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WHAT YOU'LL GAIN FROM READING '9 MISTAKES ENTREPRENEURS MAKE AND HOW TO AVOID THEM'
- Learn to identify common assumptions that many entrepreneurs make about running their business
- Learn the solution to avoiding these 9 mistakes
- Implement these solutions into your business to help you become a better decision maker in your business
9 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them
This discussion is for any business owner-- new to the game or seasoned business vet. Are either one of these you?
This discussion isn't just just for new entrepreneurs because the reality is that these mistakes needing to be addressed are mistakes you could still be making well into a "mature" phase of business.
SO. MANY. HATS.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that running a small business typically requires all involved to wear many hats. Maybe you’re the CEO and the marketing manager and the janitor all wrapped into one, and you employ someone whose responsibilities have morphed into graphic artist and receptionist and event director. In reality, that’s small business for you. The point is, small business requires the spinning of several plates at once.
The upside? Versatility. Lower costs. Maintaining a lean system. The downside? You tend to continually work in your business instead of on your business which can often cloud what you need to do to correct weaknesses. Starting and running a small business is no doubt a balancing act.
RISK AND REWARD
It’s a beautiful thing for anyone with passion and drive to run and sustain a business, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. According to a Gallop Poll, the majority of Americans want to start their own business but won’t, and there’s a good reason why.
It’s uncharted territory, it involves risk, and entrepreneurs must have intuition and confidence in themselves. While the barriers to entry for starting a company have never been lower, risk will always be a factor in entrepreneurship.
MAKE BETTER DECISIONS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Being able to handle and maintain a business takes real talent, so that’s why we’re here in the midst of this discussion. With uncharted territory, entrepreneurs often don’t know what they don’t know, and thus, stumble along the way.
No one enjoys stumbling - it hurts and it's expensive - so let’s talk about how to fix or avoid all together the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make.
Mistake #1: How assuming “If you build it, they will come” sets you up for massive disappointment
Imagine you want to start a side hustle. You take out a small loan or set aside some cash and figure out how you’ll work around your 9-5 all while investing insane amounts of time choosing a website platform and tweaking your site until it’s juuuuuust perfect before launching.
The anticipation is almost too much to handle. You’re certain you’ll hear a cha-ching just as soon as you open your online store for business. Maybe all the traffic you'll get will make your website crash. After all...Google, right?!
'IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME' ONLY HAPPENS IN THE MOVIES
Many new entrepreneurs assume that when launching a website, getting eyeballs to their site happens automatically. After all, Google will drive traffic to your website because you have a brilliant idea that tons of people will want to know about, right?
Not really. Google will drive traffic to your site over time if it’s well-optimized for organic search traffic, but otherwise, the impetus falls on your shoulders to develop those connections and make people aware of the value your product or service delivers. That takes time, sometimes weeks after launching your site if you don't have a clear plan in place before launching.
THE SOLUTION TO DRIVING TRAFFIC WHEN YOU LAUNCH
To avoid the lag time between launching your site and figuring out that people don't automatically flood to it, consider promoting your new product or service even before you launch your site. Let people know what's to come and create a campaign teasing what's to come to create awareness and excitement.
In order to drive exposure to your site, it takes a great amount of leg work and a well-developed system to drive traffic through social media, paid ads, referral links, email marketing, and so on. Simply Integrated specializes in helping companies with marketing strategy, so if you could use some help, we're just a click away.
Over time and with the right leg work, traffic will organically flow to your space - yes - but not the moment you build it and not without committed effort.
Develop a sturdy online presence by optimizing your site and by paving pathways from different corners of the internet back to your site and digital presence.
How you do this is up to you and depends heavily on where your target market hangs out online, but here are a few methods that have proved successful for my business and clients.
- Connect with your community through forums, Facebook groups, social media posts, and other bloggers’ posts. Provide valuable engagement (don’t just promote yourself like a billboard), and when appropriate and only after you’ve developed the relationship, offer your product or service as a solution to a problem.
