When I opened my first business, a fitness center, unfounded confidence flowed through my veins. Visions of fast success and weekends off with the family seemed as close as the next sell. A few months later, the bravado gave way to fear and insecurity. That dream about weekends away vanished, and my 5 a.m.-to-9 p.m. schedule began taking its toll. I have been fortunate ever since to avoid similar mistakes in my more recent businesses. But I continue to review those mistakes, lest I repeat them:
2. Listening to customers instead of spreadsheets. “Famous Health Club just went out of business,” my soon-to-be business partner Mike said. “They left all the equipment," he told me excitedly. "We can go in and start quickly and not have to buy everything. However, they scammed their people, and no one wants to sign a contract.” No problem. We won’t do contracts, I thought. And we didn’t. But we should have. Because, six months later, a giant fitness chain came to town and told members they could sign up for two years and pay via automatic draft. And people signed up in droves. Our “we won’t sign a contract” people left for newer pastures.