? Would you feel confident doing business with your company under those circumstances?
The right fit also means choosing employees who share the same values as your company. Talent, experience and fit can never make up for someone who is not aligned with company values.
Bottom line:  Hire for fit, train for skill and monitor for a good “value match.”
2. Expecting employees to act like owners rather than leaders
Owners have a huge stake in the success of their organization. By nature, employees who do not have ownership in the business have much less incentive to give all — time, dedication, or duty beyond the call — to make it work. If they are talented but don’t like their circumstances, they can easily walk out the door.
A former colleague once said to me:  “I just wish any of my people were willing to work as hard as I do.” My response: “They never will unless you give them a piece of the pie.”
But what’s the alternative for retaining talented people you can’t afford to lose? Let them become leaders — at their level and within their roles. Nurture them, and then pay them for the value of their leadership.
Bottom line: Allow employees to become leaders within their roles.
3. Placing people in management based on seniority
In three words: don’t do it! Simply put, seniority rarely translates into fitness for management.  The so-called “Peter Principle” states that employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Well, that can happen if they lack either the skills or the aptitude to manage.
Here’s where “parallel tracks” can help you retain your most brilliant, non-management-suited employees. Take the case of James George, a brilliant electrical engineer who was at the top of his pay range. He also had no desire to move into management, but management valued his contributions. The solution for James was a parallel track for further advancement as a doer, not a manager. Let people continue to rise within their category while growing by assuming additional research or training responsibilities.
Bottom line: Don’t promote employees to positions beyond their ability; consider parallel tracks instead.
4. Failure to train employees right 
One commonly overlooked drawback of on-the-job training is that it often only teaches employees how your company does things and not necessarily how they should be done across the industry you serve. No one in an organization has all the skills they need to excel or advance, which is where employers have a unique opportunity. By diverting employees’ efforts to critical company objectives you not only help steer them to learn new skills or hone an existing skill, but you’ve also saved your company a tremendous amount of time and effort by training strategically rather than sporadically. 
The lesson here: Help employees learn and practice a new skill that will help them grow and advance in their position, and be upfront. “I value you, and I know that this skill is important to your job growth and satisfaction.  It’s also a goal of the company, and a true win-win opportunity.” 
Bottom line: Train employees to hone and advance skills in line with company goals. 
5. Failure to manage performance 
All your best efforts can be undone if you fail to give your employees regular, direct feedback on their performance and your expectations. In other words, put a formal performance management process in place. People need to know where they stand. If you don’t let them know, they don’t know what to strive for. And remember that measurability is key to maximizing individual performance.
Bottom line: That which can be measured gets done.
Remember, there is never a second chance to make a good first impression, but there is always an opportunity to do better the next time around.
Entrepreneurs are solving the world’s most challenging issues, and Burton M. Goldfield is thrilled to be a part of it as president and CEO of TriNet, a company that cultivates HR partnerships to help its clients make the world a better place. Burton has led TriNet to become the largest independent cloud-based HR provider leveraging the PEO (professional employer organization) model to help grow small businesses nationwide.

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