Many a sports leader, military hero, or young entrepreneur has demonstrated the oft-quoted statement of Benjamin Franklin,

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

And it is true in the social enterprise business endeavors of today. Many cross-cultural entrepreneurs have effectively prepared themselves to fail.

[bctt tweet=”Many cross-cultural entrepreneurs have effectively prepared themselves to fail.”]

As we have said before, far more startups fail than succeed. Cross-cultural endeavors have added risk factors. This knowledge should stimulate every stakeholder and agency to pursue better recruitment, better preparation, better deployment and better accountability.

If we are to successfully launch cross-cultural businesses that create social value in the areas of the world that need them most, then we must be prepared to succeed. We must learn from the experiences of others. We must understand the factors that commonly lead to failure and avoid making those fatal mistakes.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

In the same way, those who do not know the mistakes cross-cultural entrepreneurs make are doomed to make them!
So, what are the most common mistakes cross-cultural entrepreneurs make? Over the next few articles we’ll explore 5 of them. While most of these apply to any startup business endeavor, they are particularly deadly in the world of cross-cultural social enterprise.

Cross-Cultural Entrepreneurship Mistake #1: Failure to Assemble a Team

Entrepreneurs by nature are risk-tolerant, self-starters, and idealists. They tend to believe the best about themselves and the results of their efforts. Consequently, it is not uncommon for an entrepreneur to think he can do it all or solve any problem.

Entrepreneur Ernesto Sirolli affirms in his TED talk entitled, “Shut up and Listen”, there is not a person on the planet who can “Make it”, “Sell it” and “Keep track of the money”. That is true of all of the well-known entrepreneurs whether it be Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. All needed others with complementary gifts, experiences and skills. Perhaps an entrepreneur’s greatest predictor of success is found in who they choose to place around them.

[bctt tweet=”An entrepreneur’s greatest predictor of success is who they choose to place around them.”]

It is a mistake for any entrepreneur to think he or she can “go it alone”. The world is too complex and the task far too complicated not to assemble a team with complementary skills.

Cross-Cultural Entrepreneurship Mistake #2: Failure to Find a Mentor or Coach

Recently a social enterprise in a large Asian country closed its doors. This tech business was committed to job creation, family services and individual transformation. The entrepreneur was a quality woman who, with her key players, propelled the business forward for a number of years. However, over those years they failed to retain a mentor who was well-connected to the endeavor.

It turns out that a key person carried an inordinately heavy load which became impossible for him to carry on. He had not prepared others to do his task and when he could not continue, the entire business was put at risk. Such burn out was entirely predictable and could have been mitigated with good coaching.

In contrast, a sizable school with over 60 paid staff in East Asia requested coaching help. The business was going well, many jobs were created and lives transformed. But cash flow had become a problem and they were unable to determine the cause. The coach made a suggestion that would be painful in the short run, but the owners accepted the coaching. Within a few months they had solid cash flow again.

Another agricultural business I am familiar with in central Asia has 7 consultants! This is an indicator that he wants all the help he can get.

It is absolutely essential for entrepreneurs to have some form of coaching/mentoring/consulting help in place. Every entrepreneur needs someone who can look in from the outside and offer unbiased perspective and seasoned advice. Without procuring help from mentors or coaches outside of themselves and their teams, entrepreneurs greatly (and unnecessarily) reduce their chances of success.

No Lone Ranger Entrepreneurs

There are the first two mistakes cross-cultural entrepreneurs make. Note that they both have to do with who you place around you and how you utilize the help of others – both internally and externally. The moral of the story: don’t be a lone ranger entrepreneur!

Next time we’ll examine a third mistake cross-cultural entrepreneurs make. Hint: it has to do with the cultural piece of cross-cultural entrepreneurship!