As we sprint toward the “spookiest” season of the year, why not use the opportunity to eliminate some deadly small business mistakes? Like most of you, I make a lot of mistakes in business, but after 11 years of doing some things wrong and some things right, I have incredible depth of insight when it comes to avoiding the mantras that cause the biggest pitfalls.
As you contemplate how to make your business more effective and efficient for 2012, here are some of the deadliest small business mantras and how you can say say “Boo!” to them once and for all.
- Deadly Mantra No. 1: Build a website and they will come. You need a website, but no one really cares about it. People can get what you have to offer from a billion other places so don't be deceived by fabulous website designers who want you to spend a lot of money on a website. You need a website, yes, since that's usually where your secure shopping cart is. But more important than your website is what you do to get people to go there.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I need a fancy, splashy website so I can look really good online.”
Say “Boo!” –> Launch an ordinary website, and do extraordinary things to get people to go there.
- Deadly Mantra No. 2: Follow your passion and the money will come. It's important to love what you do. If you don't love what you do, you probably won't do it. But that alone does not translate into a profitable business. Avoid loving what you do so much that you don't pay attention to whether or not it's actually making money for your business.
Deadly mindset mantra: “If I follow my passion, the money will come.”
Say “Boo!” –> Indulge your passion, but don't fall into the passion pit, where you love what you do so much that you don't insiste that it actually love you back.
- Deadly Mantra No. 3: The more fans and followers I have, the more sales I'll make. While numbers matter, they don't matter as much as the emotions behind them. If you don't believe me, ask Netflix, which lost 800,000 customers in a few months when it decided that profits were more important than the feelings of its customers. (Reported in today's New York Times.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I have lots of followers to sell to, so not much else really matter.”
Say “Boo!” –> Count numbers, yes, but pay more attention to the real life emotions of the people behind those numbers. Those are the “statistics” that matter most.
- Deadly Mantra No. 4: I don't need a real business plan. If you are a small business, especially a micro or handmade business, and you are not seeking to become a billionaire, and you are not seeking investors, you won't need a fancy business plan in a 3-ring binder with pie charts, bar graphs and spread sheets every page. But you will need a plan. You need to know where you want to go, and then you need to have a plan to get there. Your plan
maywill change, but that doesn't mean you don't need one.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I'm behind the eight ball already, and I don't have time for a plan, and even if I did have time, I don't need one because I'm not going to make that much money anyway, and if this business doesn't work, I'll just do something else, and if ….”
Say “Boo!” –> Get serious! Don't waste your precious life time doing something if you are not 100% committed to making it successful.
- Deadly Mantra No. 5: I can work while my kids nap. OK, so your kids will sleep for an hour or two during the day. But that's only enough time to get your head together. It's not enough time to actually do anything.
They'll fall out of the bed and need your attention the minute you pick up the phone to make an important sales call. They'll contract a cold just when it's time to publish your first newsletter. They'll guilt you into playing with plastic interlocking blocks on the floor instead of scouting out a product photographer. And the list goes on and on. I'm a mom, and I know this one well.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I can work while my kids nap and when they are sleep at night.”
And by the way, if you're married, I'm not even going to get started on the reason why you might not be able to have all that late night work time you think you're going to be able to get to …
Say “Boo!” Get some help with your children so you can devote 100% of yourself to your business during specific hours of the day. You'll accomplish more in your business, and you'll be fresher, happier, and less stressed out during the time you set aside for your children.
- Deadly Mantra No. 6: I don't need to pay myself. It's tempting to think that people will choose your products over someone else's just because the price is lower because you're not paying yourself. And you'll probably get some one-time sales using that logic. But you can't build a business by refusing to respect yourself enough to pay yourself a salary — even a small one.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I can charge less now and raise my prices when my business really gets going.”
Say “Boo!” –> Respect yourself! If you don't, no one else will either. If you don't respect your work enough to pay yourself, how can you expects others to respect it enough to pay you for it?
- Deadly Mantra No. 7: I can't afford help. The reality is that you cannot afford not to get help. You may not have a lot of money, but do you think you go into business thinking you have more time than money, you are going to be really disappointed. Time is much more precious than money when it comes to leading a business. In order to have the time you need to chart the course for your venture, you are going to need some help.
Deadly mindset mantra: “I don't have enough money to hire anyone.”
Say “Boo!” –> Start small. Start by bartering. But start. If you don't get help in your business, don't ever complain to me that you don't have time to do important things you know need to be done.
There are plenty of unforeseeable pitfalls waiting around the bend to sabotage your small business. You can handle all of them, so long as you avoid the most obvious deadly mistakes, like those listed here.
Question: Which of these deadly mistakes speak most to you? What others can you share?