Have you ever noticed how easy it is to recognize the problems others are having and completely overlook the same thing in yourself?
When I opened my first business I made all the most common mistakes, and then some! My sister could see what I was doing wrong, and was vocal about it.
I didn’t listen.
Every business article I read seemed to be saying the same thing – exactly opposite of what I was doing.
I didn’t listen.
After several months of pouring hours and hours into a business that didn’t make a single, red cent . . . I started to think that maybe I was doing something wrong. Of course, everywhere I turned I learned I was doing something wrong, but I wasn’t listening!
Unfortunately, the same thing happens to many small businesses. And, while I made many more than five, there are five more common mistakes that businesses make. Whether you are contemplating a home-based business or you are opening a new brick-and-mortar business, you’ll want to pay attention.
- Your business is driven by a plan and not something you’ve fallen in love with. My first love was medicine and my second was writing. I spent years working with adults and children who needed physical rehabilitation. At some point I fell in love with the idea of publishing a review journal in the area of head injury and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
I spent several months contacting over 30 journals who published research content, asking permission to publish the abstracts of each article. Most of the journals that gave me permission also gave me a complimentary copy of the journal.
Next, I set about getting customers. Hospital libraries that served the needs of large rehabilitation departments were my easiest customer to get. Soon, I was copying those abstracts, publishing and binding the review journal and mailing them monthly to my customers.
I loved the idea and it seemed to be growing. That is, until Medscape and Medline came online and did the same thing on the internet – for free. I didn’t have a plan and I wasn’t flexible. Within the months the business failed.
- Listen to your customers, but trust your spreadsheets. Mistakes are made when you do either or. Customers and spreadsheets are not an either or approach. Your customers often know what they want and your spreadsheets tell the story if they are buying what they say will.
If you listen to just your customers you may end up losing the farm. If you just watch the spreadsheets, your customers will know their needs aren’t being heard or met. There is a middle ground and it’s your responsibility to find it.
In the same vein, don’t expand your business and employees too quickly. Your spreadsheets will tell you when you’re capable to taking on that overhead expense. Until that time you can plug the holes with a virtual assistant to a couple of freelancers.
- NEVER risk your retirement. It took you or your relatives a LONG time to build up their retirement savings. Leave them there. If you need extra capital look to the bank, angel investors or crowd funding. Leave your retirement and the savings of your friends and family exactly where it is.
- ALWAYS allow more time than you think you’ll need to get your business running. The first membership program I started started 4 months before it opened and I was up until 3 am the day before to finish the last little bit. No matter how far out you plan something always pops up. Mistakes are made, your products don’t arrive on time, your freelance writer doesn’t complete their projects, the website doesn’t get done. . . something WILL happen. Always best to be flexible and plan for longer than you think you’ll need.
- Your personal experience doesn’t translate to business experience, unless it is real business experience. If you are a fitness trainer, it doesn’t mean you know the intricacies of developing a membership based business. You can train the individual, and may have an incredible program to get that done, but that doesn’t translate to running a successful business.
This is the time to get advice and then send it through a filter. You can’t take the advice of everyone you meet, but you must take advice. It’s a fine line you walk between believing everything and believing nothing.
- You are the BOSS not all the employees – don’t try to do it all. If this is your first business and you’re operating on a shoestring, it’s likely you’re trying to wear all the hats in the business. However, it is important that you outsource what you can, when you can. You are the BOSS in this business. You will have to have some of the jobs, but you seriously can’t do all the jobs.
Every business needs the following: writer, copywriter, marketer, accountant, financial officer, marketing executive, webmaster, web developer, graphic designer, customer support, and the list goes on . . . There is NO WAY you can do all these things and stay sane. Your business needs the positions, but you don’t need to fill each of these positions.
Choose your assistants and freelancers carefully. Many people can do two or three things. And never, never, never give up control of the money. You might have an accountant or chief financial officer but the “checks” must all be signed by you. Too many businesses have been lost because someone the owner thought was trustworthy really wasn’t.
- Products don’t sell themselves. You HAVE to be a salesperson whether you want to or not. In fact, when asked what the most important skill they possessed, more than 75 percent of CEOs said it was the ability to sell. You need to sell yourself, your business and your products.
Don’t be the stereotypical car salesman! Instead, learn the skills you need to sell your products, online or in person, because your products won’t sell themselves and people won’t buy from a car salesman.
- Focus, focus, focus. Just like location is essential in Real Estate, focus is essential to new and existing businesses. You absolutely need focus to complete a project or you’ll be distracted by the next shiny object in your life. Distraction will mean you miss the important issues in your business and will probably miss your business fairly quickly after that.
- Waiting until you’re perfect, or perfectly ready. If you’ve reached perfection then you’ve waited far too long. Every business makes mistakes. You’ll never reach perfection so there is really no point in trying. EXCEPT that waiting for perfection often means you’re either afraid of starting or failure.
Small businesses have a way of making you face your fears, especially if you have any intention of being successful. Here’s something you may have heard before – YOU can do it.
You can face your fears. You can be successful.
The only thing standing in your way is . . . YOU.
We are all born with specific skills, talents, advantages and disadvantages. It’s how you use those factors that determine whether you’ll experience the success you’re aiming at. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
You have the abilities you need or can hire the people who can do what you don’t know how. If you don’t know how to build professional websites, don’t spend months learning. Hire it done and then get a better one later.
If you want a small business, then go out and GET IT!