Finding Courage to Live a Life of Joy

The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 | 27 comments

The Entrepreneur’s Leap of Faith

You have decided. Your heart beats fast; your palms are sweaty. You’re about to leap into the relative unknown. Exhilaration. Excitement. And a bit of terror.  You feel it all!

You are alive–maybe for the first time! You control your fate, for better or worse. You have taken the leap of an entrepreneur. You are now driving your life instead of your life driving you.

But then it hits you and you think, What the hell am I doing?!? 

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

“Ideas That Matter Spread”

Recently, I came across an amazing marketing blogger named Bernadette Jiwa at The Story of Telling.

She wrote a phenomenal post entitled “The iPhone Doesn’t Matter to Everyone” (Isn’t that a great title?).

In this post she discusses Seth Godin’s  quote “Ideas that Spread Win.”

Bernadette goes further by asserting that “Ideas that matter spread,” and she goes encourages the reader to engage and expand ideas that matter.

I can’t tell you how eye-opening this simple maxim was for me!  As entrepreneurs, we spend SO much time building brands and platforms and engaging social contacts through a plethora of social media, and we sometimes lose track of the primary thing.

Focus on the Fundamentals

In high school, I had a basketball coach who constantly harped on us to do layups and free throws.  He would quote the percentage of free throws the average player misses.  “That’s the difference between a win and a loss!” He would yell across the gym as we ran layup after layup.

“You gotta focus on the fundamentals,” he repeated often.

The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake

What is the fundamental mistake most of us as small business owners make? We do too much to reach too many.

Don’t do too much to try to reach too many

You do not have to reach everyone! Your product isn’t for everyone. The entrepreneur who asserts that his or her market is “everyone in the world” is being lazy and unfocused (or both!).

This is the entrepreneur’s worst mistake because it dilutes her message and obscures her purpose. Therefore, the people who really do need and want her product or service miss it because they do not even realize it is for them.

I made this mistake in my own business. I was trying to create and maintain (multiple) websites while building a FB fanpage following, a Twitter platform, a LinkedIn presence, a YouTube channel. I am blogging for two blogs, I am launching a brand new book and trying to simultaneously launch a professional speaking career.

I was having fun, but I was also doing too much activity for the mediocre results I was getting. It was madness.

The Business Owner’s Chief Responsibility

What is your responsibility, then? The primary purpose is to clarify your purpose and connect to those who share it. Period.

You must spend your time and energy only on efforts that will create a clearer picture of the purpose of your business and that will connect more quickly and effectively to those who share the values and mission of your business.

You are the guardian of your business. You are the gatekeeper. This is the job only you can do.  Your accountant cannot safeguard the values of your business.  Your assistant is not responsible for the direction of your business. You are.

A Fundamental Adjustment

As a small business owners, we have to be able to keep one eye on our objective, and at the same time be evaluating our efforts and making adjustments.  We have to be able to see the inefficiencies and correct them as we go.

If we can’t, we must surround ourselves with people we trust who can see these things and point them out to us.

So, when we find ourselves making the mistake of trying to be “everything to every person,” it is time to adjust.

As Bernadette pointed out, decide what matters and why, and focus your energies in that direction. Everything else needs to be delegated or released.

The Entrepreneur’s Primary Fears

1. A Wide Net

We mistakenly think that we must cast as wide a net as possible to be successful in our marketing endeavors. I think–at least in my experience–this comes from a feeling of insecurity.

When I am insecure about my person, product or plan (did you like that on-the-spot alliteration?), I tend to fear that I won’t “get” the right people.

The remedy? Clarify. Focus. Strengthen yourself, first. Then focus on your product and your plan. This will give you clarity and confidence that will be effervescent in your dealings in the market.

You won’t have to “get” people to pay attention, they’ll be attracted to the power of your idea (if it matters to you–and to them–for a powerful reason).

2. I Won’t Be Seen/Heard…

This, too, comes from insecurity or could also spring from distraction by all the activity around us.  When I’m focusing on what everyone else is doing (or not doing) in their business, I become a clone of mediocrity.

