Business/Career

The Top 5 Mistakes Small Business Owners Make (and How to Avoid Them)

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The Top 5 Mistakes Small Business Owners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
Written by Omolola Akinyemi

As a small business owner, you will face challenges, and you will make mistakes. It is human to err, as the saying goes. And we know that even the mighty corporations and large business enterprises across the globe generally started small, just like you. They also faced teething problems in their growth journey.

But by all means I encourage you never to abandon your dream of having financial independence by being an entrepreneur. YOU MUST LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES and avoid repeating them.  

Use those mistakes as the ingredients to bake good business acumen and not repeat the same flaws. Just how much you transform those mistakes into learning opportunities can decide the ongoing success (or otherwise) of your small business. Now let’s examine the most common mistakes made by small business owners. We will focus more on the top 5 Mistakes of small business owners, and how to avoid them.

Wanting to Do It All by Yourself. Like, Really?

No matter how talented you are, you can only exhibit one or two core strengths consistently at once. Learn to identify and focus more on your outstanding skills, while you arrange to bring other people who are talented in your weak areas to work with you. Do this to avoid overworking yourself and producing little in the long run.

Also Read- The Importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Lack of a Mission/Purpose

Far beyond a desire to work for better remuneration, workers also seek to work with an enterprise whose goals align with their own personal values. Unfortunately a lot of small business owners do not clearly define the reason or purpose for setting up that business. A business without a clear mission or purpose can go in any (or many) direction(s), and fail at any time. This would result from bringing in a mix of workers with different goals. They find it difficult to agree or even focus on the job. Therefore, define the goals of your enterprise, and make it clear to your employees from the onset. You can thus hire workers who agree with the mission you set out to accomplish, and can cooperate to achieve that mission or goal.

The Get-Rich-Quick Mentality. No, No, That’s a Tall Dream….

There is no such thing as sudden breakthrough, or an overnight success in business. Success is a journey, the sum of many years of effort and consistency in the right direction. You must give your business enough time to evolve and grow. Make use of all the inputs derived from experience and continuous gathering of relevant knowledge to support your business growth over time. It may take a good number of years and continuous nurturing to have a breakthrough. But your patience and perseverance would be well worth it.  

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Failing to Plan – In Fact, Where is Your Business Plan?

Do you have a business plan? Well, that’s not particularly strange for a new or small business. Most small business owners are guilty of that. A business plan helps you to outline steps you intend to take in order to run, finance and market your business successfully. It also helps to clarify your business needs so you can work on them. Including where and how to source for funds, and how to reach your customers. 

Without a plan, you end up wasting resources, time and effort to achieve very little. You may even miss valuable opportunities because of lack of planning. Your plan could have helped you to identify that opportunity before it slips away. 

But for a start, learn to plan your business gradually in a notebook. Keep your notebook close to you so that, as you think up more ideas, you would write them down immediately. Then conclude each week by going through your notes to summarize and organize your plan. Also learn to assign priority points to those ideas that would have the greatest impact or yield in your business. So that you can commence the following week with your high-priority points. These ideas can eventually help you to create a meaningful business plan to attract investors in the future. 

Handling Your Current Customers with Levity

Customers are the soul of every business, the reason why your business exists in the first instance. They are the source of all your profits. So you must nurture quality relationships with these customers. Show them how valuable they are from time to time. It could be through calls or messages of appreciation.

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Asking for their feedback, giving them discounts, honouring their special days (é.g. birthdays), or giving them small gifts as you can afford, all go a long way. You need to keep your customers satisfied with your brand continually, so they don’t drift away to seek for alternatives. 

Also pay attention to these other avoidable mistakes of small businesses. You would be glad you did.

  • Attempting to Be an All-in-One Solution: You cannot please everyone, nor solve every problem out there. So you must identify the target customers who need your service or product the most. From thence, research into their needs and habits, and focus on solving their problems for them. 
  • Lack of Integrity: Learn to come out clean to state the current situation in your business, including the unsavoury news. Keep the public up-to-date on your business. Facts are attractive, because they would earn you respect and show you are dependable. Don’t cover up your mistakes. It may get exposed suddenly elsewhere, and the damage would be quite significant. 
  • Unduly Cutting Prices: Never assume a reduction in price will attract more customers during challenging times. There are people who prefer to pay for quality. If you sell a quality product cheap, they become suspicious of your product. Therefore, increase the price of your product/service with a corresponding added value – better quality and satisfaction for their money. 
  • All Business – No personal Time: Hello? All work and no play makes Jack what? If you focus so much on your business and refuse to attend to personal needs, you stress yourself out. And your productivity would get worse. Therefore take time off to flex and relax. And while doing that – establish relationships with people around, and market your business to them.
  • Being a Poor Leader: Take charge of your business affairs and direct your team with determination. Communicate your goals to them, plan with them, motivate and supervise them. You can do all that without being mean, of course. Never allow yourself or your staff to lose focus.
  • Assuming You have No Competitors: Your product may be highly sought after or so specialised that it attracts a lot of patronage. Nevertheless – there are people out there ready to challenge you, or even take your place. Directly or indirectly, there is an alternative to your product or service. NEVER IGNORE YOUR COMPETITORS. Be alert and innovative.
  • Ignoring Your Continous Learning: You cannot possibly know everything that would help your business at once. Create time to learn one new skill everyday (or every other day) that could eventually boost your productivity at work. Training videos, a relevant book, new tools in your software. Just do it. 
  • Not Asking for Referrals: That good thing you are doing to please your customers should not go unnoticed by other people. Ask your customers to refer others to your business. You may even offer an incentive to them for bringing referrals. Existing customers are invaluable marketing agents, so don’t ignore them. 
  • Too Little Marketing: Don’t ever assume your product is now so popular it does not need any more exposure. Sustain your marketing campaigns. And ensure you present clear messages that agree in meaning or purpose on all your communication channels at once to the public. That will attract more attention than churning out several uncoordinated messages at one time.
  • Setting Goals that are Difficult to Meet: Don’t hurt yourself with plans too big to achieve within reasonable time. Break down the big plan into smaller, SMART goals. They should be specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, time-bound. And handle them gradually, one step at a time.  
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About the author

Omolola Akinyemi

A Computer Science graduate of UNILAG, I hail from Ekiti state of Nigeria. An astute teacher, learner & admin assistant of many years experience. I love technology, innovation, and Nature. A problem solving mentality is important to me. The future is only seconds away, and I believe I can define the future now. You can also.