“Build it and they will come,” doesn’t always apply to small business. Even with a great plan, there are still barriers—and mistakes—that can stall your small business and prevent it from growing.
You already know some of the most common errors that small business owners make: trying to do everything themself instead of outsourcing, getting too comfortable or complacent, micromanaging rather than trusting, or even failing to adapt to a changing market. But there are other small business mistakes that can prohibit business growth, too.
Nobody knows your business goals and objectives better than you, which leads to the question: are your business goals realistic and achievable? While you may want your business to be as big as Coca-Cola, it’s probably not going to happen in your first year… or five.
Write down what you hope to achieve—your goals—and where you see your company in the next 5–10 years. Then map out the steps you’ll take to accomplish these goals. Finally, do a reality-check. Are your goals achievable? What resources will you need to meet those goals? It’s good to reach and stretch a bit to accomplish something important to you and your business, but if every goal feels out of reach, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Remind yourself of your goals frequently. You may even want to post your written goals somewhere you can see them: on a bulletin board, chalkboard, or whatever works for you, so they serve as your North Star. Keeping your eye on the prize helps you focus and prioritize your business objectives.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Yes, planning is essential to successful business, but so is actually putting your plans into action. If you spend all of your time planning, you run the risk of inhibiting your ability to carry out your business plans or leave yourself unable to adapt when something doesn’t go the way you expected.
Don’t let over-planning stifle your dreams. Instead take the knowledge you have and ensure you’re using it to move forward. If you catch yourself overthinking—or halting because you haven’t thought of everything yet—remember that there will always be a few circumstances out of your control. Trust your instincts, put down your pen, and start turning the plans you already made into realities. Who knows—you may even have better success by figuring out some of the details as you go!
Did you start a business because you already had a contact-list full of promised clients? That’s a great way to get the ball rolling, but too much dependence on that initial list of friends and family may not allow you to reach new customers.
Every business—even a lemonade stand—needs to market to new customers to succeed, but you can’t rely solely on previous customers to refer your services to their friends and others in their network. While referrals often make the best customers, introducing your product or service to an all-new audience is essential, too.
Fortunately, you have choices on how you reach new segments of the audience: social media, email marketing, online ads, direct mail advertising, networking, and more. If paid ads aren’t in your budget, consider tapping into external financing, which you can use to help you access new prospects and old customers, too.
Who are you competing against? What are they doing and saying that makes customers choose them over you? If you’re not keeping up with your competitors’ activities, you could be making a mistake.
While you could pay for a professional competitor analysis, you can also do a scaled-down version for next to nothing. Start by following your competitors on social media and signing up for their mailing lists. These two simple activities can give you insight into who your competitors are trying to reach and how they’re speaking to the audience you may want to attract, too. Use this information to determine how you’ll differentiate your business from theirs. By the way, if you can’t find your competitor on social media or communicating with prospects via email updates, congratulations—you may have also spotted an opportunity to be swoop in and own the space.
Have you shared your ideas with your team? As a business owner, your vision is likely clear and concise. If you don’t share your vision company-wide, however, your team may not know exactly where they fit in.
Talk about your plans with your team, and then ask for input and feedback. Everyone in your organization—employees, partners, and investors—can help make your picture of success even richer. You may also find that your team has ideas and skills that you didn’t know about that can turn into strategies to keep your business growing.