Although I am calling this small business growth hurdles it actually applies to any business small or large. It is about keeping to your core strengths and not letting them go. This is something every business needs to stay aware of. Being I have never run a large business my knowledge there doesn’t apply beyond working at some of the best large companies in the world. My focus here is on common mistakes business owners make and that can cripple, if not kill, your business. I am going to cover six of the items that I have not only come across but done myself in the past five years. I have overcome each of these and each has taught me several valuable lessons and made us stronger.
Business owners wear all the hats, in the beginning, they are 100% involved, and 100% committed to the business’ success. As business owners we often see ourselves being pulled in many directions that we either will let things slip or give them to someone and often never check in on them as we expect the person to come to us if there is a problem – this rarely happens. As the business owner whether you are directly or indirectly working on a task you need to be actively involved and committed to its success and not waiting to be reactive; always be proactive. Losing sight of this can cause upset customers, loss of revenue, make your team members wonder if things are going the way they should, or question the existence of the organization.
When a business opens up often there is no employee manual and one is quickly added to meet a problem that came up. I did the exact opposite in having an employee manual before we officially received our business license. Over the past twenty years of employment, I had taken the ideas of every company I had worked for and created my own based on what I thought was the right thing to do as well as making certain the items I didn’t like don’t happen. It is here that you have to enforce the employee manual for everyone and not just when it is convenient to do so. You need to enforce the employee manual not to be a jerk but to build and define the culture of the company and keep its overall stability.
We all know our ideal customer is one that we ever talk to, that hands us tons of cash and recommends us to everyone so they also fall into that mold. Yeah, not! That is not your ideal customer (in my mind). Our ideal customer is (note: this is not even close to everything – just the five of our twenty items that define our ideal client to work with):
We have a different hiring process but we know that is changing and evolving on a daily basis. It is changing as we have learned some people are slick talkers, are just looking for a paycheck, or don’t fit the culture of the company. Like I said earlier our culture is unique and not the normal experience people run into. That is not only what sets us apart but makes our techniques the best they can be.
For a marketing company, this one is where we’ve done very poorly. Only in the last year have we started to focus on getting our word out about our products and services. What we have been doing is:
We had always had a flyer but that will only get you so far. We had always purchased “swag” to giveaway and that over the years has never created a return on investment. It has only cost us money. Buying and passing out Snickers, Three Musketeers, and another candy has returned value.
Many will start without a long-term plan. They have the short-term plan of doing X but no idea of adding Y and Z to the overall mix. When we started, we thought about everything we could and built a plan of when and how to implement it. Over the years the plan has changed many times. We have added products and features as well as removed products from what we offer. This has happened not only based on client needs but because they didn’t truly fit our overall goal of helping other small businesses grow. Often, we see our growth happen the most when we remove a service rather than add. This is due to our having a developer mindset and being agile to change. Change isn’t a failure it is an improvement. Often for marketing companies, they will invest months, even years, on a marketing campaign. They will always be a “success” as so much has been invested in it. By being agile we can quickly start and change with a small investment so even when it wasn’t a success, we can easily accept it, admit it, and move forward. By being agile it easier for us to help not only ourselves but the small businesses we serve to grow as well.
Each week I sit at the local coffee shop, Uptown Café, on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning (depending on client demands) and evaluate what in the past week has worked or hasn’t worked. From there I make adjustments to meet the changing market conditions of our clients. It is this weekly recap, that lasts two hours (no actual start/stop time is ever set), that I know has helped us grow and continues to make us stronger on a daily basis.