In my own personal experience as a business owner, and certainly as a coach, I’ve learned to recognize some common pitfalls that can be the undoing of hard-working entrepreneurs.
Here is a list of 10 ways to kill your business. I really hope you are NOT guilty of a single one of these self-sabotaging behaviours, but if you are, I’ve got you covered.
1) Lead with ego and infallibility
Your business is setup to serve an ecosystem of customers, staff and vendors. It is not about you. When you lead from a place of boosting your own profile or making decisions that serve you first and foremost, it puts the wrong message out to the ecosystem and leads to decisions that don’t support the good of the business.
I worked with an organization where the president was always looking for someone else to blame. He was infallible. Subsequently, his management team also looked to someone else to blame for any issues or failings. This attitude crept through the whole company and created a culture of blame and average performance.
Do this instead:
A good organization needs to recognize its failings — starting with the owner and leadership. Create a culture where everyone admits mistakes, owns them and works to be better. We are all human and everyone makes mistakes. Do not shame people for making mistakes, that only creates fear of trying new things. Which leads into my next topic…
2) Lack of adaptability and innovation
The classic line, “we’ve always done it like this” may be an indicator that your organization is tied too tightly to the past and not looking forward enough. If you don’t look for ways to do things better, you will fall behind.
Your competitors will continue to innovate so your company needs to change and adapt at a higher rate to stay ahead. It doesn’t need to be cutting edge, space-age innovation — just do just a little more each month to create efficiency and look to improve the quality and experience of what you deliver.
Do this instead:
Ask yourself, what will our business and marketplace look like in 10 years? What does the “flying car” of our business look like? Get your team thinking about change and adaptation. Create a vision of innovation and leadership ten years into the future. Start by asking staff, what can we do better? What isn’t working well? What do customers want?
3) Poor communication or no communication
Have you ever been too busy or wrapped up in your work to properly explain a task to an employee, and then got frustrated when the project wasn’t completed the way you were hoping for? Minimal communication gets you minimal results.
I just heard about a person being terminated with an email that said, “Jane Doe is no longer with the organization, we wish her well.” This email set off a firestorm of questions for other people, nervousness about their careers, and a culture of distrust. Hasty emails communicate far more than the words they are made up of.
Do this instead:
Take one extra minute and re-read emails, to ensure you are being explicit, and ask for feedback to ensure the message is coming through as intended. Never assume anything. Good communication is transparent, explains situations clearly, sets expectations and gives a voice to everyone in an organization.
4) Don’t trust or invest in your team
Want to ensure you can’t scale or grow your company? Then make sure you keep all critical information and tasks (like cash management) at the owners desk. Don’t trust people with your money, key clients or big decisions. This kind of disempowerment is a surefire way to limit the growth of the business.
Do this instead:
Consistently invest in your team’s skills, abilities and improvement, give them more critical tasks to manage. You will free up more of your own time and share the responsibility and success. You will increase capacity and raise morale, and create a better FLOW. Good employees want to be challenged, supported and given the chance to contribute to your business.
5) Presume “doing good work” will be enough to grow the company
Mastering your product or service IS important, but it’s not enough. Many business owners think if they just deliver a good product or service, growth will happen naturally as a bi-product (referrals, repeat business). Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. In fact, thanks to attrition, if you take this approach, your business will remain flat, eventually dying a long, slow death.
Do this instead:
Keep the commitment to doing great work, but know that if you want to grow, you need to have an active growth strategy. In order to grow, you need an intention and focus, as well as a plan. Commit to your annual active sales and marketing strategy. Growth requires consistent effort, it does not happen by chance.
6) Compete on price
If you want to suck the life out of your business in the fastest time possible, aim to be the lowest cost option in your market. The lowest revenues will drive you to cutting your own overhead costs, and that will eventually lead you to deliver a poor offering and getting known as the discount brand! Your business will be dead in no time!
Do this instead:
Raise your prices and add value to your customers and clients! The cost to improve the experience someone has when buying from you will be exponentially less than the perceived value. People love the extra little touches, like Sleep Country delivery drivers wearing little slip-on boot covers when delivering your mattress or your hairdresser offering you a beverage while getting your hair dyed. Creating a memorable experience is KEY.
7) Make yourself the controlling bottleneck
No one else does it better than you, right? No one else can make important decisions, because, well, it’s your business and they just don’t get it! So keep yourself involved in ALL projects and watch the work pile up on your desk while your staff become disengaged. YOU cannot do everything yourself! You’ll burn yourself out and the business will be flatlining in no time!
