“The 5 Big Mistakes Entrepreneurs Should Never Make”

This article is an example speech project delivered by Oliver Tidman – a member of Waverley Communicators club. Oliver is the founder of Tidman Legal, an Edinburgh based law firm specialising in intellectual property, technology and business law for entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs. 


Starting out on any business journey is an exciting prospect. However, taking the leap of faith can be extremely daunting for the uninitiated! Someone once told me, ‘The net doesn’t appear until you’ve jumped!’ This is one of the truest things I’ve ever heard.

I have helped numerous business owners face challenges during their careers, and I include my own business within that list, but deciding to start-up or even change direction requires strength, courage and most importantly stamina!

On that basis, I have prepared a brief guide – by no means a bible on the subject – as to the five biggest mistakes entrepreneurs should never make. Let us begin with the first mistake.

1. Don’t give a bleep bleep; get out there and sell!

I was talking with a friend of mine last week about other people’s opinions on different topics. I asked him if he had ever heard of the ’20-40-60 Rule’? He hadn’t and was quite impressed with it.

The ’20-40-60 Rule’ is:

At 20, you care about what everybody thinks.
At 40, you don’t care about what anybody thinks.
At 60, you realize that people were not thinking about you to begin with!!

How many things do we do on a daily basis because we want to impress someone? How many things do we not do because we are embarrassed? How many times do we look back with regret for not doing something that we wanted to do? Life is to be enjoyed. We shouldn’t be holding ourselves back from doing the things we love because of the reaction we might get from someone else.

Oscar Wilde said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Everyone has the freedom to do what they want as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others. Why deprive yourself of something you want or want to do because you are afraid of what your friend, neighbour, workmate or relative might think.

The 20-40-60 Rule is surprisingly true. As people get older, they seem to care less and less about what other people think. If we realize now that in reality nobody is really analyzing the things we do, we can go out and do the things we want.

2. Don’t be a serial offender

Since it’s difficult to start a business by doing just one thing, entrepreneurs should avoid the trap of consecutively producing, marketing and selling.

By this I mean it is necessary for entrepreneurs to do all three at the same time! Thinking in a chronological order is prohibitive to growth.

3. Don’t mirror hire

If you are good at numbers, you should not focus on hiring someone who is also quantitative. For example, you should hire a good salesperson who has a different skill set and can pick up some of your slack. You may not have the most in common with this person, but then again, building a business is not about getting along with everyone!

4. Don’t scale too fast – you’ve got time!

There is a common misconception that entrepreneurs should scale their companies quickly in order to stay afloat. Remember, it is rare for start-ups to fail because they can’t scale their business fast enough. Selling your product or services should be the number one priority for new entrepreneurs. Scaling-up will then come at a natural pace so you’ve got time.

5. Don’t focus on the 1%

To illustrate, the UK pet population has over 8.5 million dogs. Each dog must eat and at least three times a day. If you could capture just 1% of that market, that’s 85,000 dogs and at least 255,000 cans of dog food each day!

There are two fundamental flaws with this. Getting 1% of any market is not that easy and, secondly, no investor ever wants to hear that you are only going to targeting 1% of the market.

Therefore, to stay on the road to business success, it is important for entrepreneurs to estimate their own sales rather than a slice of a total big market.

If you avoid these 5 big mistakes, you will go through good times, excitement and growth on your entrepreneurial journey. The feeling of welcoming your first customer and telling your friends and family. Elation when your first payments start coming in and testimonials and reviews from your customers for a job well done. The immense satisfaction knowing that you are helping your customers or your customers’ businesses to grow.

One of the biggest values I have found from running my own business is the sense of adventure that I experienced as a child and the free-reign to imagine where this adventure will take me. Furthermore, I can see in my clients what it is like to start to imagine what they can do with their own businesses.

Hopefully you will experience the same freedom of working for yourself, spending more time with your family and enjoy watching your children grow up.

The big question: notes or no notes?

It’s an on ongoing debate: should you use notes when speaking or not?

After my last talk, I have no doubt at all.  Why?  Because one of the vital aspects of any talk is that you get your message across to the audience; and to get your message across, you can’t afford to omit an important section of your speech.  I should have learned from Ed Milliband, Leader of the Labour Party, who made a glaring omission after forgetting to mention the fiscal deficit at the Labour party conference in Manchester.

As I tried to tell a self-deprecating story about shoulder-charging a pupil in a computer lesson, I too made a glaring omission.  The whole point of the story was that we all have to decide whether to tackle problems or simply ignore the problem and suffer in silence.  I lost the plot and omitted the paragraph that explained how I was tackling my problem and why I had shoulder-charged the young lady!  I may as well let you see the missing paragraph that was essential.

