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7 Deadly Roadblocks for Startup Entrepreneurs

As seen on Forbes.

Starting a new business? You might want to avoid these like the plague.

You see — I’ve spent the last 10 months working with hundreds of startup entrepreneurs on their businesses.

And yes — a multitude of problems and roadblocks explode to life in a new startup. But here are the top 7 that can stop an entrepreneur dead in his (or her) tracks:

1.) Zero Startup Capital

Numero uno on the list. Go figure. Heard so many variations of this it’s hard to count.

You want the secret to overcoming this one? Simple. Bootstrap until you have real customer validation and real traction. Then; and only then; should you reach out your hand looking for investors and startup capital.

Now I know this might cause your heart to sink — but it shouldn’t. Bootstrapping to validation does two things: First, it forces you to run really lean, think through strategies very carefully and overall be very careful with any money you do have. It’s called being resourceful.

And second? Getting traction and validation before seeking funds shows investors you are serious; and actually gives you greater leverage when it does come time to raise the dough. Quite simply — you’ll have more opportunities and be able to name better terms.

So don’t fret if you haven’t a nickel to your name. I didn’t either.

2.) Not Knowing Where to Start

I think this comes from information overload. So much wisdom out there — so many ways to start a business. The secret here? Just start somewhere. Listen — there is no “one” right way to do it. Yes, there are some core principles every entrepreneur needs to address; but the reality is there are many ways to skin a cat. Same with starting a company. Just start already. You’ll figure it out as you go — trust me.

3.) Fear of Failure

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: You will fail at some point. But so what? Everybody does.

Okay, feel better now? Good, because now you can go ahead and start your company. Please do yourself a huge favor — don’t allow the fear of failure keep you from even trying. A friend told me once that fear is just “False Emotions Appearing Real”.

You’re going to die someday anyway — so don’t be on your deathbed looking back in regret on how you didn’t even try. That would be a sad day my friend.

4.) Idea Chaos

First, what exactly is idea chaos? See if you find yourself muttering any of these words:

  • “I don’t know if my idea is a good one or not.”
  • “I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to do.”
  • “I have too many ideas and don’t know which one to go after.”

Cure for this pain? Idea Dump + Judge + Test = Your Perfect Business Idea

You’ll find it — I promise. Again though, just like #2 above, the key is to just start somewhere. Listen, my writing peer and friend Cheryl Conner on Forbes told a great story about this guy named Josh and how he built an entire company from stumbling onto a simple idea of cutting down trees. Believe me, if he can do it — so can you.

5) Relationship Dysfunction

An island. Yes, you can own one, but you shouldn’t be one as an entrepreneur. You need help. You need a team of other human beings. You know — just like you with warts and all.

Maybe you suffer from not having the right coach, mentor, employees, advisers, investors, co-founders, contractors, programmers and so on. Call it “relationship dysfunction” and watch out for it. Why? Because it can literally kill your business dreams.

The secret to overcoming this cursed roadblock? Focus on finding, building and nurturing relationships every single day of your existence as an entrepreneur. Listen — it’s no coincidence the most successful entrepreneurs are the most connected entrepreneurs.

So wake up tomorrow. Eat breakfast. Connect.

6.) Customer Shortage

Lord knows, customers can be like slippery little fish you can’t hold onto. I mean, do we entrepreneurs ever really have enough of them? Never have I heard the words “we need to get rid of customers because we have too many” uttered from the mouth of a business owner.

Yes — the cry usually heard is: “I don’t have enough customers and it’s killing us.”

Although there are a thousand reasons for this roadblock, one of the biggest I see is this:

You have no “hook”.

Entrepreneur Jon Goldman calls it the “Big Zig” (vs. a “zag” which everyone else is doing). Seth Godin calls it a “Purple Cow”. Call it your UVP (unique value proposition) or USP (unique selling proposition) or whatever you want — but the point is you need to stop being like every other Tom, Dick and Harry (sorry guys) out there. You need to be unique.

Nail this — and you’ll find yourself blasting through the “lack of customers” roadblock with a fury.

7.) Cash Flow Crunch

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, he already mentioned this as the first roadblock.” And you’d be somewhat right — but not exactly.

You want to know the number one killer of all small to medium size businesses?

Running out of cash. That’s it. No mystery. No sleight of hand. Just plain old no money and can’t pay the bills anymore. Call it “cash flow crunch”.

So how can you overcome this nasty little devil of a roadblock and avoid becoming one of those depressing statistics on failure rates of startup businesses?

Easy. Learn the numbers. Yes — those dreaded balance sheets; income statements; and cash flow projections.

Most entrepreneurs I run into hate that stuff. We want to work on fun things like innovation; marketing and strategy. But the truth is — you simply have to know the numbers of your business. Without it — I dare say you’re going down hard one day. Smashed right into the brick wall of cash flow crunch.

So treat your cash like gold. Better yet — treat it like a precious gift from a loved one. Understand it; cherish it and be very stubborn about parting with it.

There you have it. 7 Deadly Roadblocks for Startup Entrepreneurs. Which one is your nemesis?

NOTE:If you don’t know me, I’m Eric. Husband, father & life-long entrepreneur

If you’re an entrepreneur, let’s hook up. Seriously. Here’s a killer formula:

Your Wisdom + My Wisdom = More Success

My email is: eric at mightywisemedia dot com.

Let’s you and I connect right here, okay?

(You can also find me on Google+, Facebook or Twitter @MightyWiseMedia.)

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About the Author: Eric T. Wagner is a husband, father and life-long entrepreneur. After starting multiple businesses, Eric is now focused on helping other entrepreneurs find the path to success in business and life. You can also catch his gig on Forbes or connect with him on Google+.


  1. Hi Eric,

    Great post (as always). I think every entrepreneur should take these points very seriously because at some point most of us (entrepreneurs) would come across one of these deadly roadblocks. ‘Idea chaos’ was always the biggest one for me personally.

    Anant Singh
    Geeky Works

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Anant. And yes — entrepreneurs hit everyone one of these at one time or another. It’s the cycle of being an entrepreneur…

  2. Mignon' Padilla says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks so much for this list. I needed to read points 1,3,5…and 7! I stuggled with 3 and 5 the most but, tomorrow I am going to get up and start connecting.

    Mignon’ Padilla

  3. Sean Diedel says:

    For me numbers 1-4 are my problem lol. I don’t have anything going yet and these things are all getting in my way right now. But I’d have to say the biggest problem of the above I have is Idea Chaos. I have so many ideas written down, planned out and brainstormed I could probably write a book haha! My problem with that is that they are all ideas that I am passionate about, play to some or all of my strengths, align with my values, mission and vision and some of which I could start up with little to nothing. But where to start? THAT is the big question.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Sean. I think your biggest key is you just need to pick something and start. Will you be perfect at it? No. But if you take small steps and ‘bend to the market’, you will be fine. I can help you with this my friend. Been doing it my whole life… :)

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