8 Mistakes That Will Kill A Business
By Jonathan Teiffel
Business owners often have a lot in common. They’re competitive, evangelizing, risk-taking, nimble, hardworking, and visionary.
Along with common positive traits however there are a few consistencies among business owners that can be detrimental to success.
One common problem among business owners is the reluctance to discuss problems and more importantly address them. That said, business owners are quick to address problems if they can blame the economy, competition, the market and other external factors. However, when it comes to problems that may require a change in mentality or a shift outside of the comfort zone to fix, a lot of business owners go quiet.
Here are eight mistakes that business owners are quick to make but reluctant to talk about. Hopefully you can avoid at least some of these problems and save a few painful lessons along the way.
1. Thinking you can do it all on your own.
Instead: Remember that it takes a whole village.
Continually build a strong ecosystem of personnel to support your company, ahead of the curve of where you’ll need to most deeply engage it. Enrol as many people as you possibly can to work for you. Having employees, customers, advisers, investors, your accountant and other entrepreneurs sharing your company’s core message, raising awareness about your value proposition, and creating general goodwill can help to power your business to a higher level.
Hockey star Wayne Gretzky once said: “Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every [person] helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.” Business is no different.
2. Allowing dysfunctional relationships to fester.
Instead: Address signs of dissonance immediately.
The quickest way to drag your business down is to allow team or board dysfunction to linger. The more your company grows, the more you become a manager of people, and you need to be fully aware of and address any people problems before they become culture issues and in turn a negative reflection of the whole company. Tension in relationships is a huge distraction, with potentially dramatic consequences on revenue and/or business growth. Having strong human resources procedures in place as your company scales will help provide a lot of leverage.
3. Hesitating to let go of team members who aren’t a fit.
Instead: You may have to act in the best interests of everyone.
This is an area that you see any empathetic business owner struggle with. Coaching and providing constructive feedback to an employee who is struggling is your foremost consideration. However, the reality is that not all employees, executives included, will be capable of growing with the company as it scales. In this hyper-competitive world we live in, you do not have the ease of months and years to hope and pray that person will somehow figure it out. Your company and you will suffer if you don’t engage, move or replace talent that isn’t executing at the level required.
Remember, making the right decision pays off, often for both parties. Just think if the problematic employee is not functioning as they were before, chances are they are not enjoying the job and would prefer to be elsewhere.
One business owner who had to let an executive go and bring on a new COO, said: “That was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it has made a huge difference on my bandwidth and the company’s trajectory.” And the executive who was let go, is also in a situation that suits him much better now.
4. Being afraid to admit that you don’t know it all.
Instead: Learn how to learn and keep learning.
The best business owners suck up knowledge and know how to listen. They take all relevant data from customers, the market, their accountant, advisers, employees, and investors, synthesize it, and then make the best decisions they can based on that data.
It is OK to not know it all as a business owner. Why not learn from others’ experiences? If you’ve made mistakes, learn from them. Continually learn from your accountant, executive coaches or from workshops, seminars, negotiations, industry leaders and of course your competition. Leveraging other resources to learn from is not a sign of weakness but of smarts and strength.
5. Letting ego run the show.
Instead: Be confident but be empathetic and approachable.
There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. It is important to be confident as a business owner, but arrogance can get in the way of key leadership traits such as listening and understanding, being respectful and earning respect, thoughtfully addressing important issues, and creatively solving problems.
You will find power from truly stepping into the other person’s shoes, whether it be employees, customers, partners, or investors. Understand where they are coming from and build a bridge to a solution with them.
6. Wasting time you don’t have on things that don’t matter.
Instead: Prioritisation is number one
Meet your commitments, be responsible and accountable, expect the same from others, but always keep your key priorities in mind and say no to things that blatantly waste time. In reality you never procrastinate things you enjoy doing. Start disciplining your task list according to their importance to the business, not in order of personal preference. It is important to compromise for true work priorities, but don’t let distractions (and that includes other people’s tasks that aren’t your tasks) creep in, in order to start winning the ongoing battle of time.
7. Burning out.
Instead: Unplug and recharge.
Unfortunately burning out isn’t uncommon among business owners and investors who regularly burn the midnight oil.
Schedule breaks. Recharge. Pulling your head away from the screen will help you to get a better perspective, solve problems more effectively, be more creative, and worry less. It will also help you to be healthier and to avoid crashing and burning. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.
8. Underestimating how challenging it can be to start and scale a business.
Instead: Stay determined and resilient.
Being a business owner can be tough and lonely. Challenges arise every day, often out of the blue, and often they aren’t things you can’t readily discuss with your team. Resilience is one of the most critical characteristics of successful business owner. To quote Jeff Booth, founder and CEO of Build Direct, who has successfully dealt with his fair share of challenges:
“You are going to get knocked down, and you need to stand back up. You are then going to get knocked down again and again, and you have to keep on standing up. Learn from people who have done it before you. Learn from every experience. The only thing that defines you at the end of the day is whether or not you stand back up.”