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30 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make
31
Jul
2013

Mistakes small business people make

Over 50% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years

I believe that most small business owners are their own worst enemy. Despite having the motivation and vision to be a business owner, entrepreneurs make mistakes that can be avoided.

Today you will discover 30 business mistakes that entrepreneurs make that doom their businesses. You’ll uncover tactics, mindsets and facts that will help you insure your business success!

 

1. They don’t spend time on the (non-sexy) foundational work.

Have you ever had to tell someone that they spent 20K on a website that hates it’s users? I have. It’s not fun. But it had to be done. Why does this happen? It all comes down to a lack of foundational work. The site looks beautiful, but users can’t figure what what action to take when they get there.

Whether it is developing a customer persona, learning to craft and use a messaging strategy, or discovering how individuals absorb content online.  Foundational tasks cannot be skipped.

2. They expect fast results for minimal effort.

It’s human nature to hope for a secret easy way to be successful. Who doesn’t want “6 weeks to success” or a magic product that makes the pieces line up? We all would love that!

It doesn’t exist. It’s hard, it takes specific steps and a lot of help.

If it was easy to build a business everyone would quit their jobs, build a website with massive traffic and drink pina coladas on the beach all day.

3. They don’t filter every decision through the lens of their long-term goals.

This is critical. Keep your eye on the goal and make sure that you’re always heading in that direction. Don’t be distracted by tangents that seem like a good idea at the time if they don’t align with your long term goals.

One of my closest friends is waiting to write her book for a time when she can focus. Imagine a top literary agent tracks a writer down and signs her and the writer says, “I will write it when I get a chance.”

One day I lost my patience and blurted, “Stop doing anything new unless it directly helps you reach this goal. Stop saying yes to anything that doesn’t move you a step closer to this goal.”

Don’t clutter your day with things that aren’t crucial for your long-term success. (tweet it)

4. They focus on Social and think eMail marketing is an outdated Marketing strategy.

The internet is a crowded place. How many amazing sites have you seen that you forget to go back and visit? Too many to remember, right? The way smart businesses remind people that they are there is to have an email marketing strategy that works to serve their readers.

When the time comes to sell a product/service, publicize a special promotion, email is the way to go. It is a more intimate medium and the business owner has the ability to take their message right to the customer.

Sure, Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are fine for building awareness and driving traffic, but those who rely on Social Media marketing to drive sales may need to sit down for this next fact.

Only 1.55% of all traffic going to ecommerce sites was driven by Social Media and even then only .71% of that converted to a sale. (Tweet it)

Ouch. That one stung, huh?

5. Their websites are not mobile responsive.

Mobile ResponsiveIf a website doesn’t automatically resize itself to the device it is read on, then it is actively driving people away. In 2013, all websites should be mobile-optimized and should look great on an iPhone, an iPad and any other device where it’s viewed.

Google’s study from September 2012, of what mobile users want from sites had some illuminating stats:

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly

Sidenote: If your developer/consultant hasn’t insisted on mobile optimization (and a mobile plugin does not count) then you need to re-evaluate that service provider.

6. They think that because they loved doing one thing that they will love running a business about that thing.

sometimes running the business makes you want to run away This is where the “do what you love” advice to potential entrepreneurs falls flat. Just because someone loves making graphics doesn’t mean that person would love running a graphic design business. Having passion for your business is fabulous, but don’t mistake loving watercolor painting to mean you’ll be great at running a watercolor painting business.

A business needs a manager, a sales person and someone who produces the product (or service). It’s very common for someone who loves doing something as part of a business to leave to start their own business, only to learn that the act of running their own business keeps them from doing the one thing they love.

7. They don’t know who they are talking to.

Naturally we all want the entire world to be our customer base. New business owners tend to fight the concept of identifying a target market and serving them directly.

“But Alli, why would I exclude everyone else?”

It’s not about excluding others, it’s about serving one client persona in the best way possible. It’s about finding a niche where you can shine.

8. They don’t have a support system.

Without a mentor or a coach, who has been successful in business themselves, small business owners lack a crucial element for success- wisdom!

And without someone (or a small group of like-minded individuals) to keep entrepreneurs accountable, things easily start to slide off the rails.

A bit of honesty here: I have a business coach and my most successful colleagues have them as well. The best investment I’ve made in my business is coaching from entrepreneurs who’ve gone before me. 

Don’t let yourself get so cocky that you think you don’t need counsel and accountability.

