Startup Mistakes

Question: I am about to start my own small business, are there some mistakes that I should avoid?

Answer: Barry Moltz in his new book, How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to get it growing again details a number of mistakes every small business owners should avoid.

Hiring only employees that know less than you – the owner. As a rule, you should only hire “A” players. Those that are more skilled than you in areas that are your weaknesses will support your entire business. When you complement your skills with employees who bring those that you don’t have to your organization, your entire enterprise improves.

Allowing employees who are sub-par performers to stay on the job. Everyone in the company knows who are the high and low performers. If the sub-par performers are left to continue without any repercussions, it can only lead to low employee morale. Have a formalized performance review system, take corrective action when necessary and remove low performers to communicate the message that you only want high performers representing your business’ brand.

Hiring for skills, not attitude. If you don’t hire for attitude, then you are submarining your company’s culture. You can train for skills; you cannot change personnel attitudes.

Allowing personal use of electronic devices, like cellphones on the job. This provides grounds for distraction and for customer perception of being 2nd place to personal communications. If you have a retail establishment and allow personal use of cell phones during business hours, then having an associate answer their phone while working the cash register displays poor customer service. You might restrict their use to your breakroom, but make it a conscious policy otherwise you will see abuse.

Don’t know how to read their financial statements. And, they don’t ask for help to understand what their statements mean for their business. Subsequently, they make decisions based on hunches or make them blindly without the facts that financial statements offer. They buy capital equipment without analyzing ROI or hiring a new sales rep without analyzing increased sales potential and therefore ROI.

Being afraid of failure, so they don’t know when to admit it’s over or time to quit. Or they stop taking risks, and therefore their businesses stagnate. What happens is the business owner keeps going even when the chances of success are low or nonexistent.

Marketing without a strategy. They apply social media without understanding how to use the tools. They use new technology because everyone else is, and they feel it is cool to use them, not knowing how to integrate these tools with traditional methods to capture buyer attention.

So what are five actions that every small business owner needs to undertake to be profitable without burning themselves out?

Have a business operating plan – a daily plan and stick to it to avoid interruptions. Review it regularly and adjust when needed.

Educate customers instead of selling them. Based on the information you communicate, let them come to a conclusion to buy from you.

Sell based on a value proposition, not price. If you base everything on price, you are in a constant auction. If you base the buyers’ decision on value, then you are allowing your differentiators to come into the buying equation.

Find a mentor and use them to help you address the tough issues. One of the most difficult situations facing entrepreneurs is that is lonely. Find someone with complementary skills which you can share your ideas and get unbiased feedback.

Let go of failure and try again. To grow your business, you need to be creative, and every idea does not meet with success. Learn from the failures and try again.

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