By Belinda Wasser, Founder of RocketGirl Solutions
These seven mistakes are serious and common, but very fixable. Knock them down one by one until you no longer see yourself, or your business, on this list of business-stalling errors!
Mistake #1: Not having all your contacts in one place
No matter what your business, your contact list is one of your most valuable assets. It’s fuel for your marketing. But until you gather and manage all of these people within one tool (electronic or otherwise), they’re really of little use to you. As a result, you’re missing the opportunity to cross-promote your products and services, keep in touch with people in a systematic way, follow up effectively on leads and even send out holiday cards without any heavy lifting.
Mistake #2: Not communicating with your existing customers on a regular basis
If you’re running around looking for new customers and distribution channels for your products prior to creating a system for keeping in touch with existing customers (see above), you’re paying attention to the wrong things. Create an ongoing conversation with the people who’ve already bought from you or used your services. They’ll come back for more and tell others about you, but only if you’re in front of them on a regular basis.
Mistake #3: Not knowing what your employees are doing
This one’s certainly embarrassing. After all, they’re your employees and you’re paying them. Even so, it happens all the time. Particularly in fast growing companies where the owner is overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose track of who’s doing what. So get a handle on this. It’s impossible to manage a company if you’re not exactly sure of how your employees spend their time and how the work flows between them. Not to mention that it makes measuring employee performance impossible.
Mistake #4: Not taking care of your finances
Many small business owners don’t reconcile their financial accounts on a regular basis. They don’t really know how much their employees are getting paid. They don’t review expenses and they let vendor contracts auto-renew without any analysis. Many business owners don’t even know how much revenue they need to generate each month to cover their expenses. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Without financial measurement and controls in place you can’t create a budget, forecast cash flow, plan for the long term or guard against your own employees siphoning off funds (I know, that last one is particularly scary. But believe me, it happens).
Mistake #5: Not investing in the right tools
Technology for small businesses used to be very expensive, but not anymore. From project management software to cloud backup to contact management, what used to cost thousands of dollars out of pocket each month is often available for a fraction of what it was even five years ago. But you need to set these things up in order to take advantage of them, paying attention to how you spend your time and energy, particularly those things that are mission critical (data backup) or tedious (password management). If you’re struggling with a task, there’s a very good chance that someone has already devised an elegant solution.
Mistake #6: Not maintaining control over what matters
Does the marketing company running your business web site manage all the passwords? Is your admin the only person who knows how to run payroll? Has your “IT guy” built a homemade, Scotch Tape and paperclip system that only he can fix and operate? Delegation is important, but, if you put critical functions in the hands of just one person, you’re in danger of being held hostage by that person in the event of an accident, a sudden departure, dispute or other unexpected hiccup. Make sure you’ve got your hands on the information you need and that every critical role has a trained backup at the ready.
Mistake #7: Not taking yourself seriously
There was a time when you really didn’t need a website or an up-to-date LinkedIn profile or a custom domain name. Today, however, it’s no longer an option to ignore the critical elements that tell the world, “I’m in business for real!” If you’re using e-mail addresses that don’t include your business name, sending invoices without your logo, or putting stickers on your old brochures because you moved three years ago and don’t want to buy new ones, it’s time to step up. If you don’t take yourself seriously, why should anyone else?