7 Inexcusable Mistakes of Entrepreneurship

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There is nothing more frustrating for me than to see a powerful business destroyed by silly mistakes. And I see it every day…on facebook, at cafes, at networking events, everywhere…businesses that should be exploding are instead limited by errors. So I compiled a list…not because I was smart but because I was tired of yelling at my computer screen. The list is “7 Inexcusable Mistakes Of Entrepreneurship That Every Business Owner Ought To Avoid!”

Mistake #1Owning An Idea Instead Of A Business This is the first and most critical error of entrepreneurship! A lot of people own ideas that they claim would change the world, but they do not own a business. One of the most controversial blogs I have ever written is titled “Why Writing A Business Plan Destroys Entrepreneurship.” In that article I write about why business plans are the greatest stumbling block for entrepreneurs not because they are unimportant, but because they discourage the execution of ideas by causing the writer to over-think versus execute. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of facebook ,was sued for over $120 million because he allegedly executed an idea that was not his. But the fact is if he never executed the idea, facebook would never have been created! Remember, owning an idea is not the same thing as owning a business.

Mistake #2 Not Having Professional Pictures Of Yourself Or Your Business If there is anything that makes me want to fling my laptop in annoyance, it is this error. You cannot…I repeat, you cannot create a reputable image for your company if your pictures are unprofessional. I see people on facebook trying to present themselves as branding experts or professional realtors, while their photograph is poor, grainy or inappropriate. Absolutely inexcusable. As Walt Disney said “people think in images.” If people see unprofessional pictures they subconsciously associate your business with that image. Spend Invest the money ($150 to $250) to have a professional draw take a picture of you or your business. I guarantee it will be one of the best investments you will ever make. Get rid of the unprofessional pictures…please…

Mistake #3 Investing In Everything But Yourself People spend thousands of dollars building a state of the art website or restaurant, but would not spend a dime to teach themselves how to market their business. The key reason for this is that they fail to see themselves as an important part of their business. If you want your business to succeed, you have to ensure that you are spending ample time investing in yourself. Your investment does not need to be financial; it could be as simple as reading the right type of business book or attending a free conference that relates to your business. As long as you make a conscious effort to invest in yourself, your business will flourish. The greatest difference I saw in my business occurred after I paid for a series of marketing/branding classes. Through the knowledge I received at those classes I have been able to increase my exposure and grow my business revenue. Make sure you invest in yourself.

Mistake#4 Signing Verbal Contracts I cannot remember where I saw this quote, A verbal contract is as good as the paper it is written on.Think about it. I have seen childhood friendships, family relationships and even marriages destroyed because of the “verbal contract” error. The reason is that a verbal contract is interpreted differently by each party involved and is thus hard to enforce. When I talk to my clients or to entrepreneurs about business transactions, I always insist that every single item, no matter how trivial, be written into a contract! I don’t care if it is a family member or even your wife…write a contract! Even when I am working with my brother on my website I write a contract. Executing a business transaction without a written contract is like running a country without a constitution. Write a contract…if you need a sample contract, you can find it on Microsoft Templates or you can contact me at ofili@ofilispeaks.com

Mistake #5 Electrocuting Your Clients Everyday on facebook, some poor soul is getting his or her wall bombarded with hundreds and hundreds of birthday wishes and smiley faces. Now there is nothing wrong with this; the only problem is that it is impersonal and easily forgotten. Unfortunately, lots of businesses treat their clients in the same way, resorting to automated email messages and pre-printed cards to stay in touch. Their use of electronic communication is so excessive that they electrocute their clients lose an opportunity to make a special connection with their clients. Although I am a huge user of social media, I still believe personal phone call is worth more than a facebook wall post. Likewise a simple handwritten note is worth more than an email. Stop electrocuting your clients…make a phone call or write a personal note =)

Mistake#6 Ignoring Social Media: If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that sites such as facebook and twitter are social nuisances that need to be avoided…I would be rich! This is the same reasoning and mentality that led to the near extinction of businesses such as Barnes/Nobles and the New York Times. Both companies had initially disregarded the e-books and website newspapers as fads. But within the last few months, both industries have revamped their entire marketing structure to fit the e-model. The same change is happening continually in businesses as marketing methods continually evolve daily. You owe it to your business clients to ensure that you stay ahead of the latest business trends. A few years from today facebook might become extinct or it might become bigger; regardless of what happens, your business will prosper, but only if you place it ahead of the curve. In less than 6 months since I published my first book HOW STUPIDITY SAVED MY LIFE I have been able to sell over 1000 copies, book all because I stayed ahead of the curve and tapped into the power of social media. Please don’t ignore social media!

