Let us preface this post with a big, fat ‘Congratulations’! Being a small business owner is hard work! But, not matter how hard you work, if you’re making any of these 10 common mistakes, ones that most business owners make at one time or another, you could be slowing down – or stopping – your own growth:
1. I don’t write down my plans and goals
Failing to write down your goals and objectives means you have no means of measuring just how far you’ve come, what you’ve achieved over a particular period or the tasks that require additional attention to get them over the line. Start by writing down three SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). Assign the person responsible for each task and a time frame for completing the job. Keep this document somewhere accessible like Google Docs or Dropbox, so that it can be shared with the staff involved and added to as you build on your starting three goals.
2. I copied my contracts off the Internet
As a wedding industry business, having legally binding contracts in case of the unforeseen is paramount. While it can be tempting to use free or inexpensive templates found online, the consequences can be financially devastating if the document doesn’t hold up in court, or is riddled with loopholes, leaving you vulnerable to absorbing some or all of the costs in question. Investing in a qualified (and experienced!) lawyer to prepare your contracts will ensure you are sufficiently protected and that your contracts comply with relevant laws in your jurisdiction.
Don’t become a statistic that finds out the hard way – hire a legal professional!
3. Yeah, I don’t budget
Budgets are boring. Let’s get that out in the open straight up.
That doesn’t mean they don’t play an integral part in small business operations along with profit & loss statements for monitoring profitability, and that dirty little ‘L’ word: loss.
Preparing budgets and Profit & Loss reports can be a significant time investment in the beginning, but once you’ve set the foundations your business will be able to allocate money to marketing and business development that will ensure the future success and growth of your company, while patching up those areas responsible for leaking funds.
4. I stop marketing when times are good
Things are looking rosy in your business, so you think it’s time to stop worrying about marketing. No! No! No!
DO NOT stop marketing. Not having an ongoing marketing strategy in place that is relatively self governing can be detrimental when business is booming and you don’t have time to invest in marketing.
What happens? When the rush is over, so are the orders. There are no leads or campaigns in place to ensure a sustainable flow of business in low season. Invest in activities that keep customers continually engaged, such as email marketing, newsletters, blogging and social media. Showering customers with discounts and promotions during slow periods can be annoying and desperate, so take time to educate customers with relevant, useful and entertaining content year-round. When they are ready to make a purchase, your business will be their first port of call.
5. My products are great, so I can afford to ignore my customers
Barraging customers with one-way communication is outdated at best and plain old selfish at worst.
Through social media, surveys and feedback forms, gather information about your clients, how they use your products/services, and what they want that you don’t offer. Figure out their pain points and follow up with a solution to their problems.
Client expectations are ever-changing – particularly with the trending wedding industry – so feedback and two-way communication needs to be ongoing. Be active and responsive on social media, add a feedback form to orders and ask questions that are general enough to garner a substantial response, but specific enough to implement change. For example, rather than asking “What can our business do to improve?” try something like “If you had the choice of a free 16″ x 2″ canvas OR a free high-res DVD with your wedding photography package, which would you choose?”
6. I’m reactive rather than proactive
Being your own boss can be both a blessing and a challenge; you’re not accountable to anyone, which can make it easy to put off getting the hard stuff done until ‘tomorrow‘.
Before you go to bed every night, write down two tasks you need to complete the following day.
To avoid procrastination, make a start on (and aim to finish) these tasks before you even think about checking Facebook, bank balances, voice messages, emails and other non-urgent distractions that will hinder your progress and cause you to switch to reactive mode. If you at least make a start, when you return to the task later it seems that little bit more manageable.
7. I need cash in my business, so I’ll borrow from anyone who’ll give it to me…
You wouldn’t be the first small business owner to need a helping financial hand occasionally to pay suppliers, wages and other business overheads, but make sure the hand with the cash isn’t demanding exorbitant interest rates, unreasonable repayments or disproportionate control of your business operations.
If you have spent time preparing plans and budgets, hopefully you won’t find yourself in the position of needing fast cash, but if you do, make sure it’s through a reputable financial institution or reliable contact with a fair legal arrangement in place.
8. I undervalue my products and services
Particularly for those new to business, it’s easy to underestimate the value of your products and services, thinking that to be competitive you need to have seriously low prices. This is not always true.
The prospect of failing and developing confidence can keep you from charging what your products and services are really worth. It’s also destructive in underestimating your unique selling propositions (USPs).
You believe your brand is superior to competitors, so price proportionately and don’t undermine the value and exceptional level of service you offer your clients. Making a comeback from dangerously low prices is an uphill battle. Whether you’re a new business or an established business releasing a new product, spend some time doing market research to discover where your brand sits on the spectrum and if you’re selling yourself short.
9. I’m feeling kinda stagnant
As the saying goes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
And while that might be good, why stop at good when your business can be great? We live in a dynamic business environment where brands need to continually assess their processes and procedures to identify areas for improvement.
This could include customer service, social and environmental responsibilities, profit margins, staff retention, marketing and all other areas of business. Keeping up with technology is particularly important in gaining a competitive edge and streamlining your processes. As daunting as technology may be, it can come with significant opportunities for your business to work more efficiently, innovate and ultimately saving you money.
10. I don’t really reflect on my success
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of small business and forget to take a step back to appreciate just how many goals you’ve kicked. Celebrate occasionally; not just monthly sales figures, but the bigger picture of successfully running a small business that plays a part in the most important day of your clients’ lives. That’s worth a champagne every now and again, don’t you think?
Celebrate together as a team at the end of the year, the finish of a season, and at the smaller milestones in between. In doing so, you will foster stronger employee relations through engaging and acknowledging staff as integral to the overall success of your business.
If you need some extra help with your planning, marketing and budgeting, visit Australian Government Business for a range of templates and tips to keep your business in the wedding game, and chat to your Easy Weddings Account Representative about other opportunities to give your small business a boost for the year ahead!