3 things to avoid when starting your business

Tips from Tory Johnson

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

When I started my first business in the late 90s, I didn’t have money, a degree or any real idea how to a start a business. All I knew was that I wanted to be my own boss and failure was not an option. So I figured it out as I went along.

Over the course of the next 15 years, I created two, multi-million dollar businesses geared to women and careers. Looking back, partly by necessity and partly by dumb luck, I avoided doing a few things that I’ve subsequently learned keep many would-be small business owners from succeeding.

These are three things to avoid when you’re hustling to get your business off the ground.

1. Secrecy

When I started my first business, Women For Hire, I didn’t know a thing about the inner workings of the career fair industry. All I knew was that career events were plentiful, but none were strictly geared to women. I told all kinds of people what I was up to, as a prelude to asking for advice and contacts, never thinking that someone might steal my idea and create a career fair company for women themselves.

Yet over and over again, would-be entrepreneurs tell me they have a great idea for a business, but they refuse to tell a soul because they’re terrified someone will swoop in and steal it. I tell them to relax. Most people are too busy with their own issues to swipe your idea.

Worry less about someone stealing your idea and focus more on getting people to actually care about what you’re offering – only when you speak up can you get people to offer advice, feedback, referrals and sales that support your business goal.

2. Excessive planning

I quit my 9 to 5 job with twin toddlers and household expenses that required my husband and me to both work full-time. I did not have the luxury of time to be without a salary while mapping out a thorough strategy. I had to keep it simple: find 50 companies that would each pay me to exhibit at my new women’s career fair – then market the event well enough so that women actually showed up to apply for jobs. 

Instead of planning excessively by writing and rewriting a lengthy business plan, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s at the expense of doing, I hit the ground running and never looked back. After a couple months of doing – calling companies all day, every day, to exhibit and marketing to women to attend – Women For Hire was born and my first event was a success just three months from the day I quit my salaried position.

3. Spending on fancy stuff

I had no money at the time, so the thought of renting office space never occurred to me. Instead, I worked from an inexpensive Ikea desk in the corner of my bedroom, equipped with a landline phone, computer and fax machine.

Although I was selling a service to executives sitting in swank offices at Fortune 500 companies, none of them had any idea that I was sitting at home with my twins and their babysitter in the living room. When I signed up those companies to exhibit, not one of the human resource executives I dealt with had any problem sending payment to my home address. Instead of listing “Apartment 3A” on my invoice, it read “Third Floor.” The cheques always reached me.

Skip the fancy stuff and invest only in bare necessities to get you going. You’ll be able to upgrade later – and it’ll feel even more rewarding!


Starting your own business is a unique journey and try as you might, it probably won’t always go exactly to plan. These three things I avoided when starting out really taught me a bigger lesson: that there’s much more to gain if you simply embrace what comes, don’t obsess over getting things perfect, and remember that people are more likely to support you than stand in your way. So stay open, be positive, and enjoy the ride!


About the Author

For more than 10 years, Tory Johnson has worked closely with current and aspiring small business owners to help make their dreams a reality. Connect with Tory directly on Twitter and Instagram or ToryJohnson.com.

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