Congratulations! You are joining the legion of small business owners and becoming the architect of your own destiny. Now what? Undoubtedly you’ve already invested untold resources – from the hours and hours of your own proverbial blood, sweat and tears, to diverting funds from savings, vacations and even your household budget to make your dream a reality. And like a well-trained runner settling into the blocks and awaiting the sound of the starting gun, you are mulling your strategy on whether to blast out of the gate with everything you’ve got or use both your physical and mental training to cleverly sustain your pace and still have just the right amount of reserve to power through victoriously at the finish line.
Will there be challenges and obstacles ahead, some for which you can plan, but many for which you cannot? Absolutely. But your odds of beating the competition and realizing long-term business goals can be greatly increased if you are able to avoid some of the common mistakes made by entrepreneurs when launching their businesses.
Here are the top five mistakes to avoid as you start your small business.
Skimping on Planning
Ask any successful entrepreneur and they will tell you that you can never overinvest in planning. From understanding the competition, to articulating your values to creating an organizational hierarchy, your business plan is the very foundation upon which your company is built and will scale up and out. Most importantly, be sure you have a business plan that accurately reflects your vision for your company and doesn’t simply replicate what you think someone else would do.
Today, more than ever, there many inexpensive and even free resources in which you can tap for mapping out a business plan. And don’t forget to leverage the knowledge of associates, teachers, friends and anyone else in your network whose opinions you value to help with brainstorming, refining or simply vetting your frustrations as you work your way through the planning process. There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan. What’s really important is that your plan meets your needs.
Not Really Knowing Your Customer
Attaining a deep understanding of your customer is critical to achieving your core business goals. Make sure you’ve done your homework to attain complete certainty on who you are trying to reach, where you can find them and how they will react to your marketing message and product offerings.
For example, think of yourself, the owner of a new business, as a customer. One of your key needs at this time is to source the right company for credit card processing and the pipeline to your cash flow. So, what do companies offering credit card processing for business need to understand about you in order to receive your consideration? If they did their research, they would know you will be selecting the best merchant services by checking off the following:
Latest technology, like the Clover POS system
Good range of in-demand credit card processing products like Loyalty Programs and Gift Cards
Great customer support with an expertise in merchant services for small business
Application process that is foolproof and allows for easy credit card processing even for those with less than perfect credit
Starting to see a pattern? Truly understanding your customer extends beyond demographics and should be grounded in empathy for their most acute needs.
Undervaluing Your Product
Unfortunately one of the most common errors new businesses make is underestimating the value of their goods and services. Typically this results from any combination of low confidence, a case of start-up jitters and not having thoroughly researched the marketplace. It cannot be stressed enough that the time and energy you invest in setting initial, entry-point pricing will be returned to you exponentially in the lifespan of your business.
Likewise, offering too many discounts, value-adds or other incentives with the intention of drumming up short term sales can actually hurt your bottom line in the long run. This approach, while being temporarily effective, not only trains customers to think that your products are not really worth the price you are asking, but can also lead to resentment and frustration should you try to dial back the these discounts and return to a full-price strategy. Rewarding long-term clients for their loyalty is an effective strategy in the art of relationship building but should be done so on a case-by-case basis with the offerings relevant to what each client values most.
Always Being the Hero
Who hasn’t known an entrepreneur or two who personifies the cliché of the start-up burnout? The I-can-do-it-all person who simply cannot or will not ask for help? The truth is smart, successful business people know that delegating is not a sign of weakness and can actually build trust and productivity within your team while freeing you up to focus issues the will benefit most from your time and expertise. As you dig in and power through the high-stakes, high-stress countdown to launch, make sure you are keeping an eye out for the telltale signs that you might need to give your super hero cape a bit of a rest.
Anxiety or panic attacks – are you feeling a near constant state of stress where your senses are on overdrive?
Feeling overwhelmed – do simple tasks now seem insurmountable, or maybe you are starting to take your frustrations out on your strongest allies – your family, friends and even Fido?
Remember – be kind to yourself. Your mind, body and soul each has its limits. You won’t be doing anyone, least of all yourself, any favors if you always try to play the hero and push yourself to the absolute max.
Losing Faith in Yourself
Finally, the struggle of getting any business off the ground can test the fortitude of even the most confident of entrepreneurs. Ignore those naysayers who always seem to loudly and freely offer their comments and criticisms. Rather, quietly acknowledge your accomplishments and character traits like your curiosity, focus, resiliency, discipline, humility, passion and vision. You will soon find that your mojo was never really gone; just taking a little power nap.
By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on the unique needs of your customers, whatever business you build will not only be set up for success but will help you realize both your personal and professional goals for both the short term and the long run.
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