Hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes the best way to learn. But even better is learning from others’ mistakes so that you don’t have to make them. We asked these business mavericks and Advisors in The Oracles to share the biggest time-wasters that prevented them from reaching success sooner.
1. Chasing resume builders
Too often, small companies want big-name customers to validate that they’re good at what they do — and they’re willing to cut margins and overcommit resources to get them. They think that the volume will push down their costs and they’ll make it up elsewhere.
In my first company, a systems integrator, this ended up slowing us down. The biggest customers are often like needy children. There are too many layers of management, and everyone you work with has to be coddled so they can prove how important they are. Looking back, I would have maintained our margins or used those resources to find more profitable customers instead.
2. Going outside my wheelhouse
About 15 years ago, my business partner wanted to get into high-end denim when it was becoming popular. We were way outside our area of expertise, and I wasn’t willing to dive in and learn everything about this new industry. The pants were also really expensive, but we went for it anyway and lost a lot of money as a result.
I learned to stick with what I know and am passionate about and leave high-end clothing to the experts. Don’t get into something outside your wheelhouse just because you think it’s going to be successful. If you aren’t passionate about it and willing to put in the work, it probably won’t succeed.
— Tony Hawk, founder and CEO of Birdhouse Skateboards and president of the Tony Hawk Foundation; the most influential and commercially successful skateboarder of all time, with a $100+ million net worth
3. Not delegating tasks ‘inside’ my business
Take the time each day to write down the tasks that steal your nonrefundable minutes. Then, after a few weeks, go back and look at the ones that are repeated daily. List those out and delegate what’s possible to free up valuable time you can’t get back.
If you’re a solopreneur, you may face other challenges like spending too much time “looking left and right” on the web, looking at what everyone else is doing. Stop that. Do you. Lead as you. Fail as you. Succeed as you. After all, being fearlessly committed to you is the reason you started your business in the first place.
4. Hiring B players and failing To establish repeatable processes
It took me a while to understand the importance of hiring A players, giving them the resources they need to succeed, and getting out of their way. I wasted a lot of time settling for B and C players to save money. Your people will make or break your business, so don’t compromise.
I also solved the same problems over and over until I learned to make every task repeatable using checklists and how-to training guides. The goal is that a new employee with zero knowledge of our business can immediately become productive by following standard operating procedures. Now, we build every business from day one as if it’s going to be a global franchise. This saves time and money and makes it easier to grow and sell the company later.
— Mike Peters, entrepreneur, philanthropist, XPRIZE Foundation board member, and founder of the Yomali group of companies, which has generated more than $1 billion in sales online; read about Mike’s rollercoaster journey
5. Investing in people who didn’t have what it takes
Sometimes you hire someone, and you know they have what it takes. Other times, you connect with them but instinctively know they aren’t cut out for the job. I love mentoring and always want to give others the benefit of the doubt. As a result, I’ve wasted a lot of time holding on to employees instead of listening to my gut and letting them go.
When you see someone sinking, save them. When it happens again, save them. But if it happens a third time, you have to let them try to save themselves. If they don’t have the potential, aspirations, and determination to do what it takes, let them go so you can focus on those who do.
6. Attending meetings that suck
I’ve lost years of my life in meetings that suck my time, energy, and money. Before agreeing to a meeting, confirm it’s worthy of your time. Request an agenda or set a hard stop as your escape route. Then get any non-disclosure or non-circumvention agreements in advance to save time.
If you’re leading the meeting, consider learning parliamentary procedure to help things stay on topic. Don’t allow tangents. If one arises, you can use my catchphrase: “Well, that’s all very interesting, I’m sure.” The key is to say this with a smile and pause before the last two words, then continue with, “However, as we were discussing … ” Once that phrase catches on, meetings will be quicker, and you’ll even start seeing it in emails. Just practice what you preach; otherwise, it might be used against you!
