Being an entrepreneur is cool now. It’s trendy.
TV shows, movies, commercials, magazines, and more have made entrepreneurship out to be the career path of choice for anyone looking to make a real difference and live life by their own rules.
But if you’ve ever actually stepped out and started a business on your own, you know it can be unbelievably hard.
You’ve probably heard people talking about how starting and running a business is tough, but that’s the last thing you’re listening to when you have that entrepreneurial glimmer in your eye.
If you’re thinking of starting a business, or if you just started a business, here’s something you need to stop and hear:
Without being extremely cautious in at least a few areas of your business, your dream will be at a higher risk of failure.
Here are 3 things to avoid in order to keep your new business running smoothly:
1. Not staying focused on what you’re best at
This is the trap almost all business owners are tempted to fall into at some point – getting distracted and losing focus on what they’re best at.
In fact, one New York Times article puts the lack of focus on the list of the top reasons small businesses fail, and it can definitely be a killer.
I’m sure you know how it goes. You see a shiny new business venture or widget or marketing tactic, and you jump. Maybe it’s because you heard another entrepreneur talk about their business plan or their marketing strategy, and you start thinking it can work the same for you.
And hey, as an entrepreneur, you’re wired to jump on new opportunities. It’s what you do, and it’s that mindset that has gotten you to where you are. But not every opportunity is your opportunity.
So the next time you get the urge to jump on something new, stop. Think about what got you to where you are today. Then ask yourself if this new opportunity is going to help or hurt the progress you’ve made.
Are you changing directions from the path you’ve been on? If so, you need to think long and hard about it before taking the leap. Changing directions, when necessary, can be great. It can change everything for your business. But doing so on a whim when you’re already headed in a good direction could take down the entire ship.
2. Taking on too much work
Here’s something you must keep front-of-mind: In almost all situations, taking on too much business too soon (or taking on the wrong kind of business) can be just as lethal as getting no business at all.
When you first start out, it’s tempting to take on any and all customers. This especially applies to service businesses but is also relevant to product businesses as well.
For service businesses, taking on too many clients (and taking on the wrong clients) can quickly bury you.
The antidote to overworking yourself as a service-based business owner is to be as picky as you can when choosing clients, keeping in mind how much you’re able to reasonably work as well as how much your time is worth.
Don’t fall for the idea that you can take on as many clients as you want and figure the rest out later. Trust me, “later” never comes, and it’s next to impossible to dig yourself out of that hole.
For product businesses, this ties into point number 1. If you’ve created a product without first building and/or listening to a specific audience, you’ll be much more desperate to get customers.
Why is that a problem?
Going back to our workout equipment example, if you create something busy moms already have or simply don’t need, you’ll fall into the trap of cheapening your product in order to get anyone to take it. That leads to lower margins and more work, which is a recipe for disaster.
Not to mention the potential for bad feedback increases because you’re not dedicated to serving one group of people, and therefore it’ll be more difficult to fully meet your customers’ needs.
3. Lacking communication
If you want to crush your businesses almost instantly, work on not communicating on a very regular basis with your team and your customers.
Assuming your mission is not to tank your business, do the opposite.
Over-communication is not optional. It is mandatory if you want to succeed early on.
Communicate with customers about what they want, how you’re doing, and how you could improve. Communicate with them even when it feels unnecessary, without bugging them to death of course.
If you sell products, check in regularly to see how the product is doing and if they have any questions.
If you sell services, communicate during every step of the onboarding, then at regular intervals like clockwork thereafter. Never ever think about falling off on your communications when things are going smoothly. “Letting sleeping dogs lie” may seem like an easy tactic, but it will come back to bite you when your client realizes they haven’t heard from you in a while.
Communication is just as important with your team. Don’t micromanage and don’t check up on them to make sure they’re doing their job, but do set aside regular times every week to just talk about what they have going on and how you can help them.
It also might not hurt to set up milestones where your team knows internal communication is necessary. A few examples include: when reviews drop below a certain average, post-onboarding, whenever a client directly complains about something relevant, whenever the team is below sales goals, whenever the team is above sales goals, etc.
These are all off-the-cuff examples, but you get the point. Creating a culture of over-communication without micromanagement is imperative to your team’s success, whether you have a two-person team or a 500-person team.
If you want to succeed at starting and growing a business, you have to make sure you start with the right product or service that people actually want, be cautious to not take on too many customers or too many of the wrong customers, and you absolutely must build a culture of over-communication to avoid frustration and avoidable pitfalls.