Entrepreneurs and leaders share the one thing they would've done differently

13 June 2019

It’s easy to look back on something and say you’d rectify this mistake or make that decision differently. Sometimes it’s hard not to dwell on past actions, and the same goes for our business outcomes too. We’re only human after all.

Although these entrepreneurs and leaders are all successes in their respective fields and sectors, even they admit they made mistakes and would change things if given a second chance. Here are five do-overs from business insiders they rue not doing the first time.

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Go with the gut instinct

“Looking back, I realise that I was quite risk averse when it came to developing the business in the early years. I should have backed myself when it came to hiring people earlier in our business life, because when we did, it really helped us accelerate the company forwards.

“Also, launching the business during a recession gave me a good insight into getting the most from our minimal marketing spend. However, I don’t think I would launch a company during a recession again!”

  • Andy Barr, MD and Founder, 10 Yetis

Err on the side of caution

“Initially, the hardest challenge was getting the site set up and built. I feel I could have looked around a bit more as my initial outlay of nearly £20,000 for the website was too much for a start-up business. I could have invested more later, once I was more established; a closer control on budget around the website build and utilising a trusted developer are definitely crucial.

Two businessmen discussing mistakes

“I actually managed to grow my business too quickly, something you don’t often hear. At the time of the launch, banks were not the most helpful and you often borrowed money from high street lenders who charged a small fortune in interest, something I definitely regret when looking back.

“Our business is a natural health online store. We set up a physical shop which failed in the first year, as we just didn’t have the footfall. I would certainly have performed a more detailed and thorough analysis of the area to see if it was something the locals would actually be interested in.

“My advice to others would be to spend within your means. Both myself and others have made the mistake of blindly spending money on advertising, thinking it will be the answer to increased sales. Marketing is certainly a critical aspect to business success, but if spent in the wrong manner, you’ll just be throwing money away. Stay focused on what you believe in. In the last year, we have remained focused and after six years, we are starting to see the rewards finally. Cashflow was and still is the biggest headache in a small business.”

Analysing the figures

Better manage the cash flow

“Like many growing businesses that do not get funded, we struggled with managing cash flow. If I were to do it over again, I would have focussed more on the higher value work and changed the way we billed to allow customers to pay annually in advance for a reduction in cost.

“This would have enabled us to receive cash in advance of work and grow more easily. I’d have also focussed on efficiencies and productivity incentives much earlier than we did. Doing so would have enabled us to take on more work than we did in the early days and helped to create more revenue to ease growing pains.”

Let go of difficult colleagues sooner

“In our first decade of operation, I had quite a difficult team member working for me for a number of years. The one thing I would have done differently was part ways from that individual sooner rather than later. They were quite a disruptive force within our small firm, costing us a number of clients and employees in the long run.

Workplace arguments

“The lesson I learnt is that there is no one individual that is bigger than the business. It doesn’t matter how senior that person is, how successful they are or how much revenue they generate. If they are disruptive to the wider business and its desired culture, your company will be more successful in the long run without them – even if the parting of ways is difficult or costly in the short-term.”

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Explain decision making more thoroughly

“When someone in the organisation comes to you with an idea, a project, a request for resources or funding, we spend a lot of time and effort to understand the details of the ‘ask’ and the requestor invests quite a bit of time and effort in convincing us to say ‘yes’. We spend most of our time pre-decision, not post-decision, which seems logical. But what about the ‘no’ answers? 

“In retrospect, I would have invested the post-decision time to more thoughtfully explaining my ‘no’ answers. When you take the time to explain your ‘no’ answers, you transfer more knowledge and understanding of the drivers and considerations in your business. This approach extends the business leadership, stewardship and acumen within the organisation. Growing your business means growing your people! I have found this to be one of the most valuable shifts in my leadership style and I know it is a welcomed development across the organisation.”

We’d like to thank all the entrepreneurial contributors who have offered their advice, and hope you have taken something from this to help you avoid making the same mistakes for your business.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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