As the owner of a small business, you need to be on the lookout for the kinds of mistakes that can tank a business. Conveniently, many of these mistakes are easy to spot coming, if you know what you’re looking for.
Over surveying clients
Peter Leppik of Vocal Laboratories has asked companies to considered not whether or not they’re asking their customers to complete too many surveys, but whether or not they’re asking their customers for too many favors. Customers don’t mind once or twice, but they can start to get frustrated when it feels like they are constantly being asked for more and more. If you need to survey your clients, make sure your questions are targeted, and you’re not asking over and over.
Not committing to brand
Your business is your brand. If you don’t set it down early, determine what exactly your brand will be, you’ll end up with a mishmash of things that don’t really create the effect you want—but you’ll be stuck with it.
From choosing your partner to your staff, every hiring decision is important for your business. The most common mistakes are hiring an entire staff that’s exactly like you, or hiring a staff that’s the polar opposite of you. To combat these tendencies, start each hiring process with a careful consideration of what’s required for the position, and look for those characteristics in the candidates.
It’s hard to get those first 100 clients, but if you truly believe that your service or product is worth what you’re charging, resist the urge to discount it too sharply. Seth Godin said recently that the only things we spend money are on those where we “believe they are worth more than they cost.” Dropping your prices may get you some short term sales, but long term, it’s better benefit to you to convince your customers that you’re worth what you’re charging.
Not hiring necessary professionals
There’s a culture in American startups that says that the business owner has to do everything on their own.
I cannot stress enough how much this is a horrible idea.
As a business owner, you have certain things you’re good at. You have certain other things that you’re not as good at. No one in the world is good at everything. Successful entrepreneurs excel at identifying what holes they need to fill, and then finding the right people—accountants, content writers, marketers, or graphic designers, to name a few—to fill those gaps.
Being nice, not ethical
Women entrepreneurs in particular are susceptible to being caught between the false dichotomy of being nice and being cutthroat. In truth, there are times in business when being kind is necessary, and times when being aggressive and cutthroat is necessary to get ahead. But neither one of these is a successful long term business strategy.
Instead, if you strive for ethical behavior at all times, you’re much more likely to have a guiding compass that will help your business succeed.
Only marketing for the short term
When a business is first starting up, it’s necessary to keep an eye on the short term business flow. Cash crunches destroy many fresh small businesses. But as business stabilizes and settles, you need to gradually increase the scope of your viewpoint.
As your field of view increases, your marketing needs to also begin to shift from the kind of strategies and tricks that bring in your first 100 customers to the ones that create long term loyalty and ongoing business. While you may still use short term strategies to create buzz and reward new customers, you need to avoid stop and go business by also using long term strategies.
Building a business that will succeed and thrive isn’t impossible, but it’s not easy. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to making sure that your business falls into the category of long-term success.
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