When they start in business, most people have dreams of growing but there are some hidden traps that can stop those dreams from becoming reality.
Everyone makes mistakes, but what we see are the same things coming up again and again.
Some of them are pretty major and can kill your business almost in an instant. Others are less impactful but over time they eat away at your potential and stop your business from growing.
Running a successful business isn’t about being perfect, but more about eliminating simple errors that can stop you from reaching your goals.
So check out our 17 key things that stop you from growing your business.
- You don’t do what you do anymore
- So what do you do?
- Definition is everything
- Nothing personal – just business
- Delegation is the lifesaver
- Perfect planning prevents pretty poor performance
- Cash is king
- Friends and family is a bad idea
- Being a price slasher
- The ostrich principle
- Get rich quick – the fastest way to lose it all
- Stop looking for the silver bullet
- Believing their own hype
- The finger of blame
- Building your house on someone else’s land
- Reinventing the wheel
- Forgetting their IP
1 – You don’t do what you do anymore
This is probably the first thing that you need to remember and the main one that new (and quite a lot of experienced) business owners forget.
You need to understand that you don’t do what you do anymore.
What we mean by this is that the plumber isn’t a plumber, the accountant isn’t an accountant and the baker isn’t a baker.
They are all business owners.
It’s a vital change in mindset that tells you that you need to stop thinking the same way you did when you were working for someone else.
If you only ever want to be a one-man (or woman) band, then you can continue working and thinking like a plumber. But growing a business takes a switch in approach.
Instead you need to be thinking about the big picture and how your business will grow in the future.
2 – So what do you do?
If we asked you what you do, could you explain it in a ten to twenty second elevator pitch?
You’d be surprised at how few business owners can express clearly and succinctly what their business can do for their customers.
As Mindtools says “It should be interesting, memorable and succinct. It also needs to explain what makes you – or your organization, product or idea – unique.”
If you can’t do this then you need to have a serious think about your marketing approach.
3 – Definition is everything
Once you have defined what you do in your elevator pitch you need to define who your customer is.
Don’t make the mistake of saying “everyone” because no business can possibly hope to appeal to every person on the planet.
Instead, work out what your ideal customer looks like, where they hang out and what problems they have.
You’ll find that your advertising becomes much more effective and you sell more when you target a niche sector.
4 – Nothing personal – just business
There’s a line in the Godfather where Salvatore Tessio says “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.” and whilst we are not advocating using mafia-style tactics there is a lesson here.
You have to separate the emotion from the business. Emotion gets in the way and clouds your decision-making process.
When we are upset or angry we make bad calls so it is important that if you want to grow your business you remember that it really isn’t personal, just business.
5 – Delegation is the lifesaver
No business can grow and thrive without a healthy delegation process.
Delegating to people reduces stress on you, shows that you believe in your staff and gives you the opportunity to take on more and more business.
Don’t underestimate how difficult this is though. Giving away bits of power in your ‘baby’ is really hard but you won’t be able to grow otherwise.
Harvard Business School has a great post on delegation here.
6 – Perfect planning prevents pretty poor performance
Plan, plan, plan.
If you plan then you spot things that you haven’t thought of.
You spot icebergs in your path and you spot opportunities that you can exploit.
There’s a reason why large businesses have entire departments dedicated to planning – because it works!
We’re wouldn’t say that you need to go quite to this extent but make sure you have at least an annual plan to show where you want to get to and how you are going to get there.
7 – Cash is king
Growing businesses can often be very cash hungry and so you need to remember that cash is king.
Consider these two examples.
One company has a million pounds in the bank. It is losing £10k per month.
The second is earning £10k per month but has no money in the bank and their customers pay them 180 days after the invoice is sent.
Which company do you think will live longer?
If you have cash in the bank it gives you options, if you have no cash then these become limited.
8 – Friends and family is a bad idea
We’ve all heard stories about quaint family businesses that have been incredibly successful over many years but in our experience, these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
Growing a business is stressful and sharing that stress with loved ones can destroy relationships.
