How we perform as business owners is what makes us money. I have worked with lots of small business owners and those starting a business here in San Luis Obispo County, and have found that frequently they are making at least one of these 5 common mistakes:
1. Not using their numbers to drive their bottom line.
Successful businesses use their numbers to make sure they are always where they need to be or can spot a change that needs attention. Smart business owners know the numbers for their costs of goods and expenses, but successful businesses are the ones who pay close attention to their income figures. When we pay attention to our income we can dramatically improve our bottom line and ultimately that is what each of us gets to take home. If I need 5 clients a day and I only bring in 2, I know it’s time to figure out why and get busy doing something to get that number up. If I look at my income month-by-month, what do I see? Are my numbers up? Awesome. Are they down? Why? What actions must I take to bring about the needed change?
2. They falsely believe something that keeps them from taking action.
Do I have a reality illusion about myself, my clients, the economy, or the future? Since my actions are guided by what I believe, have I gotten “in my head” with some sort of negative conversation about my time, my money, my capabilities, or that success only happens for someone else? What am I saying about my customers? If I have negative thoughts about myself, my business, or my customers, I guarantee these thoughts will stop me from performing at my best. I simply will not be doing on a daily basis what my customers or business needs in order to be successful. People who are providing products and services of value and who are taking good care of their customers are also taking good care of their business. Are you? If not, why not? This mistake also stops many entrepreneurs from ever taking that leap into starting a business here in San Luis Obispo County.
3. Not really knowing who their customers are.
I am regularly surprised by how many business owners have never given any real thought to who their customers are. If you don’t truly know who your customers are, how can you reach them? Our products and/or services appeal to a specific client. We solve a particular problem or meet a particular need. I recently heard branding defined as “my promise to my customers” outside of general customer service. What is your commitment to your customers? If you can answer this question, I believe you may more clearly see who your customers are.
4. Failing to have written goals and strategies for success.
A really big piece that regularly gets missed is business owners fail to have written goals and strategies for success. We all think we can keep it in our head – that we won’t forget. But have you ever missed an appointment? A deadline? Forgotten a birthday or anniversary? I have. Write down your deadlines (especially important while starting a business), goals, customer personas, and marketing plan. Set a time each week to keep up with your finances or hire someone to do it. Set a time to work on some aspect of your business that will make it better. Schedule a vacation. And then get it all on your calendar.
5. Waiting too long before they get help.
And finally, people wait too long before they get help. For some things it is pretty obvious when you need help, like maybe you have no idea how to make a website, but for other things, we may think everything is under control when it really isn’t, making it hard to see that help is needed. You would not wait if you had a major injury or a serious toothache. But I am puzzled when a business owner sees that they are not making enough money to pay the bills or that there is a drop in their revenues and they don’t take action to turn it around, sometimes for months or years. Yikes! There is so much technology available today to help business owners make money and have thriving businesses.
Having a successful business is as much a science as it is an art. I believe all business owners know their product or service, but that doesn’t mean they know everything about growing a business. My experience is that coaching makes the difference. Having someone who believes in you and offers insightful, objective encouragement and support can help if you get off track.