Top 10 Mistakes We’ve Seen Business Owners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
Hopefully, you’ve heard this one: Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. – Oscar Wilde.
For many business owners, starting out on their own is a whirlwind of triumphs and setbacks, successes and mistakes. And that’s OK – for as you know, mistakes are the best ways to learn.
But when you’re like us, with over 23 years of helping 2,000+ companies start and grow, we’ve seen both mistakes and triumphs being made, both big and small. And we’re here to share our knowledge to help you learn from the experiences of others and avoid these mistakes before they happen.
Here is our top ten list of common mistakes business owners make, and how you can avoid them:
1. Not knowing your WHY
If you haven’t yet seen the Simon Sinek video, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” we strongly suggest you take a quick 20 minutes to do so right now. We’ve seen it numerous times, a business owner went out on their own for a variety of reasons, but are unable to article the root of their “why.” Sure, it may be money or autonomy, but what is it about your skills, your business, your situation that make you special and your business extraordinary? That’s the heart of your business.
2. Failing to document
Those first few days, months, years within your business are important ones. For many, they’re the “wild west era” – a time for lawlessness and experimentation in your protocols, for figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how you determine the law of the land. Without those mistakes, many people wouldn’t know the best ways to run their business, and how to instruct someone else to run it, should your need for expansion grow. Are you keeping close documentation of all your processes, numbers, and protocols? We’ve seen it more times than we can count, and it’s always a long process that could’ve been avoided had you kept on it earlier. Pay attention to the daily ins and outs of your business. They’re more important than you realize.
3. Not worrying about your online presence
Pop quiz – prior to making a big purchase, what do you do? Before you decide to meet with a potential vendor, what do you do? Trying to find out more information on someone, what do you do? The answer, of course, is that you search online first. The term “google it” didn’t come about because it sounds fun. It is a very real and very important aspect of our lives these days. So, when you google yourself or your company – how does it look? Out-dated? Sloppy? Or worse – completely blank? Never underestimate the power of your online presence. Website is #1, followed by your presence on social media. And admittedly, some social media presence is more important to some industries than others, but do not ever doubt that people are typing your name into their search bar. Don’t let them be disappointed by what they find.
4. Not knowing your numbers
This may be one of the most common mistakes we’ve encountered in our many years in business. The fear of reality of numbers. Do not, under any circumstances, assume that everything is working itself out in the background while you are actively avoiding looking over your numbers. You must devote time to buckle down, run your numbers, look over your accounts, and make sure you’re not deep in the red. And if you just can’t stomach the thought of doing it on your own, there is always help available.
5. Ignoring Marketing Trends
You don’t have to be a marketing expert to capitalize on the current trends of the day. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Pay attention to what you’re drawn to. People have been paid lots of money to come up with these trends, and keeping a close eye on how they’re being utilized still goes a long way. Are you using all the avenues at your disposal – especially in an increasingly online world? How often are you in front of your clients? Perhaps your visibility online or in their inbox could use a boost. Are you repurposing your content so that it’s spread amongst your website, your e-letters, and your social media? Keep an eye on what’s happening in the world around you. And if you really need help, don’t sleep on contacting a marketing professional. They can help you more than you know.
6. Not charging what you’re worth
This is another all-too-common mistake we see, especially with newer businesses. The thought process is that, in order to compete, you need to undercut all the competitions prices and completely undersell yourself. The only thing this accomplishes is you doing more work for less and earning a reputation for cheap labor – which will always be exploited. When setting your price structure, look at it in terms of having to eventually pay someone else a salary to do the job. Sure, cheap prices may seem enticing, but they come at a steeper price – your reputation, the reputation of your company, and the ability for you to carry on running a business if you’re not bringing in enough cash. Don’t sell yourself short. Your skillset is a valuable commodity and should be priced as this.
7. Not planning to hire
You cannot scale if you don’t have help. Plain and simple. Even if you may not be ready now, look ahead and start implementing a plan to hire. Whether it’s an accountant, a marketing professional, or an assistant, delegating the nuances of your day so that you can focus on growing your business is the only way you’ll get to the level of your business that you want.
8. Not staying a student
Yes, you know your business. No one is disputing that. You may have gone to school for it, or you may have decades of experience. We know you’re good at what you do and that you’re good at it for a reason. School may have gotten you started, but are you continuing to look outward and learn about the changing trends or new advancements in your field? Even with your decades of experience, do you know how your business has evolved with the rest of the technological world? Never assume you know everything. Like they say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Never stop learning.
9. Not listening to your clients/customers
Akin to #3 on this list, when you’re in the midst of “googling” something – do you gravitate toward reviews? I know I do. And they sure can make or break my decision. Yet, so many business owners ignore this very important aspect of their businesses – their clients and their opinions. When was the last time you made a conscious effort to reach out to your client or customer base and ask for genuine feedback? For some, the answer is never. And this is always a mistake. Never ignore the feedback from people who’ve worked with you. It can either help you learn from mistakes and make your business better, or show you where you shine. Either way, it’s money.
10. Working in isolation
Even as a solo-practitioner, you cannot, we repeat, CANNOT run a business in isolation. There are so many opportunities you’re missing out on if you’re not trying to build strategic relationships or hiring help, or even just getting out of your (home?) office and meeting people at events. It’s draining on your business, on you, and on your success. If you find yourself alone most of the time, make some plans to attend networking events or to dedicate a day or two to working in a shared office environment (or at the very least, a coffee shop). Humans are pack animals, and it’s just important to your business as it is to your personal life.
Now, these are just a few of the most common mistakes we’ve seen across the years, and that doesn’t mean it’s bad if you’ve made them (or are currently making them). As the Oscar Wilde quote says, mistakes are just another form experience, and experience is a good thing. If you’re able to realize the errors and work to correct them, then there’s no reason to fret.
However, it is always an advantage to have help from those who’ve been there before. If you find yourself desiring the help of experienced managers and admins with an ever-deepening knowledge of small business, we’d love to chat with you.