Mistake#7 Working For Free In Hopes Of Being Suddenly Discovered I have seen so many people used and abused by this. Unless Oprah Winfrey calls you to do a show for free, you should never ever work for free. This is a mistake that I repeated over and over again in my speaking business…I believed that if I somehow gave the most incredible presentations as often as I could, I would create a name for myself and the phone would start buzzing. But for 3 years nothing happened. Instead, my time was undervalued and unappreciated and I eventually became frustrated with what I was doing. It was not until I invested in myself (see #3 above) and set a reasonable value for my time and services that I began to grow my business. Today I see people desperate to make a name for themselves providing their services for free and sometimes even paying for an opportunity to give our their services for free! I remember getting a call a few months ago to give a presentation at the NISOD 2011 National Conference. I was told that it would be a great opportunity to expose myself to a large group of colleges. The only catch was that I was not going to get paid…and I also had to pay my air ticket…plus I had to pay for the hotel…and get this I also had to pay the $400 registration fee even though I was a presenter! I politely declined the offer…Remember, do not work for FREE!

I want to hear from you. Give me some comments, your thoughts, your links, your ideas, opinions and beyond…especially if you disagree. I promise to write back to each and every one.



Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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41 comments on “7 Inexcusable Mistakes of Entrepreneurship

  1. Ofili,

    Great stuff!! I changed my profile pic on Facebook midway through reading this article, good advice! Hopefully the handwritten note you got from me last week made up for it! Talk soon!

  2. Hey Ofili,

    Awesome post, my man. I love it.

    #3 Invest in Yourself it it home for me. I am an avid reader and I attend seminars and teleclasses and workshops, but I haven’t been doing it with focus. I have invested in technology that I am not using, instead of investing in myself on how to use the technology.

    Thanks for the timely post.


    • Ofili

      Rasheed that is so true…thanks for sharing. I did that so many times, until I met Jonathan Sprinkles and James Malinchak and they they taught about the importance of viewing oneself as a business asset. That mind set shift changed my business forever.

  3. Nice article… I couldn’t have expressed Mistake #2 any better (lol) and Mistake #6 is detrimental to any business especially online businesses. If a business wants to be taken seriously, Mistake #6 must not only be avoided but done well. There’s a right way and a wrong way to use social media for businesses.

  4. Mistake #5: I am no marketing guy but dont you want to do some giveaway at the beginning of your business, depending on the service you provide. Burger King gives away fries, KFC gives away grill chicken and Chick fil a give away food also. I feel it can be a benefit to introduce you and your product by giving it way. This also give you an opportunity to invest in point #2 and get some pictures of you in action.

    #7 This if big! You can also electrocute those you work with. If you are doing business or working with someone and you have never talked them on the phone or met in person you may be missing an opportunity.

    • Ofili

      Rico I agree with you on the giveaways, what I am wary about is giveaways that do not produce any returns or are expensive. KFC and Burger King can afford huge giveaways and they do it as a marketing budget, we small business on the other hand have to watch our budget much tighter. For example I give my book away free to radio show hosts and magazine editors, because there is a return on investment which is a potential radio show interview, but I do not just give it away to anyone. Also I offer the first chapter of my book on my site, just to encourage people to want to see the final thing. All in all FREE should be avoided at all costs except there is a tangible and palpable investment return.

  5. Ofili,
    I understand and agree with the issues you brought out, my only concern is that I cannot get a definite answer on whether or not to use Facebook for my Seminar Business?

  6. Jo Uthman on said:

    This is great! I agree with all but #5 – in a product based business the only way to get customers is to get them to try it – usually via offering free samples.Once you get a following you can snap that off.