It occurred because the schoolgirl concerned had been drawing graffiti – on the walls/on the desks/anything that didn’t move in fact.  I was not one to suffer in silence and I instructed her to remain behind at the bell.  At the bell she made a beeline for the door but I had a fair turn of speed in my younger days and got there first.  Clatter clatter!  One – nil!  My clumsy demonstration of a textbook soccer manoeuvre was not appreciated by this extremely startled schoolgirl.

I knew I had lost the thread at that point but in stumbling on, I didn’t realise that I had completely failed to explain the reason for my unusal classroom behaviour.  We were well into the drinks and mince pies when this was pointed out, and the written evaluations were also really helpful in pointing out that the audience was puzzled.

I gave my previous storytelling talk on Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister 1940-1945 and 1951-1955, at an advanced speakers Thistle meeting.  I spoke from the lecturn and had six cards of notes to which I referred frequently.  By doing this I was removing my fear of forgetting the thread of my talk, and concentrating on connecting with the audience.  Evaluations are given orally at Thistle and several people pointed out that I was using pauses effectively, (I think having notes played a big part here as speaking slowly is not my forte), but a most helpful comment was that the notes and lecturn made it seem a bit like a university lecture; point taken, and for my next speech I decided to try without any notes at all.

But I need them – brief notes – on a card – to prevent me from forgetting a complete chunk of speech.  I remember Aideen O’Malley giving a wonderful talk about autism – with a card in her hand which she referred to for a quote, but otherwise hardly at all.  But it was there, and if she had slipped up, she could have referred to it.

A card would have kept me straight.  Then I could have relaxed about my memory and concentrated on connecting with the audience.  I shall give the talk again one day and see if a card improves things; I shall also change the title but that is a different problem.  Don’t get me wrong – I am full of admiration for members who can do their speeches without a single note; but I also think that even on your tenth speech there is a place for notes if you want them.

Bob Ferguson, a Distinguished Toastmaster, points out that three of the greatest speeches of the 20th century were made with notes:

  • John F Kennedy’s “Man to the moon”
  • Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”
  • Winston Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beaches”

Probably three of the greatest speeches ever made – all of them behind a lecturn without notes!

Ferguson also highlights a speech that Churchill was making in 1914 from memory in the House of Commons.  Churchill lost his way and in the end had to sit down mid-speech.  The press said he would never speak again in public.  Churchill did, but never without having notes available.  If using notes is good enough for Churchill, then it’s certainly okay for the rest of us!

Ferguson gives a useful tip of using flesh-pink cards rather than white cards to prevent the audience being distracted by the flash of white on his hand as it moves – maybe a step too far in my opinion, but his tip of using a music stand below waist height as an aide memoir for a speech map (or props) is interesting because it doesn’t interfere with his engagement or eye contact with the audience.

Is there a right and wrong way?  Not in my opinion.

Paul Bailey, CC


The Waverley club is already five years old but a chance meeting by the Scott Monument reminded me how young we are compared to the name itself.  It also set me thinking about our club.


The photograph shows me toasting “Waverley” with Jenni Calder who has edited the novel “Waverley” written by Walter Scott 200 years ago.  Walter Scott went on to write 28 novels in all, known collectively as the “Waverley Novels”.  His fame spread far and wide and influenced many 19th-century authors.

As a result the name “Waverley” became part of Edinburgh’s history, with the railway station and various hotels and clubs also adopting the name.  We can therefore claim to be in good historical company.

Further comparisons are interesting too.  The railway company tries to run its services on time and so do we.  The hotels of that name aim to offer a good welcome to guests and to make them feel at home and so do we.

However, I believe we are one up on Walter Scott himself.  Jenni Calder told me the reason she edited this work was to make it less verbose and therefore more acceptable for the modern reader.  In those days there were no such things as editors, and authors were free to be as wordy as they liked.  In our club we have the benefit of guidelines and mentors to avoid unnecessary verbiage and get to the point.

On this basis might we be justified in renaming the club “Waverley Plus”?

Post written by Neil MacLure

President, Waverley Communicators

My Toastmaster Journey: Ritchie Brown

Hi fellow members of Waverley Communicators.

It gives me great pleasure in accepting this invitation from the club’s Vice President of Public Relations (VPPR) to write about my experiences as a Toastmaster throughout the last two years.

As many of you know, I recently completed my Competent Communication Manual (CC) to become a “Competent Communicator”.

However, if you had told me after my ice-breaker  that I would achieve my CC within two years, I would have thought you were being either rather silly or extremely polite.

But this is the Toastmaster way.

Ever since the first day in which an acquaintance of mine persuaded me (and metaphorically dragged me) to attend a Toastmaster meeting as a guest, everyone has been impeccably friendly and hospitable while exuding empathy, patience and motivation.

But to be honest, I might have joined earlier than I did.

‘Why the procrastination?’ you might ask.