Do this instead:
Hire great people, pay them well, take time to train them, trust them and then EMPOWER them to make decisions and run certain areas of your business for you. No business owner should be slowing the progress of their own ship! Be the owner who shares the responsibility with your team and celebrates with them too!
8) Let the finances take care of themselves
Don’t worry, the numbers will take care of themselves. That stuff is for the accountant anyways. Checking in with them once a year is plenty. I mean, micromanaging that stuff is such a drag. This attitude is a recipe for overspending, under managing and it has to stop.
Do this instead:
Know your numbers and stick with your budgets. Have regular budget meetings and make sure your managers are watching their numbers closely as well. The responsibility of managing the finances should not all be on you, but you must stay accountable to company budgets and keep your team accountable to following their budgets as well.
9) Worry about sales, tomorrow
You’ll make that follow-up call tomorrow, right? Maybe next week… and that guy that you talked to last week, he wanted more information on…what was it? Maybe someone else is following up with him. You’ll have that big proposal out at the end of the week… at the latest… If this is your attitude to generating sales then, I’m sorry, but your business is doomed.
Do this instead:
Keep your CRM up to date. Schedule time in your calendar daily to check in on the status of leads, make phone calls and send emails. I’m talking every. single. day. As the owner of the business you set the pace for sales. Leadership selling is key for all organizations and sales is the drumbeat of every business. Be the leader of the sales marching band for your company.
10) Ad hoc Marketing
If sales are down, now is the time to focus on marketing, right? And once business is going well, I can turn off my ad spending, right? Wrong! Marketing should be a consistent effort but you wouldn’t believe how many business owners I see give little to no thought to marketing, or, giving up after one or two poorly planned and failed attempts.
Do this instead:
Your annual marketing plan must be well designed and executed consistently, year round. Marketing is more than just advertising. Understand what your buyers want from you at each stage leading up to their decision to buy. All businesses need a consistent strategy to generate awareness, leads, and sales and it should be operating like clock-work. Not the owner driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the break.
There you have it! My list of ten common business killers that I really hope you AREN’T doing!
With the holidays and the end of the year fast approaching, I hope you are feeling great about the progress that you’ve made in your business this year. And if you’re feeling stuck, stagnant, or need a little help, I encourage you to reach out and book a free strategy call with me. Helping entrepreneurs achieve success in business and in life is my mission — I’ve got your back.
Are you exhausted with the ongoing lockdowns, the never-ending uncertainty and trying to stay positive for your team and customers? Right now, increasing our capacity to overcome these challenges and developing greater flexibility is an absolute necessity. Entrepreneurs must be resilient if they want to survive.
Resilience is the art of staying calm in the face of disaster, times of great stress and challenge. It is the ability to bounce back quickly and unscathed by the challenge and setbacks you face. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges.
Resilience is a critical skill to hone as an entrepreneur. If you have a bad month of sales and your revenues are down, panicking and throwing in the towel are not going to serve you. The sky is not falling. As an entrepreneur, there are so many moving pieces of business, people, customers and self to manage that staying in control and working through situations becomes essential.
When faced with a challenging time or event, I want you to stop, stake stock of the situation, see it for what it is — not what you’re afraid it might become in your panicked state. Look at what you can control and influence to see how you can best contribute to every situation.
Here is my advice for building personal resilience as an entrepreneur:
- Build a network around you of others business owners who have been through this before and can empathize with your situations and challenges.
- Test yourself regularly and lightly; push your comfort zone and boundaries a little more each time to strengthen your resilience muscles.
- Recognize your current resilience and journal about how you overcome or endure challenges already.
- Realize most of the things you worry about never come true.
- Appreciate the irrational nature of thoughts like, “What if our sales go completely to zero tomorrow!?”
- Exercise daily to clear your mind and body of the mental and physical stress of entrepreneurship.
- Meditate to get clarity and focus back to be on the top of your game — even just 10 mins a day.
- Develop and build a team of capable people around you that can “share the load”.
- Learn, read and listen to grow your knowledge and indirect experience.
- Be bold and vulnerable enough to state your fears and concerns as part of your leadership style.
- Allow yourself a limited period of time to be upset or frustrated with a setback, and then I let it go.
