Did you ever hear the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20.”? It’s easy to look back on our mistakes and identify what went wrong after the fact.  It is of utmost importance to avoid common pitfalls made by millions of others before you.  By learning from their mistakes, you can make smart decisions for your business and enjoy making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.  Here are the top ten pitfalls to avoid in your business and how to avoid them:

  1. Failure to educate yourself before you begin – There is so much that goes into owning a business that goes beyond knowing your industry.  Small business ownership is a marathon, not a sprint, so stamina is the key.  Since you will most likely be watching your pennies, take advantage of free resources, like those provided by the Small Business Administration .
  2. A non-existent or hastily written business plan – Believe it or not, too many people start up businesses without a plan.  Don’t worry; you don’t need an MBA degree to write up a business plan.  An effective business plan should include a description of your business; information about your industry, competitors, suppliers, and target demographic; a marketing strategy; and finances.
  3. Spending money unnecessarily – To control startup costs, consider the following: leasing any equipment you may need instead of buying, buying supplies second hand, purchasing a minimal amount of inventory to avoid overstocking, and dealing in cash as often as possible.
  4. Not collecting payments promptly – Remember, you are held to a tight standard in having to pay your own creditors; hold your customers to the same standard.  Always provide an invoice no matter how small the amount, follow up when necessary, and don’t be afraid to implement a cash upfront policy for delinquent accounts.
  5. Forgetting to plan for a rainy day – So your efforts are paying off; inventory is flying off the shelves, you’re teeming with new customers, and profits are way up.  Enjoy it of course, but don’t forget to save some of that hard earned cash for an unforeseen setback.  Just like the overall economy, certain industries experiences cycles of good times and bad.  Your business will be able to survive the hard times if you put away some money and have a contingency plan for if things suddenly go south.
  6. Getting set in your ways – Even the most successful business owners can have a difficult time adjusting to new trends in the industry.  Keep abreast of any changes, including innovative new products/services, a shift in customer needs/wants, price points, marketing techniques, and technology.  Chances are that your customers are aware of what’s new, so don’t get left in the dark.
  7. Doing it all yourself – If you have employees, trust in their abilities and delegate responsibilities.  Trying to meet every obligation on your own and micromanaging are both recipes for burnout and disaster.  Empower your staff by handing over certain tasks and projects; you’ll also find that they will become more invested in the success of your business when they know they are an important part of it.
  8. Inability to step away – Once you have established your business, you should make decisions that allow it to run smoothly without you once in awhile.  There will be times when you need to take a few days off for personal obligations, and let’s face it: who doesn’t need a vacation every now and then?
  9. Poor marketing – From traditional marketing methods to those of the 21st century, there are more ways to market your business than ever before.  As with anything else in your business, do your research to decide what is best.  It might be a good idea to only focus on one or two methods at first, such as targeted direct mail campaigns and an effective website.  Collect information about what is working and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.
  10. Lack of discipline – This is especially important if you have a home-based business.  Our households are rife with distractions such as laundry, cleaning, a ringing phone, and even our own children.  These things take time away from your business, which in turn takes money out of your pocket.  Create a strict schedule for yourself and stick to it, make a list of what needs to be done and when, and minimize needless distractions.

What pitfalls have you encountered in your business?  Please share your problems and solutions with us in the comments section below!

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