Running a small business is unlike most other professions in that there's no education required and nobody there to train you during your first months on the job. This is one of the reasons so many new businesses fail in the first year, and the main factor behind the huge success of the small business coaching industry.
Before you shell out thousands for a professional consultant to come in, check yourself for these six all-too-common small business mistakes.
1. Irregular/Incomplete Bookkeeping
Many small business owners go over their books once a year, and then only because it's tax time. This mistake puts you at a huge disadvantage because you're never able to know how the business is doing in time to fix a problem. It's like driving in unfamiliar territory without a map.
Hire a bookkeeper
Log income and expenses daily, so you do it in small chunks
Use automated systems to help you track as much as possible
2. Not Delegating
Whether you don't want to ask for help, or don't quite trust your staff, chances are you're shouldering too much of your business' load. Remember, your job in your business is leadership. Let somebody else handle random errands and cleaning the bathroom while you focus on your bottom line.
Practice handing small tasks off to trusted staff
Remove any staff member you don't trust
Look into cleaning services, outsourced IT and similar options that could free up your time without breaking the bank
3. Lack of Business Systems
Do you 'fly by the seat of your pants' most days at the office? This can sometimes feel gratifying -- especially as compared to the soulless, well-oiled machine you quit when you decided to go out on your own. Unfortunately, this approach leads to wasting time by explaining things multiple times and dropped balls as things fall through the cracks.
Create an operations manual with step-by-step instructions for everyday tasks
Build a monthly schedule that tells when repeating tasks need to happen
Have staff members write a one-page description of their most vital tasks
4. Letting the Technician Run Things
A majority of small businesses are technician-run, meaning they were started and are operated by somebody with a marketable skill. A family machine shop, a karate school and a lawyer's office are examples of this kind of business. The problem with these is that being good at a marketable skill doesn't necessarily mean you're good at running a business.
Find a managing partner to provide capital and business advice
Take some business classes at the local community college
Hire one of those small business consulting firms
5. Inadequate Marketing Plan
If you're not marketing, it's hard to grow and if you're not marketing right, you may as well not be marketing. This mistake is often a symptom of number 4, above, because technicians don't usually know the best ways to market a product.
Do solid market research to determine who most needs to know about what you do
Experiment with social media, text message campaigns and direct mail marketing
Hire a marketing consultant to get you started
6. Growing Too Fast
One of the quickest ways to kill a business is to get everybody in town to visit when you're not ready for them. This is because everyone who shows up will judge you based on how you did that day -- not on how you do when you're not overwhelmed. Growth is good, but only when you're ready to capitalize on the opportunities it represents.
Plan expansion as part of your strategic and marketing plan.
Create a second business plan for each new phase of your company's development.
If you resemble any of the above remarks, don't worry. Recognizing the problem is your first step toward fixing it.
What other small business management mistakes have you seen?