Why do some businesses achieve profound success, while other similar businesses seem to struggle forever? Even though many businesses have great products and quality services, they never seem to really get beyond mere survival level.
Here are five critical mistakes that will kill your chances of attaining above-average success. If you make any of them, your business will achieve average performance at best, and likely create a trap where you end up working long hours for mere survival, or even eventual failure and bankruptcy. Read on and check to see how many you make.
1. Short-term focus
Most owners of SMEs are more focused on short-term survival than long-term success. Typically, short-term cash requirements become the driver for most things that happen in the business. If the need is constant, the needs of the future development of the business are totally neglected.
Most business owners spend their time putting out fires. But the only way to stop this problem long term is to work on prevention rather than cure. If you deal with the causes, then you won’t have to worry about the fires at all. This means taking time out to analyse what’s going wrong and planning what needs to be done to achieve the long-term goals.
You need to become proactive instead of reactive if you want to achieve real success. You need to define what that success looks like and then develop a plan to get it. Then go out and make it happen.
2. Haphazard advertising
Advertising decisions in SMEs are often determined by how busy everyone in the business is. There is no defined marketing plan. Advertising is initiated when sales slow down and stopped when sales pick up. Advertising is usually tactical rather than strategic. This endless reactive cycle just tends to keep the business operating around the same level of sales – survival level. This level becomes the limit to the success of the business.
Smaller, struggling businesses tend to react by using price as the main competitive element. This again sets up a reactive approach to price setting and marketing activity, creating a chain reaction with competitors that ends up damaging everyone’s profits and cashflow.
Marketing is about communicating to the market the distinctive reasons why a company’s products should be the logical choice compared to competitive offerings. Successful companies determine their strategic advantages over the competition and then they proactively communicate the value of those advantages to the market. More often than not, this style of marketing allows them to sell at higher prices than competitors because they focus on what customers really value.
3. Ineffective delegation
You can’t develop your business without delegating work to someone else. However, most business owners would prefer to do the work themselves than learn how to choose the right people, set them up with the right systems, then motivate and nurture them.
Often the business owner has expectations of employees that are simply not communicated clearly – therefore they don’t get the results they expect. The outcome is frustration leading to resigned acceptance that “you can’t get good staff these days”.
Effective managers know clear interactions between people and good relationships are essential to productivity, so they develop effective communication processes. These include job descriptions, operations manuals, work instructions and appraisal systems to ensure that expectations about an employee’s role in the business are effectively communicated and understood and that the employee’s performance results are fed back and effectively worked through to the satisfaction of each party. Delegation can then occur without frustration and antagonism.
4. Ineffective control
Many business owners and managers are so focused on getting the work done that they never stop to check how efficiently it is being done or whether performance levels are improving or deteriorating.
Running a business without performance indicators is like flying blind. Some business operators don’t even know what their financial position is from month to month. That’s like guessing how much fuel you have left, then being surprised when the engine stops.
Many businesses stay at the level of growth where the business owner can physically see or check how hard people are working. This method of maintaining control is self-limiting, because it puts a self-imposed cap on business growth. However, it is often also ineffective because activity does not always equate to productivity. People have a tendency to try to look busy, even when they aren’t working hard. Many managers are lulled into a false sense of security by visual checking.
Without real performance measures that identify actual levels of productivity, operational costs and relativity to targets, a business has no real controls. This is one of the most critical mistakes that make it almost impossible to achieve above-average success. Unless you proactively manage to performance targets and keep check on performance, you will tend to only achieve the minimum acceptable level.
5. Doing it all yourself without looking for help
Significant achievement always involves help from others. In small business it has long been accepted that you need external professionals for preparing accounts and dealing with legal matters. However, it is also becoming commonplace to bring in specialist skills to work on improving specific business functions – like strategy, marketing, sales or productivity.
Successful business requires effort and leverage and usually is not achieved without a significant amount of mentoring and guidance from people with the right experience and expertise. It is accepted practice in all sports for even elite athletes to use a coach to provide external guidance and tips to improve performance. Top business owners also accept this principal and look for advice whenever they can. It seems that only the poor performers try to go it alone and think they have all the answers themselves.
If you make any of these mistakes in business, your performance will suffer and you will most likely tend to spend your time struggling to survive, or at least working longer hours than you want to get where you want to go.
Success leaves clues. Successful businesses operate in a different paradigm from most average businesses. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to find out how they do it and how you can eliminate the mistakes that keep you trapped in a business that is a continuous struggle and a constant source of frustration?