9. They don’t guard their time.

Without conscience guarding of time, the whole day can be spent reacting to things instead of building on opportunities. This doesn’t mean you have to have a strict schedule…absolutely  not. It does mean you should know where to NOT spend your time.

10. They think business is a zero sum game.

A zero sum game is where the success of one person is always offset by the loss of another. This is a classic scarcity mindset in business. My policy is to never do business with those who have this view. The concept that one person’s gain is always another’s loss leads to unnecessary competition, stress and jealousy.

11. They don’t ask the right questions.

People who are successful focus on discovering what is good and can be learned in any situation. They ask questions that lead to continued momentum and greater opportunities and productivity.

12. They think traffic will magically become a revenue model. What will you do to monetize that traffic to your website?

When I hear new bloggers talk of their desire to boost traffic my question always stops the conversation dead in the tracks.

Why?

What?

“Why do you want more traffic?”

If a website isn’t sticky and the traffic bounces it is worthless. Traffic without a goal for the traffic is a wasted goal. It’s not about the traffic number, it’s about how useful the traffic is.

Will these individuals sign-up for the email list? Will these visitors become customers?

Those who have no specific goal for their visitors can hope for tons of traffic all day but it will never make a difference in their business in the long run.

And I won’t even bother addressing banner advertising here. You are better off becoming a Navy Seal.

Instead of spending time posting content multiple times a day and trying to hit viral gold, successful entrepreneurs focus on building a great product and serving their market.

13. They focus on shiny objects and tools.

Have you ever read an article that excitedly tries to convince you that a new WordPress plugin or a new Social Media platform is a game changer? Were they? Did that one shiny object rock your world? Probably not.

Is there a plugin, a social network or a theme that can develop a real business model? Nope.

Writing about tools is easier to do than writing about the real grind of building a business. It’s great for pageviews but these things are distractions.

Stick to what matters. Shiny objects are fun and useful, but always focus on what moves your business from point A to point B.

14. They waste time on the wrong things.

Successful business owners know to pass things through the ‘So what’ test. This keeps them from wasting time, energy and focus on things that don’t get them closer to their goal.

“We have 1000 new Facebook fans this month.”

“So what?”

Without signing fans up on an email list at minimum, and eventually converting those fans to customers, the tactic is wasted energy.

15. They avoid criticism.

Successful business owners know that the only way to not be criticized is to never innovate, never compete, and never get noticed.

Fear should come from being ignored in business, not from being criticized.

16. They wait for permission.

The beautiful thing about the time we live in is that we have endless opportunities for learning, starting a business and marketing a business online. There are no gate keepers who make future business owners pass tests and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to succeed.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission. (Tweet it!)

17. They are pennywise and pound foolish.

Penny wise pound foolishThe most successful business people understand that spending money to build and scale their business is a smart choice. Don’t throw money away, but don’t squirrel it away when it could be spent achieving success.

Don’t cut corners and wonder why your business has no traction.

18. They don’t test their assumptions.

I once had an emergency consulting call with a friend who spent 6 months on a product and never tested his idea to see if  his audience would buy it. Thousands of his readers ignored his “amazing product” much to his dismay.

He never tested his assumption that people needed, wanted and would actually pay for what he was building.

19. They don’t know how people read content on the web.

  • People skim.
  • People like bullet points.
  • People like bold typeface.
  • People like simple, declarative statements.
  • People like short paragraphs no longer than five lines deep. Preferably three.

You know what people don’t like? Long-winded explanations and unnecessary flowery language that drones on and on and doesn’t really get to any substance because it tells stories or gives too many examples or dances around the subject or drones on and on . . . oh did I already say that?

See what I did there? :)

20. They think they don’t need to constantly learn to stay competitive.

The mindset that talent and knowledge is at a fixed level limits success. Successful business people know that education does not end with a degree.

The most successful business people are the ones who seek out knowledge, wise counsel and who actively work to improve themselves.

“If you want to identify the most senior, knowledgeable people in an audience, look for the people who are taking notes and asking questions.” 

21. They focus on vanity metrics.

Don't use vanity metrics. Focus on metrics that matter Vanity metrics are those that feel good but don’t actually make a difference in your business. Does a klout score pay the mortgage? Does your number of Twitter followers directly impact your ability to close a deal?

Successful business people focus on metrics that matter. (Tweet it!)

22. They think business success comes from tactics over mindset.

Tactics matter. Big time.

They pale in comparison,  however, to your mindset. If your mindset is negative and you do not think you will succeed- You Won’t!

23. They don’t pay attention to the human component of business.

Every time I’ve heard that statement before or after some bit of news it has had one common thread. The person is being a jerk, and is deflecting the fact that someone in a transaction is getting the shaft.

