Too many small businesses fail before they’ve even started, because people tend to miss the small things that could trip them up while looking at the big picture.
Here are a few common mistakes, along with our tips for how to avoid these pitfalls and get your business off to a flying start.
Do the groundwork
All the boring plain stuff that’s not very exciting. Like creating personas for your customers, or working out the technicalities of how have tryour website works. Not the exciting stuff like choosing furniture for your new office or colours for your logo, but it still needs to be done. Don’t skip the foundational work because that’s what your business is built on, after all.
A small sacrifice now to get to the bottom of the initial apparently tedious tasks will pay off in the long run by contributing to the stability of your business.
You get what you work for
Like everything in life, you get out what you put in. There is no quick way to success, no one can sell you the secret to doing just one thing then sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in. The secret to success is no big secret. It requires hard work and you need to put in the graft if you want to reap the rewards. No it won’t always be so hard but, especially at the beginning, you will need to work hard to get established, build up a customer base and set your course towards a steady and stable business.
Hobby vs Work
There are many things that are wonderful fun when we do them for exactly that reason. You decide when to do it, how long we spend on it, how much effort we put in or how seriously we take it, That’s what hobbies are for. They help us relax and reset after busy days. However, just because you enjoy doing something, doesn’t mean you’ll love making a living from it.
Be very honest with yourself. Whatever your hobby, will you actually be able to make enough money to cover your bills? Will you really enjoy it when it’s the thing you HAVE to do day in and day out in order to make a living? Being good at something doesn’t mean you’ll be good at running a business in it.
Businesses need managing, someone needs to take care of the sales, the books. The very thing you love doing might be set on the backburner when it’s taken over by having to deal with the minutia of running a business. Make sure you’re prepared for this and consider if you can hand some of the heavy lifting work to a business manager.
If you build it, they will come
A lot of people have the idea that a lot of followers on twitter, or a lot of blog or website traffic, will automatically lead to success. This isn’t necessarily true. Best case scenario? These things get you noticed. People know who you are.
You need to have a specific goal in mind for your visitors. What do you want people to do when they’ve read your blog post? Retweeting is lovely and all, but what does it bring for your business? Make sure that whatever you create, there is a purpose. There is the age old idea that people will be more likely to buy from you if you give them something for free. Reciprocation may or may not mean more business for you, but you have to be absolutely clear on what you want to get from site visitors or followers. Make sure you have a call to action, make it obvious to viewers what you do and how that can solve a problem for them.
Chances are, if someone came to your blog, for example, it came up during a very specific search. Having the right content that makes the visitor feel like you have the solution they are searching for, that’s how you’ll get more than a few thumbs up for your hard work. It’s not what you get, it’s what you get to keep that matters.
Underestimating money and time
Neither of these are available in unlimited quantities, no matter how much Pinteretst likes to tell you that you make your own fortune, literally and figuratively speaking. You absolutely have to budget, write out everything you will need money for, and even keep some money aside for things you forgot or didn’t think of.
Give every penny a job is an old budgeting trick and that’s exactly what you need to do. Work out exactly what everything will cost. Go over the list as many times as it takes, then go over it again.
The same logic applies to time. However long you think something will take, double or triple that and see if everything will still work out. Make sure you really know what time investment is required for things, whether you are doing it yourself or others are involved.
Overestimating the commitment needed I both time and money is much more prudent than finding yourself short on either.
The customer is always right
Old but true. You can not afford to ignore what your customers are telling you, no matter what business you’re in.
People really do vote with their wallets. Ask your customers for feedback, and take action. If you consistently get feedback on something, look into it and see if you can make some changes to improve.
Don’t automatically disregard criticism. You could be missing out on valuable insight into how to improve your business and possibly gain more clients. Most often you’ll find that the niggly issues that bother people are not big thigs that cost a lot of money, it’s often something small like consistency or timing, easily fixable and worth it to make your business better.
Count what matters
When you first start anything, there is a certain amount of convert’s zeal that could cloud your judgement. You want to know everything there is to know about this shiny new toy. You want to know how it works, what you can do with it and how you can make it even better.
Of course you need to know what’s happening in your business, but don’t focus on vanity metrics. Being able to say you gained 400 new twitter followers in a week doesn’t necessarily mean anything if that doesn’t do anything concrete for your business. Just two more sales than last week or one return customer is likely to mean more than someone liking your instagram post.Yes it’s brand awareness but someone knowing who you are an never doing anything with that knowledge isn’t really going to help you build a successful business.
Figure out what really matters. What do you really need to know in order to fuel your ambition and track your success? Focus on the metrics that matter, sdjust course based on what you learn, and you’ll see the seedlings of growth take hold without wasting time and energy on things that actuallym in the long run, don’t matter at all.
A social media presence alone will not necessarily mean anything for your business. You need to be present on your chosen platform, engage in the community, talk to the influencers, make your posts matter.
It’s a good idea to get yourself noticed by providing useful tips or insights into a problem you know your target audience has. Being present and building up a following gets your brand recgniosed, and, with the right strategy and product to back you up, your social media presence should monetize.
Publish and promote your blog posts, get people to visit your website, have your calls to action prominently displayed, make sure people know who you are and what you can do for them.
You do need to commit to social media to see a long term effect on your business. It’s not a one and done deal. Set aside some time every week to plan your posts, and schedule time to get back to people and post new content.
All things to all people
To be truly successful, you have to specialize. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and your business can’t possibly solve everyone’s problems. Remember barbers being dentists? Well, maybe not personally, but we know the stories! That’s just not a good idea for a successful business taht's just starting out, especially when there are dentists and barbers out there who have specialized and will almost certainly be able to do a better job for it.
Know what you are really good at, and what your business is about. You should be able to describe the purpose of your business in one or two sentences. Trying to please everyone will almost certainly mean pleasing no one and that’s not a great business model!
In the end, you can read all the books, all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts there are, but you shouldn’t disregard your own instincts. If what you know about yourself and your business and your customers to be true absolutely flies in the face of conventional wisdom, don’t automatically disregard your intuition and blindly follow the experts.
Give yourself some credit. You’re starting a business, taking the first steps on an ambitious entrepreneurial journey and that takes a lot of courage. Listen to the experts, acknowledge the critics but have absolute faith in your own abilities, and you will be well set to make a success of your new venture.