Are you setting up your startup for failure?

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard this frightening stat: 80% of new businesses fail within their first 18 months of operation. And while that number might be an exaggeration (the SBA reports that approximately 50% of businesses make it to year five), it’s clear that startups sink at an alarming rate.


These two factors almost always play a role:

  • Lack of resources. When a company is launching, it’s usually under-resourced from a talent perspective. The result? There are a million things that should be getting done, but aren’t—from experimenting with different sales models to testing new markets and developing new marketing campaigns.
  • Poor hiring decisions. In a study from CB Insights, not having the right team in place ranked as the third most common cause of startup failure. The story of the small business that hired the wrong employee or tried to scale too quickly (with little to no understanding of their desired ROI from the role they needed to fill, or the cultural fit they needed to look for) is all too common.

Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs fail to (i) address critical gaps in their teams and/or (ii) ensure they have the right people in the right roles fast enough. Don’t let that be your story.

Ask yourself these three questions to determine if you need to better utilize resources now, and make smarter hiring decisions in the future, to position your company for growth and decrease its chances of failure.

Are you saying no to the “We shoulds”?

One of the most exciting things about a rapidly growing business is all of the opportunities available. Testing new lead generation strategies. Experimenting with different marketing messages. Understanding new customer niches.

But do you find that every time you think “We should…” the next step either requires you to reallocate resources away from areas of your business that have already proven important, or never gets pursued because your team is too busy? These are lost opportunities.

As an entrepreneur, you're constantly pulled between all of the potential opportunities your business can pursue, but you’re also responsible for ensuring that your company remains focused on its mission. Choosing the right time to say no is crucial. But being forced to say no when you want to say yes could be a sign that there are growth-hindering gaps in your team.

If you’ve recently felt pushed to back burner an important “we should,” or to turn down a project you desperately wanted to pursue, it’s time to get serious about building a network of talent you can tap on a project-basis next time a need arises.

Are you doing too many “I shouldn’ts”?

The flip side of the “We shoulds,” many entrepreneurs and others leaders spend far too much time working on projects that could be done by someone else.

“I shouldn’t be crunching a conference list.”

“I shouldn’t be monitoring our competitors’ social media feeds.”

“I shouldn’t be writing a first draft of our blog.”

How many times a week do you think “I shouldn’t…” (or wish you weren’t)?

Every time you or one of your key team members works on projects like these (as valuable as they may be), you're missing out on other opportunities that could positively impact your business.

Ryan Caldbeck, founder and CEO of CircleUp, asks himself three questions before deciding whether he should get involved with a new project or a day-to-day detail of his company’s operations:

  • Does the issue touch the company’s core values?
  • Is something going on that seems to counter the company’s strategic direction?
  • Does the issue tie back to my vision?

Are you asking yourself similar questions? When you do, you’ll likely identify several areas where you can step out and allow your team to step up and handle the “I shouldn’ts." Delegation may be tough, but it’s worth it. Once you learn to let go of certain tasks that others can handle, you’ll be able to truly focus on the growth of your company.

But don’t just shuffle all your busywork downstream to your top employees. Give them the tools and resources they need to focus on projects and tasks that are aligned with their skills and level of experience. No matter how small your company may be, every person on your team should have someone who can provide support for these tasks. Luckily, Parker Dewey’s highly motivated Career Launchers can step in to help whenever you need them (and are excited to do so).

Is your team showing signs of burnout?

At most early-stage companies, employees wear a ton of hats and balance heavy workloads. Even if all the work is getting done, constant stress and the push to work outside of one’s areas of expertise can negatively impact your team’s morale and keep your company from achieving its full potential.

Of course, there will be times when your team has to stretch as you grow your company. But if a significant portion of your employees are showing signs of burnout (like increased sick days, decreased productivity, and mood swings), something has to change. Discuss which projects can be delegated, perhaps to on-demand talent or part-time team members, and where there may be opportunities for a new full-time hire down the road.

Finding the budget to relieve your burnt out team isn’t always easy, but it almost always pays off. Take, for example, SpotHero, an app for finding parking spaces. When their call center manager Leah Potkin recognized that her team was was showing signs of burnout, she petitioned her CEO to make a change. He eventually agreed to hire more people, and began to emphasize appreciation of call center staff. Today, the SpotHero call center position, a job typically known for terrible retention, has experienced zero turnover.

But SpotHero was deliberate in its hiring process, and you need to be too. Don’t be that company that hires too far ahead without taking the time to figure out what your company actually needs and what each employee investment will get you. You can use on-demand talent to fill short-term needs (and maybe even find some future full-time employees) while you make well-educated, intentional hiring decisions that align with your company’s vision for the future.

Are you chronically hiring the wrong people?

Do you constantly feel like you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you’ve hired people who are talented, yet misaligned with your company’s actual needs or biggest pain points? Hiring mistakes happen at every growing company. But if you’re not careful, too many square pegs can be your downfall.

The only way to truly know if someone will be the right fit for your company is to see them in action. Before bringing someone on full-time, consider testing their fit through one-off gigs or project-based assignments. “Trying before you buy” is a smart move for both you and the people you hire. It gives you the chance to truly assess each candidate’s ability and fit and allows your prospective hire to better understand what they’re signing on for.

The takeaway:

If you are missing out on your “we shoulds” while doing too many “I shouldn’ts” (and struggling to keep your team from burning out at the same time) Parker Dewey might be the perfect solution. Our motivated, talented career launchers have diverse skillsets that range from research to writing, and they’re ready to get started on your project immediately. That means you keep your employees engaged while saying yes to the things you want to pursue and no to spending your time on projects others could do. If you’re intrigued, try us out. Post a project on Parker Dewey today.

And if you simply want to talk to someone about the struggles of scaling your startup or small business, we’re here for that too. We’ve launched and grown companies like yours, and we’re happy to commiserate and strategize.