The dream of launching a business runs deep in the American psyche, but more often than not those dreams go bust.
Half of new U.S. companies fail in their first five years, according to Gallup. Expand the timeframe out to 10 years and the failure rate reaches 70 percent.
That’s not surprising, says Randy H. Nelson, an entrepreneur who has built multi-million dollar companies. The skills it takes to start a business aren’t necessarily the same as those it takes to keep that business afloat. What is surprising, though? In the U.S., more businesses are now being shut down (470,000) than are being started (400,000).
“Many entrepreneurs have the gumption to take that dramatic first step of sparking something into creation, but too many lack the perspective to reflect on what’s needed for the next step,” says Nelson, author of “The Second Decision – The Qualified Entrepreneur.”
Also, anyone can declare themselves an entrepreneur. No qualifications are required. Nelson says that’s different from the Navy, where he served as a nuclear submarine officer and had to prove his qualifications before advancing.
Because of that lack of proper qualifications, Nelson says entrepreneurs often make five mistakes that threaten to put their businesses at risk.
• Insistence on autonomy. An Inc. magazine study once said that a trait most entrepreneurs share is their desire for autonomy, which is great starting out, Nelson says. “In the startup phase, the company is all about you,” he says. “Your fingerprints are on everything, and there is very little you don’t know and aren’t directing.”
But after the startup phase, the company steams into the growth phase, becoming more complex and more vulnerable to industry and economic trends. At that point, an entrepreneur’s insistence on autonomy can hinder the company’s ability to respond quickly and intelligently to challenges it faces. “In the growth phase, you simply can’t do it all, and it’s foolish to keep believing you can,” Nelson says.