Business is about people. From the employees to to customers, it’s all about people.

24. They think of networking as a contact sport.

Successful business people know that networking is about investing in others and building real relationships. It’s not about throwing business cards at other people and sizing them up to see how useful others will be for their business.

25. They spend too much time talking on Social Media platforms and not focused on serving their customers

Social media is your friend and a powerful tool in your arsenal. It’s not the end-all be-all. It’s great for expanding your brand, customer service, and engaging with the community at large.

But don’t go overboard relying on it. You need to work and not lose focus on the stream of chatter.

26. They don’t track and test what is and isn’t working in their business. Test and measure everything in business

Successful businesses know where they spend their money and their energy and what value is provided for the expenditure.

The secret is simple- Put more resources on what works for your business.

Without measuring and testing the success of every tactic, how would you know?

 

27. They don’t think long-term strategy and continue to spin their wheels.

Opportunities come at entrepreneurs constantly. Maybe all the opportunities are good, but if they don’t line up with long-term goals, even the best opportunity is harmful.

Ask yourself, “Does this activity move me a step closer to my goal?”

28. They listen to the wrong people.

There’s a whole lotta “experts” out there, but a serious dearth of people who can help you.  Just like your neighbor who tinkers on his car isn’t where you take your car when the brakes are squeaking, you need to find the right expert for you and your small business. One reason I interview potential clients before I accept them into a coaching or mentoring program with me is because I want to make sure I am the person who can serve them best. It’s important to have the right business consultant / business fit. Not just anyone will do!

29.  They hire fast and fire slow.

We’ve all been there. That person who seemed like a perfect candidate turns out to be not what you want at all. Passive aggressive tendencies, negative mindsets, poor work habits are all way too common.

When you start thinking you have the wrong person working for you, do not let the fact that you like them personally delay the inevitable. Let them go.

Successful small business owners hire slow and fire fast.

30. They don’t pay attention to posts like this. 

‘Nuff said.

 

Congratulations, you made it to the end of this article! Obviously you are not going to doom your business.

Your turn to shareCan you do a favor for me? Please share this article with as many small business owners and future entrepreneurs as possible. 

Let’s save even more people from making these business mistakes!

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  • http://inpursuitofhappiness.net/blog Miss Britt

    My website isn’t mobile responsive right now and it is KILLING me – but the plugin just wasn’t cutting it. It only optimized the blog portion of my website and blocked mobile readers from being able to access everything.

    I haven’t figured out a solution yet… so right now I just cringe when reading lists like these. ;-)

    • http://alliworthington.com/ Alli Worthington

      I cringe when I read article like this that say keep content short and snappy. 300-500 words. Heh. :)

      • Stephen Waite

        I was just wondering that myself… :)

    • lucrecer

      There are lots of really good responsive templates available now. More than ever before. Maybe it is time for a new look to your site.

  • Linda Kinsman

    Excellent take away points Alli. I am working on # 26. In July I took a good long look at my ROI over the last six months. It was clear that I needed to adjust my course. I’m going back to my roots as a WAHM and adding a direct sales component to my blog to reach my part of my target audience again # 7.

    • http://alliworthington.com/ Alli Worthington

      Small business people and large companies all forget to measure what works. You are a step ahead because you can adjust!

      • Linda Kinsman

        Thanks Alli, it feels good to read I’m a step ahead on something after this summer. :)

  • Christine from Giftovus

    Great article Ali, just shared this with an entrepreneur I know. Thanks for being so supportive and helpful to fellow entrepreneurs!

  • stevecinq

    Great advice. I know that my business has focused on Facebook fans for no real reason. Unless we turn them into email subscribers or referral catalysts, they are not worth much.

  • Divine Glo Skincare

    Very helpful article, thank you Alli. I have a new start up online natural skincare company and am learning the ropes and so learning what NOT to do is so helpful :)

  • http://www.talentedladiesclub.com/ Kary Fisher

    Plenty of excellent points here. In fact, all of it really resonates with me! As a web designer I have explained multiple times about strategy, branding, and thinking about the consumer/customer. Many small businesses refuse either to listen to professional advice or listen to everyone and get confused.

  • Melissa Gondek

    Great, no-nonsense advice (reverse advice?) here! Thank you for this post. Before starting my own creative business, I worked as a management consultant with a lot of small businesses and saw what you describe again and again and again… But never so well articulated. Now I’m working NOT to make these same mistakes, myself.

    Pinning, sharing, and evangelizing!

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