Running a small business has a lot in common with being a parent. There are no rule books, no accepted protocols set in stone and no blueprint to follow to guarantee the success of any business.
Being in business since a young age and for the past few years a consultant and mentor, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with businesses of all sizes. I’ve seen lots of successes and lots of failures and over time I’ve seen the same mistakes bring a business to it’s knees. Let’s look at the top 5 common mistakes that small business owners make.
Favouring The Cheapest
It’s understandable especially in the early stages that any new business owner would want to save money, especially if the budget is tight, where this becomes dangerous however is when cheap takes precedence over functional.
It’s fine to go for the cheapest option sometimes, paperclips for instance, unless someone can point out what difference it would make to my bottom line I’ll continue to buy the cheapest paperclips that I can find.
What I often find however is that businesses go for cheap when they’re buying crucial items for their businesses. A typical example is a website. There are so many people offering cheap web design that it’s possible to get a website designed for just a couple of hundred quid. This is perhaps fine if you don’t rely on it to generate business but if you want a website to be a main player in your overall marketing strategy then a £200 web design from the guy in the pub perhaps isn’t going to be able to do battle to be on page one of the search results. It might look acceptable but with around a billion websites online you can imagine how stiff the competition is to rank in the search results.
Paperclips, bleach, toilet roll, electricity are all things that you want to be buying as cheaply as possible. Websites, machinery, business cards, client facing equipment (customer areas etc) are all things where quality and value should be the deciding factors.
Listening To Bad Advice
I’ve worked closely with some government agencies in the past. I’ve mentored new business owners that have come to me through various channels and the stories that they tell me about the bad advice that they’ve had from government funded organisations sometimes defy belief!
Many new business owners seek help and advice from local business chambers and other organisations when starting in business, others seek advice from their bank.
Consider this, the average salary for people in these advisory roles is around £20 to £25k per year, hardly the sort of remuneration that would entice a business guru into the role, would you agree?
Whilst many of these advisors have perhaps gained qualifications in various business related areas, most of them have never actually started or indeed managed a business, successful or otherwise! Theory is all well and good but people with experience at the front line of business are the kind of people that you should be seeking advice from. Most entrepreneurs have had successes and failures, their experience is something that a university education or a career in banking simply cannot match. Find yourself a mentor that you feel you can afford and bounce your ideas off them, speak to any friends and family that you know who have been in business. Join online forums and groups and get involved.
In summary, don’t take advice from people without any experience.
Not Being Able To Say No
As a business owner it’s almost as if you spend your life trying to please everyone that you come into contact with. An easy trap to fall into however is saying yes to every request that comes your way, You know how it is, a client calls to ask if they can sneak a last minute order in, “Yes that’s fine” you say, a staff member asks for Saturday off even though you’re short staffed “Yeah ok”, a telesales caller asks you to advertise in the local hospital and before you know it your advert is on a tv screen in the waiting room.
There are many ways of declining an offer or request that won’t leave the other party offended. Saying no isn’t as hard as you may think, especially if you don’t actually use the word “NO”!
Examples of how to say no without causing offence:
- I’m sorry, I’d love to help, but for many reasons I just can’t at the moment
- That sounds great but, unfortunately, it doesn’t meet with my plans / budget at the moment
- I’d love to be able to say yes, but it’s just not possible, What I can do however is…
Being able to say no is empowering, it gives you back control of your business and the decisions that you make within your business. This is a skill that you really need to develop.
Thinking Short Term
If your working day consists of constant firefighting then that’s a sure signal that you’re short staffed. For a business to grow and be sustainable, the business owners need to be proactive rather than reactive.
Set some time aside each week to review and plan, Be strict with yourself on this as otherwise you’ll find yourself swamped in no time. Remember that YOU run the business, not the other way around! Take control of your diary and your time, set time quiet time aside, away from the stress and no matter what’s going on in your life stick to it. review your position, assess the success of previous promotions, monitor staff performance, revenue, profit, research new products, sales streams, your weaknesses and your opportunities.
Poor planning, poor data analysis and failure to react to change is a recipe for disaster. If you only take one thing from this article then take this point, start thinking long term and planning!
Failing To Delegate
Nobody does it like you right? I totally get that. Delegation, if done correctly will allow you to reap many benefits. Your business will grow, you’ll be able to ensure that your team share your vision and ethics and more importantly it will free up time to allow you to be proactive and drive the business forward.
Effective delegation will also allow you to find a healthy work / life balance.
The main factors of delegation are clear communication, clear direction, measurable results.
- Communicate what needs to be done, and why.
- Explain how you think it should be done, discuss and agree a plan
- Agree a due by date and review the results
Remember! If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed! A great tool for managing delegation and also your own planning is Trello, this is a free app that most of my clients have found invaluable. It works on all devices, allows you to create to do lists, add tasks, share and delegate these tasks to other members and a whole lot more. Check it out!
Running a small business is one of the hardest but most rewarding things a person can do. Keep yourself in check and try not to fall into any of the bad habits above.