Throughout your career as a small business owner, you are bound to make the occasional mistake. No matter how prepared you are, how much research you have done, or how smart you and your team may be, mishaps are pretty much a guarantee. However, the good news is that as long as you accept them, take them in stride, and learn from them, the damage will usually be minimal. Here is a brief list of some common mistakes made by small business owners to help you steer clear of preventable missteps.
- Inconsistency – Being consistent is an absolute must, whether it pertains to your company policies, customer service protocol, or any other aspect of the way your business operates. Inconsistency equals lack of reliability and will send your customers and staff running to your competitors. For example, your staff handbook clearly states that repeated lateness to work will result in first a warning, then a brief suspension, and finally dismissal. This policy is enforced for everyone except one employee you’ve known since college. Because you and your friend go back a long way, you have turned a blind eye when it comes to her tardiness. Not only is this unfair to the rest of your staff, but it puts a major dent in overall morale. When people feel that there are different sets of rules for different people, they become unhappy in their jobs, and their work suffers. Be fair and consistent in every aspect of your business.
- Failure to stay in contact and/or follow up – Acquiring contacts through networking, referrals, or through family and mutual friends is a great way to grow your business. However, you must do your part to maintain such contacts. Implement time in your daily or weekly schedule to make follow-up calls, send friendly emails, or jot down a handwritten note to your contacts. These can be prior customers you haven’t seen in awhile, people you’ve recently met at industry events, or even prospective clients whose information was given to you by a friend. Be proactive and keep that contact list current.
- Lack of online presence – Here we are in the year 2013. The importance of an online presence cannot be emphasized enough. Here’s some perspective: the current generation of 20-somethings has no memory of life without the internet and has been using social media their entire young adult and adult lives. You don’t need to get on every single networking site and try to be everything to everybody, but at the very least, have a user-friendly and informational company website as well as a current profile on one or two social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. If you don’t make this a priority, your competitors will easily get the best of you.
- Neglecting to listen and respond to your clients – Most people frequent small businesses over their larger corporate counterparts because of the personalized attention they receive. Be sure to make it worth their while by listening to their concerns and responding to their wants and needs. Even if you can’t provide everything they’re looking for at the moment, knowing that you care and that they are being heard will ensure that they remain loyal customers in the long run.
Although many mistakes cannot be avoided, certain mistakes can. Use common sense, listen to others, be fair, and follow industry trends.
What other common mistakes would you add to our list? Please share your ideas below!