Are you sabotaging your success? It’s a question reminiscent of all those articles you see in the grocery store checkout aisle outlining the demise of a romantic relationship or swimsuit season diet. But forget the long-lost ex or what the bathroom scale says. Instead, focus on those net profits and that marketing plan. Are you sabotaging your business success?
Of course, you would never purposely do things to hurt your bottom line or derail your company’s health, but there are decisions owners make every day that negatively impact their businesses. Some are obvious, others less so. Take a look, be honest, and see how you may be undermining your business venture without even knowing it.
Spending each waking moment involved with every single aspect of your business may seem like a necessity early on, but that devotion can be a liability in the long term. “The successful entrepreneurs I’ve talked to all say one thing: When you need help, ask for it. It will really save you time, money, and effort,” reveals Susan Urquhart-Brown, small business coach and author of The Accidental Entrepreneur: 50 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Starting a Business, via a radio interview with Roger Wood. Tasks that do not need your specific attention—especially those that you may not be an “expert” on—should be delegated (i.e. to your IT guru or that organizational-ninja assistant). This frees your time and energy to tackle management issues that require your leadership, and builds loyalty among those employees given the ability to thrive in their respective jobs.
Ignoring the books
You love creating your product and interacting with customers, but your business is just that: a business. As the owner, you are (probably) the chief financial officer. You need to know the numbers. Period. From balancing budgets to bill paying, spot-on bookkeeping is essential for your future. If you aren’t growing as a company, chances are, looking at the books will tell you where the problem is. "The numbers are literally where the rubber meets the road. If your data isn't accurate, nothing will be. Taking the time for a proper accounting of your books makes your business more efficient and profitable over time," says Jonathan Hoenig, an investment manager and columnist at Smartmoney.com. If bookkeeping isn’t your strong suit, learn. Take courses, watch tutorials, invest time to become savvy about accounting basics—and hire someone who is more knowledgeable to go over your numbers quarterly. It’s money well spent to keep your business on fiscal track.
Maintaining an outdated website
Remember, Google is now a verb. As in: “Customers will Google you.” What will they find? According to an April 2012 SMB DigitalScape study, six out of 10 small and medium-sized business websites lack a phone number on their contact home page, while almost 75 percent of small business websites don’t include an email address to contact the company. "No communication is more important to the health of your enterprise than your website. Maintain a usable and accurate website—or risk turning off new opportunities before you ever even know they exist," emphasizes Hoenig. Every week, review your website as if you are a customer. Is the contact information current? Are those product details and prices correct? Check out the websites of your competitors, and see how your site compares. Create a web presence that is relevant and top-notch, like your business.
Avoiding social media
Yes, Google is a verb. So is Facebook. And tweeting goes way beyond bird talk. Today’s most successful businesses of any size engage customers in ways other than offering 10-percent discount coupons in the local paper or free shipping. You must learn to dance the social media mambo. Overwhelmed by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and all of the rest? On her blog, Melinda Emerson, the leading small business expert known as SmallBizLady and contributing social media and small businesses writer for The New York Times, offers this wisdom: “Start with one social media platform…you do not need to do everything. Figure out where your best target customers are hanging out online and make sure you are a part of the conversation.”
Keeping ineffective employees
Not even Donald Trump, the man synonymous with the phrase “You’re fired!”, enjoys telling folks they need to find a new job. Letting someone go is often a complex decision, and, in the small business environment, where one missing contributor drastically impacts the daily workload of other team members, it makes that hard choice an easy situation to avoid. “Employees are either your biggest asset or largest liability,” offers Hoenig. Remember, employees who have consistently poor morale, lack of professionalism, or a dubious work ethic not only affect quality control and customer retention, they can negatively influence the productivity of good employees.
Getting too comfortable with the status quo
You got into the small business world for a reason. You had a passion, you saw an opportunity, and you took it. You strive for a consistent and stable business, but flexibility is key. "Maintain the flexibility to adapt to new markets and opportunities as they arise,” Hoenig points out. “This is one example of where small businesses have a much greater advantage over their larger counterparts: the ability to move quickly and change as the game does." Failing to stay up on current legislation issues, new technology, or the latest marketing trends hurts your bottom line and negates one of your main business assets: your size.
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