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A Long List Of First-Time Entrepreneur and Business Owner Misconceptions

I am, as it turns out, surrounded by many who wish to woo the fickle mistress of business and good fortune. They want to work at something in a moral way, be empowered to make their own choices, and create a company (or more) that might actually be bigger than them. Generally, the immediate goal is to have the idea they start affirmed by either money or a customer base. That doesn’t come easy when many of the ideas you have are wrong. I recently came across a great list of first-time misconceptions and added a number of my own items to it.

This is something of a perpetual reality for me. I have been at it for some fourteen years, but in the technology trade in some form or another for upwards of 20 years. Seeing others have ideas, start something, change course and then often failing; I feel like I’ve seen it all. While I am often surprised by others, explaining to them what I’ve learned seems to rarely sink in. This is where David Cummings great list of first-time misconceptions comes in. This has fifteen amazing points and I’ll reprint the list in its entirety:

“Here are 15 misconceptions for first-time entrepreneurs:

1. The destination is more fun than the journey
2. The initial product idea will be successful
3. All money is created equal
4. Things happen fast
5. Great products sell themselves
6. If you build it, they will come
7. Failure to raise money is due to a lack of investors that get it
8. Culture is one of many items that can be controlled
9. Timing a market is easy
10. It’s lonely at the top
11. Work/life blend isn’t possible
12. Scaling a business takes the same skills as starting one
13. No competition is a good thing
14. Business plans are required
15. The company with the most funding wins”

Now, I don’t completely agree with all of these assertions. It would be hard to make that long of a list that anyone would completely agree with, but it’s probably the best encapsulation of things I was wrong about when I started out. All of these misconceptions, and the eventual learning that they brought, lead me to where I am.

There were cases where I didn’t actually verbalize it, but I was “living” the misconception. Take point 5 for example. I was working like a madman thinking that selling could be taken out of the process if I just worked hard enough. That my work was so good, and that I was so good, that it would just sell itself. Boy was I wrong about that.

But, I have fourteen more ideas that you’re probably wrong about too. These misconceptions are by no means exhaustive but are just as true today as they were all those years ago. If you have any more to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

16. Customers care about how you feel
17. You can figure out anything
18. What you do, and what you know is irreplaceable
19. Compromise equals failure
20. Because you can do some things better, you’ll be better overall at business
21. Money spent on non-business related things is no use to the business
22. The hardest part of creating a product is the idea
23. You’re safer if you close yourself/your knowledge off from the world’s scrutiny
24. A business needs a gimmick/hook/catchy slogan to be a success
25. The business can’t succeed without revenue certainty or deliberate recurring income
26. Because you’re running a business, you get to stop doing things you don’t like
27. A good product idea/strong technical team guarantee a sustainable business
28. You can forgo your gut feeling/intuition for all things measurable
29. You don’t need help / You can do it alone

My suggestion: If you’re out there starting a business, thinking about starting one, or even in your first year, consider this list and understand there are a great many things you’re probably wrong about. Don’t squander the opportunities to follow those who have learned these difficult lessons and somehow emerged from the clutches of failure.