    I couldn’t agree more with #1 – who ever came up with writing a biz plan should be shot 🙂 – Got an idea ?then JUST TO IT!!

    Looking forward to hearing you speak at the BLOOM event.

    • Ofili

      For #5 i am not saying don’t do stuff for free, just be smart about it. I give out free book samples to editors and radio show hosts to help get interviews. But I don’t over do it, because if I did the value of the book will diminish.

  7. Nemi Boyo on said:

    I agree with #1 in my case people always told me that to write a book I needed to have it all planned out, and most importantly I needed a name. I could never get around to doing any of these and I stayed stuck until I decided to start writing without a plan, and somewhere along the line I got a perfect name and more ideas for my book!


    Thanx for the posts Ofili!

  8. I know that I’m repeatedly committing mistake #5. In my head, I’m ready to charge a fee and have rationale for my fees. When it’s time to step up to the plate and tell the client, I hesitate and end up giving it away for free. I need to stop. Giving away free services does NOT build a business. Ultimately, what customers want for free is different from what they are willing to pay for. And as you mentioned, the product value is diminished if it’s free.

    On my previous business, I could look to my partner to keep me from undercharging. I’m doing this one alone and need to develop better skills for discussing price with clients. How do you go about telling the client your price? Do you include rationale?

    Thanks for the help!

    • Ofili

      Sup Yvette! I have a similar problem. What I recommend is to tell the client that you will email them the price quote. That way you avoid blurting out a low price. And over time you will get comfortable charging what you are worth.

  9. Hi Ofili,

    I always look forward to your mails (I’m subscribed) because I find them motivational, so thank you for keeping me motivated and congratulations on all your success!

    I’m a [budding] writer and have struggled with the items you listed as mistake numbers 1 and 6.

    Mistake Number 1: I had always told myself that when I was ready, I would just get to writing. However, when that time came, I let myself get intimidated by the many great writers that are out there. After all, there are many [far better] writers that have yet to be published. So, I convinced myself that in order to compete with the many [struggling, unpublished] writers in existence, I needed to get some formal knowledge on the subject matter. So I picked up a book on how to write stories in my genre of interest and I’m still working my way through it. However, your words here showed me that I need to do what I originally wanted to, JUST WRITE and see where it takes me. So, thank you.

    Mistake Number 6: I actually believe that social networking sites (especially Facebook and Twitter) can be powerful, but I just don’t know how to harness their “powers”. I have a website where I feature a weekly web series (Daughters of Eboh) as well as works submitted by other writers and though I have Facebook and Twitter pages, I haven’t received the kind of following that I would like. Any advice?

    • Ofili

      Bel…I actually wrote about #1 in my book…I really encourage people to write write write and I am excited that that is what you are going to be doing! For the last part I would say send me an email ofili@ofilispeaks.com and we can talk in more details.

    • Ofili

      You have a point Ogemdi. If you have a 100+ clients you are excused. But anything less than that you should be able to write a personal note or even do a personal phone call. Clients want to feel special and a personal touch is the easiest way to get this done =)

  10. Mark Nash on said:

    Hi Ofili,

    Hope you are having a wonderful day.

    I am subscribed to your e-mails as well and know some people who can benefit from this information.

    As I have been growing my business, I have made all of these mistakes at one time or another. The one that I was terribly guilty of was Mistake #5 – Working for FREE in hopes of being suddenly discovered. I agree at how frustrating that whole process can be. In the past, I had always thought of it as a way to demonstrate my talents in order to encourage the client to move to the next step. What I learn was that I needed to do a better job of qualifying the client. Long story…. The point of my post was really just to say…. “Awesome article!”….

    Have a wonderful day.


  11. Mistake #3 rings so true. I find it amazing how we just expect things to magically fall into place without putting in any effort to improve our knowledge and skills. We pour our life savings down the drain before we discover that knowing how to bake a few chocolate chip cookies doesn’t mean you will be able to run a successful bakery. Your talent will only take you so far, beyond which there had better be some serious business knowledge waiting. (Even if you have to read it out of a book!) 

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