As a small business coach I often see small business owners running themselves ragged, working long hours, not spending time with their families nor doing the things that they enjoy and not experiencing the freedom they hoped owning their own business would bring.
It is easy to get stuck in some of the common pitfalls of business ownership. These bad habits can be difficult to break out of. The key is really to start working smarter, not harder.
I thought I would share the most common mistakes I see small business owners make, and how you can prevent (or stop) yourself from making them:
1. Not setting clear goals. Operating without a clearly defined outcome, where you want your business to go is a sure recipe for disaster. It is important to take actions with a purpose. Too often I find business owners who are doing many of the right things, but with no direction or purpose and then they get frustrated because the results are not what they expected. Creating a solid vision, and establishing clear, measurable & attainable targets are the first steps.
2. Confusing being busy with being successful. It’s really easy to believe that working 70-hour weeks in your business is just part of being successful. But what about having the personal freedom and financial freedom to do the things we enjoy and spend time with those we love? What about creating a balance in your life? Become aware of how you spend your time. Assess whether you are spending it in the most efficient way.
3. Weak marketing message. If your marketing message doesn’t speak directly to your market’s needs and wants your marketing materials will get lost in the storm. A strong and consistent marketing message that speaks to the question “what’s in it for me?” will trump sexy design every time. Be clear on what problem you or your product solves for your target.
4. Ignoring your true target market. Too many businesses operate without a good understanding of who their target market is, including how they think, and how they behave. Trying to market to everybody is a recipe for disaster, all marketing initiatives are just shots in the dark, and money into the fire. With this knowledge about your market, all leads are qualified and conversion rates soar.
5. Forgetting the value of current customers. I often see small businesses work so hard on bringing in new business and forget to serve the current business they have. An example of this is answering the phone during a customer transaction. Or offering discounts to new clients, but not honoring the same discount for current clients.
Customer retention and satisfaction drive profits. It’s far less expensive to cultivate your existing customer base and sell more services to them than it is to seek new, single-transaction customers. Most surveys across industries show that keeping one existing customer is five to seven times more profitable than attracting one new one (Graham Roberts-Phelps.)
Customer retention is about relationship and keeping them active. Customer loyalty programs are a great way to reward frequent customers, plus it is a helpful way to learn these customers names and get contact information. Use the customers name. Remember details about them (birthdays, vacations, spouse, children, etc).
If you identify with any of these concerns now is the time to address them. As a business owner you are not expected to be perfect in all areas of the business, but you should expect that you know which resources to allocate to each concern. Not addressing a problem will definitely not solve it. Throwing more money at it only makes it a more expensive problem. Take time now to clearly identify, create a vision, implement a plan and evaluate the outcomes.