- Develop a conscious approach to building resilience and use these tools on a regular basis.
And it’s not just the entrepreneur themselves that must work on building resilience. A business can put practices in place to build its resilience as well. Here are my suggestions for building a resilient business:
- Develop reserves for the business: extra funds in a secret account, the bullpen of people to call on, emergency resources (inventory, back-up supplier) so you have tools and capacity available in tough situations.
- Create challenges for your team to have to overcome in a controlled way. Give them problems and challenges to solve as exercises each month. Much like war games for the military.
- Stress-test your operations by doubling or tripling production and see what breaks first in your processes. This can be a physical test or a mental exercise with your team.
- Cross-train your people and develop processes to make your organization less dependent on each individual and more resilient to future changes.
- Train your team to expand on their skills and create situational readiness.
- Artificially create “lack” to force your organization to adapt and improve resilience. Move extra funds out of the main bank so money is tight. Reduce budgets and ask for more creative options. Shorten timelines to force new ways to work.
I hope these suggestions help you create a little more personal resilience and a stronger more future-proof business. If the last year has taught us anything, it is to be prepared.
Let me know which of these strategies you are already practicing and which ones you are going to start working on. If you need a little clarification or have questions, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
As an entrepreneur, we are besieged with images, stories and tales of business owners that have become billionaires overnight. We are bombarded on social media with pop-up digital companies and courses that promise 7 figure incomes within weeks. Is this the new normal? So how long does it really take to become successful?
With this influential expectation of immediate success, the reality of it taking 5-7 years for a business to really flourish or ‘hit its stride’ can be daunting. Yes, most successful entrepreneurs and their companies are well into the 5th, 6th or 7th year before business seems to be humming along. To use Jim Collins metaphor, the fly wheel is then turning perpetually and without effort.
We have all heard the statistic that most small businesses fail within the first 5 years. This is, in part, because new entrepreneurs are not prepared to do battle as a start-up for the period of time it takes. After a year of new stresses, daily issues, sales struggles and a massive learning curve, new entrepreneurs are exhausted. Give this a second year of mild improvement but many of the same growth challenges and for many entrepreneurs it is gut check time. Do you really want to continue to do this? Or, more directly, I must be doing something wrong as everyone else is clearly succeeding and not struggling like me.
New entrepreneurs need to have the revised expectation that success and business ‘in flow’ is going to be years away. It would set the tone for a much more realistic approach, pace and judgement.
For committed entrepreneurs, it means taking time to actually enjoy the struggles, the challenges and the game of business. You develop an underlying confidence as a repeat entrepreneur. So even if it takes 5 years to launch your company and have it humming, you can now have deep faith in the success quotient and start to embrace the challenges and little moments. The life and death perception of most daily challenges can be replaced with a direct challenge back to say ‘Come on! Bring it on!’
What is the true measure for being a successful entrepreneur?
For us at Evolve, the definition is something like this:
- The owner is making more money in their own business that they could in any job or employment situation they could attain.
- The company is profitable and healthy with cash reserves and the ability to pursue growth and opportunities.
- The owner works less hours than most people using 40 as a benchmark – unless they choose otherwise (because often they love what they do).
- The company contributes to community through employing other people and participation in the community events and causes.
- The reputation of the business is solid and positive with strong customer, supplier and regulation relationships.
- The owner reaches a level of personal satisfaction with the quality of life balance that is often a key goal in deciding to become an entrepreneur.
So while becoming a billionaire is a fantastic punch line in an online sales pitch, it is highly unlikely as a measure for success. These 6 guidelines paint a realistic measure for most entrepreneurs to use and thrive by.
A great company is often moving through phase after phase of different types of success even through its first years. Recognizing the milestones at all stages is also critical to feeling and being successful as an entrepreneur.
We haven’t mentioned the value of the learning that an entrepreneur gains as also a fantastic benefit and success measure. We applaud someone that completes an MBA or a certificate program but we have no way to recognize the incredible, high pressure, practical learning that running a company brings.
So how long does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Somewhere between 1 and 7 years. Somewhere between zero and a billion dollar net worth. Somewhere that is unique for each entrepreneur based on how they feel and how they’ve grown.
Business is a complex and dynamic collection of decisions and actions. It is interdependent departments jostling for attention. It is a rush of energy as the day starts and an exhale of exhaustion as the day ends. A business and its pieces move fast and run into struggles continuously as the company grows and adapts.