It’s impossible to be excellent without being focused.

The remedy? You will be heard. Your responsibility is to do the work. Your faith, then, must trust that the rest will fall into place as you put yourself in the path of serendipity. Plan your luck!

Those who are meant to hear your message will do so, the rest will pass by. That’s okay.

The most successful businesses in our society (Apple, Disney, Amazon, Facebook, Oprah) thrive because their message reaches a relatively small fragment of the world’s population.

Fundamental Success

If you want the success of the big businesses, do not try to reach the world. Instead, find a message that matters to you at the soul level and find out why.  Then, simply find the other people to whom this message matters as well.

Seth Godin says, in his book [easyazon-link asin=”1591842336″]Tribes[/easyazon-link] (Amazon affiliate link), that a[easyazon-image-link asin=”1591842336″ alt=”Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” src=”” align=”right” width=”108″ height=”160″] “tribe” of 1,000 will give you more business than you can ever handle. Set your mind to find and service your thousand with excellence and others will beat down your door to be allowed into the tribe.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  Thank you.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Steve,

    Trying to reach everyone means you, have forgotten who you are.

    It’s like trying to be everything to everybody. Which means nobody knows who you are. No identity.

    I fell into this trap in the past, and guard against it now. Your advice to find your purpose and stick to it is good money.

    See what your soul says. Take a break. Watch why you’re doing, what you’re doing. Trying to reach tons of people? Your purpose has dissolved. Now you’re trying to be popular, and that does not fill a need, let alone a specific niche.

    My HS basketball coach harped on the same 2 basics. FTs, lay ups. Focus on the simple stuff. Master the basic skills, and grow from there. Stick to what you do best, and keep doing it. Network with your niche. Forget trying to do too many thing at once. I had to become an 80% foul shooter before I became a 45% three point shooter.

    Your influence expands as you touch people with similar interests. Connect with a raving fan, this person tells other people about you, influencing their friends with similar interests. Godin is spot on: 1000 folks in a tribe can expand your presence like nothing else.

    Thanks for asking some thought-provoking questions here, Steve.


    • Steve Rice

      You’re absolutely spot-on with that, Ryan. In my case, it wasn’t that I had consciously forgotten who I was (maybe at the cosmic level), but that I had never “met” myself in the first place. I really didn’t know what my unique gifts were. And when I did see them, I didn’t recognize them because I didn’t value them.

      It was only recently that I consciously realized that the insight I have naturally is valuable to others and that when implemented, the suggestions and insights I provide produce drastic results in the lives of others. When I recognized my sweet spot, it made me want to play here more and more and gave me greater focus.

  2. Danny@excitedbylife

    Maggie and I have over 50 unfinished blogs. Terrible I know. Thankfully the Ultimate Blog Challenge came at the right time. It forced us to focus on only one blog and to learn the basics of social networking, writing and blogging. Most importantly to find our identity (our voice) in the blog posts we write. Commenting on other blogs has been a great way to clarify our passions and strengths and in identifying how we can add value for others.

    • Steve Rice

      That is an exciting experience, isn’t it? To find one’s voice and the unique contribution that we can make to others. It’s vital in distinguishing ourselves from all the others out there. Plus, there are SO many bloggers…even in a relatively narrow niche, that people will only gravitate to those with a unique point of view and a strong voice.

  3. Calli @ Wedding Favors

    Hi Steve,

    I think trying to reach too many can lose your focus. Its like doing a lot of things just to please everyone. Focusing on a certain niche can help you win every people who belong to that niche. These people are the most important among others because they share the same interest with you. Thus, they are more likely to become your customer, and eventually the most loyal ones.

    • Steve Rice

      Calli, I think you’re right…trying to please everyone never works. The most important are those in our niche, because they’re already looking for what we have to buy. They want to engage with our businesses! 🙂 Great points. Thanks for taking the time to comment here! 🙂

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