Well, Stephen Dix (I’m sure he doesn’t mind me mentioning his name) had been trying to persuade me to join the club for about a year before I finally conjured up the courage to attend.

My fear of public speaking is due to a verbal stammer, and part of the speaking course  Stephen and I had previously attended, advocated confronting your fears face-on.

So I did that and I finally became a paying member of Waverley Communicators in January 2012, and tentatively began my Toastmaster journey.

The club’s mentoring programme has been invaluable and provided me with Stephen as my kind and reliable personal mentor.

He gave me constructive feedback to improve my speeches. And as he delivered it punctually and accurately, it enabled me to stick to my personalised timetable. Therefore, I extend a warm thanks to Stephen for his kind remarks and suggestions.

In hindsight, my initial speeches went reasonably to plan.

The ice-breaker was an extremely effective and relevant way to introduce myself to the club and fellow members; in my CC2 speech I also managed to stick to the structure.

However, it became more challenging later on in the CC when I was obliged to hurl myself out of pre-determined comfort-zones.

For example, body movement and vocal variety were (and still are) very difficult for me, and because of that, I found it more challenging to speak persuasively.

Significantly, I have always relied on facts and figures to present my case. Now I understand the perspective that emotion and persuasion also win support.

But my journey isn’t finished!

This is because Toastmasters runs advanced manuals and with them I intend to enhance my areas-of-improvement to become more confident in front of an audience.

One of these areas is using my prepared script. I need to become more flexible with what I say in response to the audience.

Although I have had to accept, over the last two years, that there is no cure for a stammer, I feel the Toastmasters experience has remarkably increased my confidence at public speaking.

I would advise the Toastmasters programme to anyone!

It has given me direction in life while equipping me with skills which are valued by employers.

May I take this opportunity to thank all members for a great Toastmaster experience thus far.

Good luck to everyone in their Toastmaster Journey!

Post written by Ritchie Brown CC

Member of Waverley Communicators

Guest Blog Post: The Lexophile

Guest post written by Paul Bailey, member of Waverley Communicators

Paul Bailey

When you are cheesed off with the rain, become a lexophile ( a lover of words) and have some fun.

After all laughing & chuckling are good for your health.

There is a veritable cornucopia of websites to enjoy.

For instance the Uxbridge English Dictionary defines words merely for a laugh, e.g bipolar – “ a bear who is all grizzly one moment and all white the next”. http://www.alspcs.com/main.html

If you like puns go to http://joe-ks.com/puntastic.htm

 “Don’t join dangerous cults: practice safe sects.”

“Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.”

“Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.”

Even better is a site which has a variety of fun http://www.fun-with-words.com/.

Here you can find oxymorons like military intelligence,  …..or cockney slang like having a butchers  (from butcher’s hook = look), or using your loaf ( loaf of bread = head).

Palindromes (words or phrases reading the same backwards) are great fun.

“You can cage a swallow can’t you, but you can’t swallow a cage , can you?”

Anagrams are best when the anagram relates to the original word.

Therefore to say that Eric Clapton was a narcoleptic is quite clever but unfortunately not true.  

What about Monica Lewinsky Nice Silky Woman ?

Or for Madonna Louise Ciccone, you have a choice – “One cool dance musician” or “Occasional nude income”, both very appropriate.  

Go to this site and waste hours making up your own anagrams : http://www.anagramgenius.com/server.html  

For a start you can type in “President Clinton of the USA” and see what you get.

Malapropisms –  Dan Quale, noted for his spelling of  “potatoe” made this unfortunate statement when extolling family values:

“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”

Similes can be fun, but this one makes me cringe:

I recall a teacher writing on the reports when I was a schoolboy “Works with the speed of a crippled snail.” 

I like this one: “Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.” 

Or this nonsense makes me chuckle “John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.”

Acronyms are words made up of initial letters like SCUBA diver (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus).

Online dating needs acronyms.

You might know what a YUPPIE is (Young Urban Professional), but a SINBAD is less obvious – “Single Income, No Boyfriend, Absolutely Desperate.” 

George Bush in his innocence used to refer to the War on terror as “The War Against Terror” but this was swiftly changed.

David Cameron should have brushed up on his acronyms when he texted “lol” (laugh out loud) to Rebekah Brooks, thinking it meant “lots of love” but  it was even more embarassing for the chap who wrote on a sympathy card –

“So sorry to hear your mum has passed away – lol”.

Witty quotations can bring a smile and Stephen Fry is rapidly became the modern Oscar Wilde for witticisms. 

“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars.”

He is said to have attended just 2 lectures in his 3 years at Cambridge and you can find more of his quotes at  


Also, a new series of Fry’s English Delight begins on Thursday morning at 9am & 9.30 pm on BBC Radio 4. 

So become a lexophile, have fun with words and bring a smile to your face after a hard day at work.