With all the moving pieces of finance, marketing, sales, operations, delivery, HR and administration it becomes a lot to track and organize.
How do you do it? What’s your system?
Too often good solid business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have a real system for running their company. They move from decision to decision with their best ideas and insights but without a broader mental model of their business and what they are trying to build.
What does every business need? Structure. Not just the structure of set hours, a fixed location or a website address. A structure to use as a blueprint for growth. A structure for measuring the performance and output of the business.
This structure needs to come in the form of a framework. A model, or a way to think about all of the intricate, interconnected pieces of the business. Most people structure a business in the traditional silos or segments of sales, marketing, finance, operations, admin and HR.
These silos compartmentalize the business nicely but does it really give us a way to think about the business as a whole? Does it give us any tools to consider how to improve in each area or how to grow the business overall? In my opinion, it doesn’t–and that is a significant gap for the entrepreneur.
A framework is also critical for your management and team. The use of framework in the business means that everyone uses a common language. As you reference an idea, people can put it into the framework and know how it fits. Much like knowing the general grouping of contents of the cupboards in a kitchen, when an action is discussed the team can quickly know what business cupboard to look in.
So what is a framework?
A framework is simply the naming and identification of pieces of the business as well as their relationships or progressions.
With our clients, we identify and work on 3 key points:
- The 5 Drivers of Business Revenues and Profits
- The 5 Foundations of Business Performance
- The 8 Stages to Business Growth and Scaling
With these reference points, everyone in a business can be thinking about, discussing and understanding the way the business runs AND where to look for improvements in the company.
Sales can just be about ‘sell more’. Marketing can’t just be about ‘advertise more’. People can’t just be about ‘work harder’. The inputs and variables that create the results of the company have to be known and managed. A framework makes that possible.
How do you develop a framework?
Frankly, it is often easier to adopt one that already exists. There are many models to explain a business, just be sure to adopt framework that focuses on improvement and the levers you can influence to get dramatically different results. The time to create your own is not something most entrepreneurs have time to develop and prove out.
Unsure of where to start? We can share our models with you and give you that starting point. Otherwise, look online and ask other entrepreneurs what they use (and what results they get).
A good framework allows operations to run more effectively. It also paves the way for growth and performance in a company; as every participant knows the ways they can positively impact the business day to day. They’ll understand how the small steps taken roll up into the master framework of business success.
Today I sent 56 emails, I liked 15 stories and posts on IG. I commented on 4 LinkedIn articles and posts, I responded to two DM’s and I posted one story on all my channels.
Wait, did I connect with anyone?
Let’s get clear in our work about where we are filling the voids with false connection and where we are really making human connection. Sorry, but you liking my post or giving me the thumbs up to an article isn’t connection. Your personalized responses or comments (and I do mean personalized, not the form responses that social platforms now offer) start to make some electronic inroads.
What about a phone call, a Zoom call or, wait for it… a face-to-face meeting? How often in a week are you recognizing that the most traction comes from actual connection with other humans? If business is people … then doesn’t more people connection make for more business?
From hand written thank you-s, to personalized gifts, to a phone call just to see how you’re doing; the actions that really make connection are less and less practiced. The ability to stand out simply by focusing on what drives connection is now at a pinnacle!
Start now by recognizing what prospects, customers, vendors and stakeholders need to connect with you. Remember that you are creating a community as much as you’re pursuing transactions and sales.
During this holiday season, it is the ideal time to focus on actual connection with people. Fill your day with meeting people in person. Fill it with live calls without an agenda. Even a compelling voicemail is still impacting. Fill it with ideas and opportunities to present to others – you know, a “hey I was thinking about this idea for you” kind of approach.
Hey, for sure, keep ‘liking’, clicking and commenting online … but recognize that it is the table steaks of business today. Everyone can, and does, do that. To stand out, get back to making connection with people. Be interested in them. Ask how you can help them. Determine what value you can add to them or their business. Contribution is connection.
Get conscious about how you spend time to connect and stop just scrolling through the feed. Be aware of the time you’re wasting and get committed to reaching out to people with meaning and purpose.
True connection is what matters to people. Ask your kids. True connection is what drives success in business and life. Commit now to making a connection, or re-connection, with a person today. Every day.
Watch how a renewed commitment to human connection in your business approach dramatically transforms your results in 2020.