Bring in family and friends into your business by all means, but make sure you have serious conversations beforehand about who does what and who is in charge.
9 – Being a price slasher
Unless your business model is to be a discounter like Poundland then you need to resist the temptation to slash your prices.
It reduces profit, decreases cash flow and gives your brand a bit of a ‘bargain basement’ feel.
Cut prices, but do so strategically and for limited periods.
10 – The ostrich principle
Another thing that always turns up in business is difficult situations.
Let’s be fair, if business was easy then everyone would do it.
So when you are faced with a hard conversation or a difficult decision then don’t adopt the ostrich principle and stick your head in the sand.
Confront it head-on and deal with it as soon as you are able. You’ll feel much better as a result and your business will benefit.
11 – Get rich quick – the fastest way to lose it all
Get rich quick schemes are very alluring – but in the vast majority of cases they aren’t true.
In fact, the only people getting rich from a get rich quick scheme are the people selling the scheme!
When you speak to experienced and successful business owners you find that they all share the same principles of working hard, having a clear strategy and understanding their business.
12 – Stop looking for the silver bullet
In a similar vein to point 11, it is too tempting to look for a silver bullet in any situation but they rarely exist.
There isn’t one single thing you need to do to reinvigorate your marketing and there isn’t one thing you can do to have a great work culture.
It is almost always a combination of different measures that all add up to a successful outcome.
It seems counterintuitive because doing lots of things well seems to take much longer, but in practice, people spend so long looking for that one, elusive silver bullet that they fail to grow their business at all.
13 – Believing their own hype
You need to have a level of marketing hype for your business. You need to big up how great your services are, how life-changing your products can be, how awesome your people are.
But in your quiet moments away from the public, you need to forget all the hype and take a clear-headed view of what is working well and what isn’t.
It can be uncomfortable to realise that your customer service isn’t at the level you would like, but until you confront reality, you’ll never improve.
14 – The finger of blame
Remember that when the finger of blame points out, three fingers point back.
Resist the temptation to blame others for things that go wrong. Instead, use points 4, 6 and 13 to fully understand the situation and work out a plan to avoid it happening again.
15 – Building your house on someone else’s land
We knew a business that built a successful company based on selling services using a single software product.
Things were going really well until the manufacturer stopped supporting and selling the software.
Overnight the company’s business stopped.
Be very careful when you build your business using services and assets that someone else owns because, at any point, things outside of your control could throw a huge spanner in the works.
If you can, develop your own systems and own your own assets and have backup plans in place in case it all goes wrong.
16 – Reinventing the wheel
Don’t think that to grow your business you have to invent a new way of doing everything from scratch.
There is a good case for doing things the way others do them when they aren’t part of your USP.
For example, if your USP is producing superior quality motorcycle parts then there’s probably no benefit in developing an entirely new method of taking orders or sending out deliveries.
Concentrate on the key parts of your business and use best in class services that other people have developed for things that are less central.
17 – Forgetting their IP
So you have developed a brand new product, or have a stunning marketing campaign or have produced some amazing artwork.
Then you find out that a competitor has copied it.
Not protecting your IP can have serious consequences.
It can mean that after all your hard work and effort, someone has simply ripped off your design.
Or it can mean that when you eventually come to sell your business it is worth less because the buyer realises that you don’t own your own intellectual property.
This is one that people only take seriously when they have lost a lot of money or control of a vital piece of development work.
Making these mistakes already?
If some of these seem familiar then don’t worry.
These are the most common issues we see in businesses from startups right through to long-established concerns so you are certainly not alone.
Whilst we would say that any business owner who wants to grow their company should get a grip on all of these points, we wouldn’t suggest doing it all at once.
Do them one at a time and get each right before you move on to the next, that way you won’t be causing too much upheaval in your business.
And remember that if you need help with things like cash flow or planning, then we are only a phone call away. Bringing in experienced help from business specialists can really supercharge your growth plans.
Call us now to find out more.