• Joseph Imbriano

These 3 Fatal Mistakes Ruined My First Business (And How You Can Avoid Them in 2019)

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Back in 2004, I was an emergency room doctor for businesses in China.

I traveled around the country, solving business crises for European companies trying –- and failing –- to grow their businesses in China.

The kinds of crises that happen when a business spends years making poor decisions and not seeking help.

You know someone in your life that hasn't been to the doctor in like 8 years? Yeah, just like that...

Except when I got the call, the businesses were in the emergency room hanging on to dear life. You can't even make this up.

And I loved every minute of it. It played to all my strengths...so I decided to turn it into a business.

A few months later...and wow…did it fail miserably.

Not because I didn’t have clients…

In fact, I had way more than I could handle.

Back in 2004, there was a gold rush all across China., and businesses from all over the world were trying to get as much of that gold as possible.

Many launched first without doing any planning. And that led to a slew of business problems: strategic decisions, product development, scaling, supply chain, contracts, and hiring. And that meant I had a steady pipeline of clients.

It wasn't because I wasn’t good either…

There aren’t many people now that can fix multi-million dollar problems in an every changing landscape across all areas of business - – in English AND Chinese.

…and this was 16 years ago. I felt at home in China, had a strong finance background, and thrived in uncertainty. And no matter how ridiculously complex the situation, I delivered.

So I had pretty much cornered the market.

At this point you might be thinking…

"Wait…you’re telling me that in an era in China unlike any other in recent history...you were a Rockstar fixer...with an almost endless stream of clients...and your business still failed?”


And if you don’t avoid these 3 mistakes in your business, yours could too.

1. No mission

“Complexity is the enemy of execution”

Tony Robbins couldn’t have said it better.

But let me try anyway:

Complexity happens when we say “Yes” to too many things that don’t matter.

…When we try to be everything to everybody

…When we chase shiny objects that can be “profitable”

…When we don’t advance our business with clear purpose

Complexity drains us of our time and energy. Every. Single. Day.

It makes it so much more difficult to achieve our goals.

Sound familiar?

That happened to me back in 2004. I woke up one day and two things hit me:

First, I was trapped. The business I started to give me the freedom to live my life, turned into a nightmare.

Because second, my business didn’t have a clearly defined mission. And that meant I was saying “Yes” to everyone.

And to make things worse, these “Yes’s” weren’t even the types of clients I wanted to work with. In fact, they were a good baseline for what I absolutely did not want.

I was working with businesses that hadn’t homed in on their customer needs. They weren’t advancing any clearly defined businesses mission.

In fact, they preferred to pay ME to fix their multi-million dollar problems than to take the time to expand their operations into China the right way.

And that was the reason behind most of my headaches.

Not having a mission means not knowing where you’re going. And not knowing where you’re going means you don’t know if you’re going the wrong way.

In other words, the biggest cost of not having a mission is not knowing when to say “No.”

Life gets too complex.

Simplifying is the art of saying “No”.

Simplifying means focusing on the only two things that truly matter in business - your mission and your customer.

EVERYTHING in your business that doesn’t focus on those areas needs to be eliminated.

And when we say “No”, we create the time and space to triple down and invest in what truly matters.

Imagine how saying “No” could transform your business…

Fast forward to today, and I have a mission that guides my business and my life:

My mission: To change the world by helping you change the world.

My services: Helping you build smarter to scale your business...and create your impact My customer: You - a rockstar that needs the tools and strategies to build businesses to grow revenue, give you your freedom, and maximize impact

And that has made all the difference.

2. No systems or processes

“All we need is ____ clients per month”

Many businesses focus so much on getting clients that they forget to think through what to do once they get them.

If I gave you 100 clients right now, would you be able to handle the growth?

Back in 2004, I couldn’t.

I was getting calls from new clients every day, and I couldn’t manage all that growth.

I didn’t have systems and processes in place. I was overwhelmed.

Actually, that’s underselling it.

Ever felt so stretched thin that it seemed that just one cough would cause the whole thing to come crashing down?

