TMCnet Feature
October 19, 2021

Don't Make These 5 Small Business Mistakes

Running a small business takes a lot of work. This can make it easy for certain things to slip through the cracks.

If you’re a small business owner — or you play an important role in a small business — here are five mistakes that you should do your best to avoid.

1. Don’t “Set and Forget” Your Finances

Everyone knows that finances are important for a business. If you’re a startup, finding funding, securing seed money, and bringing in other forms of investment are often critical. If you’re an established small business, steady revenue and predictable cash flow are also important.

One financial aspect that many come to under prioritize, though, is the long-term game. Finances can become mind-numbing over time. Paying for raw materials, filing taxes, and managing payroll can become redundant, mundane tasks that slowly get pushed out of the spotlight.

If you want your small business to succeed, find ways to keep your finances a priority. Hire an accountant (even a temporary contractor) to make sure you always pay your taxes on time. Use a small business payroll option that streamlines and simplifies things. Outsource expensive activities to freelancers to reduce your overhead. However you do it, look for the best ways to keep your finances a priority over time.

2. Don’t Let People Do Everything

It’s easy to wear all of the hats in a small business. This isn’t just referring to the owner, either. It also applies to the employees. It’s all too easy for a marketer to slip into the role of a salesperson. A receptionist can become an accountant. A product development team member can do double duty as a customer support agent.

Whether the issue is that you’re an over-ambitious business owner or your employees are overstretched workers, avoid letting people do everything. Instead, make roles and responsibilities clear.

If you find that someone needs to step into another role, that’s okay as a temporary measure. Make sure to track the situation, though.

If you find that they’re shouldering their extra responsibilities for too long, you can take steps to address the situation. On the one hand, you might need to expand their role (with an appropriate bump in compensation). On the other hand, you may need to outsource the responsibility to a new hire or a freelancer. In either case, by avoiding the “I wear all the hats” mentality, you avoid creating bitter, burned-out employees and owners, alike.

3. Don’t Set Impossible Goals

Goals are important. They provide direction for your business and help you and your team maintain momentum. At least, good goals do that.

The problems arise when you set unrealistic, demanding, or straight-up impossible goals. It’s tempting to set a very high goal to help your team “reach for the stars.” When that happens, though, you’re actually setting them up for failure. And when that failure strikes, it can be discouraging and, at times, completely deflating.

When you go to set goals for your small business, make sure to consider the feasibility of each objective. A good standard to use is the SMART goal technique. This consists of creating goals that are:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-sensitive.

By creating SMART goals, you give your business a realistic end-point to work toward. It allows you to cash in on all of the positive energy from having goals without tapping into the negative side effects of poorly set objectives.

4. Don’t Ignore Your Competition

Another area that’s easy to underestimate is your competition. You may do your competitor research when you’re creating your business plan, but you shouldn’t stop there. On the contrary, your competitors should continue to figure heavily into your short- and long-term business plans.

This doesn’t mean you should make everything revolve around other businesses in your industry. What it does mean is that you should continue to use others in your field to inform and improve your own product offerings. Ask yourself questions like the following on a regular basis:

  • What are other companies doing to market their wares?
  • What elements of their products or services stand out to you and your shared customers?
  • What demographics and audiences are they pursuing?
  • How does your business stand out (either in a positive or negative light) from the competition?

Competition is a great way to inform the initial vision of a business. But what many small business owners fail to realize is the fact that you can — and should — use your competition to hone your business over time, as well.

5. Don’t Ignore Your Support, Either

On the flip side of the coin, you also want to consider the groups that are for, rather than against, your brand. This includes several different parties:

  • Your employees: Your staff is the life-blood of your enterprise. They keep you moving and their efforts translate into the success or failure of your company. With so much riding on their shoulders, make sure to prioritize your employees at all times.
  • Your supply chain and vendors: It’s important to consider those who are outside of the internal rank and file of your enterprise, as well. This includes third-party groups such as vendors in your supply chain, retail partners, and contractors. Don’t leave these relationships on autopilot, or they’ll deteriorate over time.
  • Customers: The customer is always right. They’re also the ones that you need to please. Much like your competitors, don’t let your initial market research on your target customers be the end of the line. Continue to study your customers’ common pain points, the way you answer those needs, and what demographics offer potential new customers for your brand.

Make sure to keep customers, third-party entities, and employees in your sights at all times. By focusing on these groups, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your company, your industry, and your audience.

There are many things to keep in mind as you run a business. This can make it easy for certain things to fall off the radar no matter how important they are.

Make sure to give these areas the attention that they require. Study both your competition and your supporters. Don’t let your staff or yourself do everything. Stay on top of your finances. Create goals that facilitate rather than stifle forward momentum.

If you can do that, you can avoid many potential pitfalls and lead your small business to even greater heights in the process.

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