Rookie business owners are expected to get things wrong – it’s an important part of how we learn and improve. But it’s not just the new kids on the block that get caught out – experienced businesses, even well established ones, sometimes make mistakes too.
It’s always worth giving regular consideration to whether you’re doing things as well as you could be, and how you can improve if not. We’ve put together a list of five mistakes you might be making as an experienced business owner, along with some advice on how to avoid these errors.
1. Ignoring opportunities for innovation
Times are changing, and standard business practices are evolving, especially with new technology coming in all the time. Alex Farrell, founder of Gift Wink, says that ‘it’s easy to become very formulaic around how you do things and ignore innovations that might be happening in your industry’.
New industry developments give companies the opportunity to do something different, or to find creative uses for new technology. On the other hand, failing to react at all can result in your business getting left behind. ‘A recent example is the shift to mobile and how that has affected the way customers consume media and make purchases online’ says Farrell, who recommends that established organisations interact with a wide network of people – especially those in start-up businesses, who are more proactive when it comes to trying new models.
2. Becoming complacent with marketing and sales
It’s great when your business grows and you have a steady stream of work coming in – but savvy business owners know that things can change at any moment. Even if you’re happy at your current size and don’t feel the need to keep growing, keeping on top of networking and maintaining good relations with current and potential clients is important; you never know when your existing channels could dry up, so you need to make sure you have avenues in place to deal with this eventuality.
Whether it’s keeping the website up with modern trends, maintaining a strong brand presence with publicity and content marketing, attending industry trade shows to keep in touch with potential leads or getting the most out of existing clients, staying foremost in the minds of your target customers is a necessity.
3. Falling behind industry developments
With technological changes coming at a constant rate, and standard industry practices and regulations evolving to meet an ever-changing environment, it’s important to keep up with what the rest of the industry is doing, whether by regularly reading industry news publications, keeping an eye on innovations brought by your competitors, or staying in touch with your peers at networking events.
Serial entrepreneur Dave Lavinksy says that you could be left behind if you fail to remain up to date with the latest technology and practices that your customers have come to expect, causing a ripple effect that permeates your entire business and makes it hard to get back where you were before. It’s vital that you’re constantly communicating with your customers to find out what they need, being unafraid to update or refine your product range if that’s what’s required.
4. Failing to scale the company culture
Your culture dictates what your company does and how it interacts with the outside world. According to Peter Czapp, founder of The Wow Company, ‘in the early days of a business, you don’t need to worry too much about culture – often it’s just the founders and a few staff’.
As you start to get bigger however, these values, practices and strategy can be lost to seemingly more important pursuits like growing the company and keeping up with the demands of your clients. You have new personalities coming and going, and maintaining a consistent group ethic becomes harder without a concerted effort to do so.
Czapp believes that ‘the culture of your business will decide what you achieve and how quickly you achieve it’, so it’s vital that you take the time to create a culture that will remain in place as your team grows while ‘reminding yourself and those around you why you are doing this’.
5. Not setting aside capital to reinvest
Dave Lavinsky feels strongly that investing in your own business is important to your performance in the long run. He says that setting aside some of your profits will ‘create a situation where growth and success fuels further growth and success in a positive loop’. If you don’t do this, your business can stagnate, and find itself unable to innovate and keep up with the competition.
As well as having capital to invest in new technology, ideas and opportunities that come along, setting aside funds also makes sure that any emergencies or unexpected expenditures will be accounted for.
Don’t rest on your laurels
A lot of the mistakes here are really about complacency – once your business is up and running, you could easily be tempted to sit back and relax because everything’s going so smoothly. Perhaps you’ll also become somewhat jaded and lose some of the drive and purpose that kept you going through those tough early years, and now feel that you deserve to rest and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
If this is you, you almost certainly do deserve a rest, and you probably need one too. Sadly though, the modern business environment is so changeable – and unforgiving – that taking it too easy could be your undoing.