Yeah, that was me.

Sound familiar?

At the beginning, our sleepless nights and our hustle are key reasons our business survived.

But if we aren’t careful, those same qualities become the critical reason it’s going to fail.

As we build our business, certain skills and processes are necessary to get you to six figures. But going from six to seven and eight figures requires a different strategy.

Most entrepreneurs don’t make the switch.

Instead of working to remove themselves as the bottleneck, automating systems and processes, and delegating...they triple down on control of the business.

I call it the HUG OF DEATH.

Learning to step away is key to growth. Remember, your business cannot outgrow the pace of decision making.

If all decisions - from the color in the creatives in your ad campaign to the toppings on the pizza in your business lunch - have to go through you, you become your own biggest bottleneck to growth.

How do we avoid this fate?

1. Simplify

Align everything to a clear business mission and our customer base and remove all the irrelevant activity.

Once I did that, “No” became my default answer and I more selectively said “Yes” to new clients that helped me advance my mission. Pure gamechanger.

2. Build Systems And Processes

Set up as much of the business to thrive without you. There are two goals here:

First, we want to remove ourselves as the bottleneck and spread out decision making. And second, standardizing processes means that anyone on our team can follow the process and get the same result.

Automate the important repetitive tasks that didn’t require human interaction. I automated systems like customer onboarding, scheduling, and payments.

Develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for key processes, such as hiring, new hire onboarding, and client onboarding.

Delegate tasks and give progressively greater decision making to your team. You're probably wearing multiple hats right now. and delegating not only gives you more freedom to run the business, it also gets the right tasks to the people who can do it better than you can.

(Discover 4 steps you can take right now to start delegating TODAY)

When I integrated systems and processes into my second business – a smarter version of the first – the return on investment was insane:

  • More revenue

  • Higher quality value for my clients

  • Decentralized decision making: 95% of the business decisions are made without me.

  • Set to scale: my business can serve more customers each month

  • Freedom: I can pursue other areas in my life

Imagine a world where 95% of your business headaches are gone!

Systems and processes are the key to exploding your business growth. It’s your ticket to freedom. We’ve helped hundreds of clients over the years, and we can help you too.

3. Not Asking For Help

If you’re thinking: Uh, it’s kind of ironic that a coach needs to be reminded to ask for help.

You’re right.

But things aren’t so clear in the fog of business…especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed. That's why asking for help is so important.

Asking for help is more than just recognizing your personal limits. It’s understanding that the cost of not asking for help can very well be a failed business.


I learned that in real time. I was doing ALL the things by myself.

I had no mission.

I had a lot of clients that didn’t align with what I wanted (I didn’t even know what that was).

I had no systems and processes built.

I had no time and energy.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about…and you understand just how hard it is to keep everything going at once.

Even momentum needs momentum to survive.

At some point, we start dropping the ball.

And that’s what happened. I started losing clients and I became frustrated with myself…

No clients = no business.

I needed help. There was NO WAY I would be able to grow my business by myself.

If I wanted my business to be a mission driven, revenue generating powerhouse, I needed a team of smart passionate people working with me.

(Check out the 4 costliest mistakes to avoid when hiring your team)

In my second business, I made sure that when I needed help, I asked for it. Ego has not place in a successful business.

The biggest lesson I learned in my first business is that even though we may be great at what we do, and even though we can offer a killer offering that helps our customers, our business can still fail.

I relaunched my business a few months later and paid careful attention to not make these costly mistakes. That was a game changer.

I realized that a successful business builds smarter so that it not only can crush today but that it also can be dynamic to the demands of an ever changing world.

That ego is the enemy to success.

That more important than what you love is what you do.

And if I'm going to build it, I had to build it smart.

So please - don’t be like me 16 years ago.

Make sure your direction is clear and your business is systematized. Ask when you need help, and surround yourself with smart people.

That’s a great recipe for building a wildly successful business.

But it’s not an easy process. If you want help working on building a business that avoids these fatal mistakes and has the right foundation for epic growth, click here and reach out to our team.

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