1. Don’t jump right in without sufficient research.
The one thing most entrepreneurs have in common is passion. You have an idea, you are excited by the idea and its potential to change the world, and all you want to do is take that idea and turn it into a product.
Want to know what sounds a whole lot less appealing to you right now? Taking a deep breath, not building the product, and spending a month doing in-depth market research and competitive analysis. Guess what? If you skip this part, boring as it may be, you’ll regret it later, so fight that instinct to run with the idea and instead see who else had the same idea, who has tried it, who failed, who succeeded, and why.
2. Embrace competition.
Once you have embraced the need for competitive analysis, now ask yourself; what is your goal here? Your instinct, as a human being, is to feel unique, to convince yourself that no one else is like you, no one has tried this, no one has already built what you have been dreaming of building.
You basically need to do the opposite of that. Build yourself a comprehensive landscape of companies in your space. Make that landscape as full as possible. Your goal here is not to convince yourself there is no competition. It is to understand that there is, which means there is demand for your idea. If others have tried it, then you can either do it better than they, or alternatively, you can go back to the drawing board, which means you have essentially dodged a bullet by not simply building something that already exists.
3. No one likes to be wrong, but you might be.
As you do your research and become more of an expert on your domain, speak to people, get feedback, look at data, and be prepared to accept that your assumptions were actually wrong. That doesn’t mean you need to call it quits, but a pivot might be in order. That’s never easy because, after all, this was your baby, but as an entrepreneur, knowing how to be wrong and move on is an absolutely mandatory skill.
4. Not everything you do has to be scalable.
Paul Graham wrote a famous essay entitled “Do Things That Don’t Scale.” You want to build a sustainable business, one that grows consistently, and the thought of going door to door to interview people or pick up the phone and call your customers doesn’t exactly scream scalability.
Fight that thought in the early days of your venture and do things that don’t scale, because the only way to reach millions of people is by first getting tens or hundreds of people to care.
5. Understand that you might have to close up shop.
This is the toughest instinct you need to fight as entrepreneur. You are most likely not a quitter and so reaching a conclusion that it’s time to call it a day is the last thing you are used to doing.
A good entrepreneur knows when it’s time to take an objective look at the numbers, the market, and the competition, and realize that the time has come to move on.
As many have said before me, failure is that only if you don’t extract lessons from it. Looking from a failed startup can become your biggest asset in your next venture, but sometimes you just need to know how to quit.