— James Daily, founding partner of Daily Law Group, which helps high-profile clients with fiduciary abuse litigation, including fraud, crisis management, and business and family disputes; read James’ story and connect with him on LinkedIn
7. Renting an office instead of working from home
I rented office space for the first few years running my business full time. It took 20 minutes to drive there, park, and walk into the office, and another 20 minutes to get home. One day, I couldn’t go into work because of the snow. I got more done because I didn’t have to commute, and I also didn’t have the stress of sitting in traffic and cold weather. I immediately ended my lease and started working from home. Not only am I more productive now; I also rarely get sick because I can cook healthy lunches and don’t share space with others’ germs. Working from home isn’t for everyone, but you should try it before assuming an office is the right choice.
— Sarah Chrisp, founder of Wholesale Ted, one of the largest (over 350,000 subscribers) online educational resources teaching entrepreneurs how to create, grow, and scale successful online stores; started her first online store at 16 years old; follow Sarah on YouTube
8. Attending too many personal development events
I became a continuing-education junkie in my early years and even went to 15 multiday events one year. But I was merely accumulating information. When it was time to implement the knowledge, I was off to another conference. As a result, my business suffered because I spent less time on it and had less money to grow it. I kept thinking, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” when I wasn’t implementing what I already knew.
Today, I see many entrepreneurs spend thousands on coaching and conferences. Yes, they can be transformational, and constant improvement is healthy; but knowledge is wasted unless you integrate it. So be intentional about your time. Ask yourself: What is my desired outcome? Are there other ways to achieve similar results with less time and money? Am I procrastinating on something I can implement now?
Digital communication makes it increasingly easier for misunderstandings to happen, including deliberate deceptions and accidental miscommunication. We’ve worked with smart people with PhDs who will say their dog ate their monitor rather than admit that they’re stuck on a tough problem. Or instead of asking to clarify a Slack message they didn’t understand, they’ll waste hours on unnecessary work.
Now, our policy is to over-communicate, which saves an enormous amount of time. Although it takes extra time upfront to make sure everyone is on the same page, it prevents significant issues later. By fostering an environment where we are transparent with our clients and encourage employees to be honest and open, we ensure that we have all the relevant information to make efficient plans.
— Judd Rosenblatt, founder and CEO of AE Studio, an Agile web development and data science consulting firm with a mission to increase human agency with technology; vote for the charity they donate to next month
10. Working in the business, not on it
Sometimes you need to do things yourself; but if you don’t learn to delegate, you’ll spin wheels. The thinner you spread yourself, the slower you can move. If you have trouble delegating, that usually comes from a lack of trust and a scarcity mindset. You may think that you can’t afford to hire someone; but if you need to, that proves they can make you more money than they’ll cost. Trust your team and train them to operate in your place so you can take your boots off the ground and get a top-down view of the company. That way, you’re the one playing chess rather than a piece in someone else’s game.
— Robert Martinez, founder and CEO of Rockstar Capital, a real estate investment firm with $348 million in assets under management; host of “The Apartment Rockstar” podcast; follow Robert on YouTube and Instagram
11. Trying to do too much
If you’re behind schedule or missing your goals, you’re probably trying to do too much. To be an efficient leader, you must attract, hire, and retain talent that specializes in things you shouldn’t. Hiring an assistant, social media director, salesperson, or bookkeeper can allow you to spend your time on what you do best and will have the highest return on investment. You can also hire leverage at home, such as a nanny, driver, cook, or housekeeper. Take an honest look at how much time you’re spending on your most important tasks. You’ll probably find that you’re doing a lot of things that someone else could be doing. Find that person, and you’ll be amazed at how much more efficient you’ll be!
— Shaun Rawls, founder and CEO of Rawls Consulting; built The Rawls Group of Keller Williams to over $4 billion in annual sales; author of the upcoming book “‘F’-It-Less“; connect with Shaun on Facebook and Twitter
Want to share your insights in a future article? Join The Oracles, a mastermind group of the world’s leading entrepreneurs who share their success strategies to help others grow their businesses and build better lives. Apply here.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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