Seven Common Mistakes Made By Small Business Owners

Most new small businesses won't be in business this time next year. That's the cold hard facts. Though it is easy to start your own business, it takes a lot more to succeed in business. There are seven common mistakes made by small business owners. Let's explore them so you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Neglecting Your Continuing Education

You are the only renewable resource, besides your employees, your business has. You may be a master at getting the most out of your other resources, but how are you doing with you?

Today's world is characterized by rapid change. Keeping up on innovations in your business and new business strategies is crucial for long-term success. However, most small business owners do not invest any time or money into developing themselves. The less you know, the more time, money and energy you will waste in the future.

Do not be satisfied to be "functional" in the software programs you use to run your business. There may be many time saving options in those programs if you take time to find them. Here's an easy strategy that will take about fifteen minutes a day. Take your favorite software program (accounting, planning, contact manager, or marketing) and access the "help" menu. Now learn one new function of that software program per day. Fifteen minutes of your time may yield big returns in the future!

Mistake #2: Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail

Many small business owners avoid planning at all costs. The old adage, "Failing to plan is planning to fail", is true. Without a well-thought out plan for establishing your business, running your business, and marketing your business, you will waste a lot of time. Time you don't have.

So, how do we find time to plan while we're trying to run a business? Do the work in small increments. Keep a notebook handy throughout your day. Have sections designated for "Operations", "Finance", and "Marketing". Make notes as random thoughts appear to you during a day. At the end of each week, take an hour or so and summarize the ideas into a plan. Place the actions that will yield the highest potential return at the top of the list. Start Monday of the next week by tackling the items at the top of your list.

Mistake #3: All Work and No Play

Running your own business is hard work. There is no doubt about that. However, without proper relaxation, you will become increasingly less productive. It isn't the hours you spend at work but the productivity of the hours you spend there. Become a student of your own business. When do most customers access your business? When is the slow time of the day or week? If you are available for an entire hour that may only yield one small sale, you would be better off out of the office.

Take a walk. Talk to people along the way. They could be future customers. Join a gym and work out during a half of that slow hour. This kills two birds with one stone. You get healthier with better endurance and again, you can network with people who might be future customers. Join that Chamber of Commerce and attend those meetings! Join the Rotary or Lion's Club! Not everything you do to successfully advance your business will occur at your business.

Mistake #4: Take Your Existing Customers For Granted

Remember the first customer you ever had? Remember the appreciation you had for them? Remember the little things you did for them? When did you stop and WHY?

Avoid looking after your existing customers and they will go elsewhere. Customers have more options today then they ever had before. If they don't find your competitor locally, they will find him/her on the Internet. Ignore customers at your own peril.

The fact is without them you wouldn't be in business. It's time to make certain they understand how much you really appreciate them. How about having a special reception or buffet on site for your customers? What about a special appreciation day? When was the last time you contacted customers just to tell them how much you appreciate their business? A happy customer is a valuable business asset, now and in the future.

Mistake #5: Never Ask For Referrals

As stated above, your existing, happy customers are a major business asset. That asset can yield benefits in many ways. But you have to ask. Instead of spending a lot of money on your advertising, why not ask customers for referrals? Referral sales are the cheapest and easiest way to grow your business. "Two Men and a Truck", a moving business, generated $150 million dollars in revenue from 95% referrals sales. That is a target we should all shoot to match!

Mistake #6: One-Stop Shop Mentality

Many business owners fail to achieve their true potential because they try to be all things to all people. You need to target your ideal customers. Look at your product. Ask yourself who would benefit most from your product. Once you have selected a targeted group, learn everything you can about them.

Change your store or website to reflect that targeted customer's needs or desires. Speak their language. Find out where they hang out and what they read or listen to. Understand their concerns. Sell them solutions, not products, and you will excel!

Mistake #7: Neglecting Marketing

It is so easy for a business owner to get caught up in the daily operations of a business. The inventory ordering, order processing, data input, and more, can become all consuming. Then one day you look up and wonder what happened to the business.

Marketing is all about future sales. You plant the seed today to reap the benefits tomorrow. If you want a long-term successful business you can hand off to the children, don't neglect marketing. Every month, set aside at least 20% of your time dedicated to marketing activities.

Marketing activities include deciding to expand an existing product line, dumping unprofitable products or adding new products, determining where your advertising can generate the biggest return for the investment, and planning your marketing materials. These are crucial functions for your success. Neglect them at your own peril!

In summary, staying focused upon these seven common business mistakes can save you a lot of time and money. They are also crucial to the ongoing success of your business. Stay focused on the future while you work in the present. Don't develop work habits counterproductive to a successful outcome.

Michele Schermerhorn calls herself a "Corporate Freedom Fighter" dedicated to freeing cubicle prisoners to experience their own successful online business. She has over 30 years experience in the business world and over 12 years running her own successful online businesses. She is President of Online Business Institute Inc. (http://www.obinstitute.com), authors a sassy marketing blog (http://www.imarketblog.com), and regularly conducts free online seminars. Online Business Institute Inc. exists to "Create Successful Online Business Owners One Person At A Time".

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