The Lessons We Keep Learning

The article called “What Not to Do” was first published in February 2004, about six months before I started to plan to launch First Beverage.  The article details the 17 most common mistakes that start-up founders commonly make according to serial entrepreneur John Osher and the five things Osher believes every entrepreneur must do to ensure success.  It’s a great read (Entrepreneur, February 1, 2004) and one article that I re-read every couple of years.

The funny thing is that when I re-read it on my summer vacation this year it seemed that now, after 11 years, I had made almost every mistake on the list.  Underestimating financial requirements and timing? Check.  Making cost projections that are too low? Check.  Hiring for convenience rather than skill requirements?  Check.  Neglecting to manage the entire company as a whole?  Yes, another check.

I kept reading but eventually had to stop the painful tally.  I knew that almost each of Osher’s ‘mistakes to avoid’ were mistakes that, in one form or another, I had made.  They are the lessons I keep learning.

About the same time I read this article, a friend and mentor had told me that I would make more mistakes than I could imagine in my start-up.  “Just make sure that none of them are fatal,” he said.  That’s perhaps the best advice I received as I was starting First Beverage.  As Osher says in the article, “Things are going to go wrong.  They’re going to be harder, take longer and cost more money than you think.  You have to have a strategy to survive.  A lot of people put together a plan to that will work only if everything goes right. It’s not going to.” It’s good to have a forgiving strategy – and be ready to forgive yourself for the inevitable stream of mistakes.