This time of year there is no shortage of messages about how your 2020 is going to be even better. And why shouldn’t it?! You deserve to have a new year that is even better for you and your business.
The plans most people make for any new year – for them and for their companies – often focus solely on the concept of “more”.
You can hear them: In 2020, we need to focus on more sales. We need more customer retention. I need more meetings with people. We need more team events and more focus on culture. Like the personal list of more workouts, more healthy meals and more reading … the MORE epidemic is easy to be infected by.
More works. Yes, focusing on more will get you just that. The challenge becomes the level to which you want to improve and change. Rarely can we create the time to do twice as much of anything to create a massive change. We can do incrementally more but this undermines our results and undermines our desire and motivation for big change.
What are you going to do Differently in 2020?
It is through different, that we create the opportunity for massive change, significant change and outstanding results.
People asked me, when and how, I completed a 65,000 word book. I tried doing more in my week. I tried cramming more into my regular schedule and pressuring myself to get creative in windows of 30 minutes. It failed. I finally said, I need to create a different time window to write where I am free of distraction, creative, energized and focused. I started to ask why it needed to be during my work week. I discovered that early Sunday mornings I was refreshed from Saturday off, keen to write and not bothered by business or family obligations. My writing window became 4am to 8am on Sunday. This is a different approach that cost me sleep but gave me energy because of the progression on the book. Radical? Perhaps, but different enough to be effective.
Don’t ask your team what they are going to do more of. Ask what they are going to do differently in 2020. For them to have breakout results, it means doing their work and thinking about their contribution, differently.
Look at each of the areas of your work and your life that you want dramatically different outcomes in. Now inquire within yourself, what can I do, what will I do, differently to get those results, experiences and outcomes?
Look to the unconventional approaches to your 2020 plan. Figure out what is stopping most people from succeeding and change your approach to be unique. Make it different.
Need a planning tool to help you think differently about 2020? Download our Holiday Workbook.
Make 2020 great, and different, so your business and personal results are transformative.
His insight five years later was that quality was no longer the secret sauce to his success. He said the traits that have led to his success were the same but in the opposite order of priority. Consistency of effort was now his absolute key to success of his marketing, the podcast and the business that flowed from it.
It is true in all aspects of our work and life … consistency is the key. Frequency is the next most important to make strides and impact. Finally, or in third place, becomes quality.
For someone who loves quality in everything, this prevailing order was tough to accept until I started to apply this insight to many different projects and areas of life:
Physical Health – people who maintain great physiques and fit bodies don’t always have great workouts. They don’t always get to the gym every day. But, consistent exercise is part of their life and habits. They often talk say things like, my workout was terrible today but at least I went. This really summarizes the idea that consistency of showing up and putting in an effort, any effort, is the key to their performance and results. It is not a fast metabolism or some miracle workout routine that is a higher quality.
Sales – Not every sales call, not every presentation, can be your absolute best. It is known that most salespeople don’t follow-up more than 1 or 2 times before going silent and moving on to the next opportunity. Great sales people consistently make the extra follow-up calls and efforts. They make the extra new business call each day or have a weekly target. They consistently do slightly more than their counter-parts. The quality of a conversation doesn’t always need to be scripted and perfected for it to be real, effective and successful. It is their goal of consistent actions and efforts that produce big sales outcomes.
Team – It is the consistent actions, communication and approach you take to your team that creates the culture and relationships. It is not the one time Xmas bonus you paid, the pay raise last year or the time at the company BBQ you talked to someone about their pet snake. It is the ongoing consistent work you do that creates team among your people. Frequency of communication and efforts in relationships is also key. Quality of every conversation and every team message is of lesser importance when people consistently know you care and are interested.
What efforts are you consistently doing each week? Where is your consistent focus?
Knowing the answers to these two questions will tell you why you’re getting results in some places and not in others.
The shift to consistent effort doesn’t need to suddenly be 90 minutes a day spent on sales activity. It doesn’t require 30 minutes a day talking to each of your people in-depth. Great shifts in results comes with a daily focus of 5-15 minutes to start. Begin making changes to your consistent routine with time allotments that you can handle calendar-wise as well as emotionally. Then watch the changes.
Changes won’t come on day one but they will appear sooner than you expect. Like playing piano for 15 minutes a day, within weeks and months, your skills will improve exponentially. Focus on the consistency of your efforts above all else for incredible results in 2020.
Consistency. Frequency. Quality.