- Don’t discount local, in-person networking to boost your online presence. The more diverse exposure, the better. The key here is to present your brand as a solution to a problem so that when people you meet in person have that need or talk with someone who does in the future, they’ll know where to turn.
- A strong social media presence is important but ever-changing. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, meaning don't make social media your sole form of marketing. Social media platforms like Facebook are increasingly controlling organic exposure, so use social media strategically as one component, one slice of the pie, among several in your marketing strategy- not as a blanket marketing solution.
- Marketing funnels - this is a fancy way of saying deliver marketing messages to potential customers unique to where they are in the buying journey. Funnels are a great way to deliver valuable content and position you as the authority on a topic.
- Develop an email list long before you launch your site and send out awareness emails letting customers know what’s to come and teasing the excitement of launching a new business (more on this later in this post).
The topic of understanding the buyer journey is an entire blog post for another day, but once leads have visited your site once, keep in mind it might take a different strategy to get them to come back a second time...and a third, and... you get it.
The above strategy assumes you have a valuable product or service that people are willing to pay for. Without that, no amount of strategic digital marketing will drive your business over the long-term. That's why I vet clients just as much as they vet me in my marketing business
Mistake #2: How failing to recognize your bigger purpose works to the detriment of your business
Many businesses come about because entrepreneurs have become dissatisfied in the 9-5 grind. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve probably experienced one of the following thoughts. “I’m unhappy ina 9-5.” or “I can make money and be happy doing XYZ.”
Too often, entrepreneurs combine those two components and create a company that exists as a means to an end.
Not because their product or service meets customers’ needs.
Not because they created a solution to a problem that will benefit customers.
I wince each time I hear business owners justify their entrepreneurial intentions with "I'm doing this so I can afford XYZ."
Customers don't want to patronize your business to foot the bill for XYZ any more than I want to throw money at Walmart to send their execs on a thousandth vacation to Bora Bora.
A huge mistake I see entrepreneurs make is misunderstanding that their company exists to fill a bigger need that others have - a bigger purpose that will make a positive impact on their lives, the community, or the world... A purpose that exists to positively impact customers’ wellbeing.
IDENTIFY THE CUSTOMER'S PAIN, WANT, NEED, OR CHALLENGE
Your business should exist as a solution to a problem, to fill a need, or to help people; not solely to fill your own wants or maintain a certain lifestyle. And if that's the case--that you are in business only to meet your own wants or needs--please, for all of humanity, stop telling people that.
Your focus should be about your precious customers. It should be about delivering the greatest amount of value to those customers and making a positive impact on their lives or businesses.
Once entrepreneurs focus their scope of reference outward onto making a difference, that is when your concept will begin to spread, gain traction, and drive growth.
THE SOLUTION FOR IDENTIFYING A BIGGER PURPOSE
Take a good hard look in the mirror and evaluate your motives. Are you treating your company as a means to an end to serve your own lifestyle? Or are you treating your company as a way to serve your niche well? Knowing the difference could make all the difference in your bottom line because customers will be able to sense your authenticity.
Mistake #3: Why assuming small businesses don't need a brand hurts the longevity of your business
Establishing a brand, even if you’re new and small, sets an effective precedent for future engagement. When you have a brand, you give your product or service description and personality. You establish it as an entity so that customers can make sense of your purpose and attach some kind of emotional understanding. In other words, branding helps reflect your company as one with purpose and long-term stability. A simple Brand Style Guide hold all the details for how your brand should look, feel, and function.
Branding helps potential customers form an understanding about your company and regard it as legitimate, credible, and validated.
A brand doesn’t need to be complex. In fact, it’s far better your brand remain simple because each time your target market thinks of your brand, they do so by encompassing your brand in their minds, ultimately deriving value even from just the simple thought of your logo. Establishing a brand literally creates understanding for people, which leads to clarity about who you serve and what you offer.
Consider Instagram. What comes to mind when you think of Instagram? Instagram’s business model is easy to grasp. Users post pictures and videos to an account and other account holders view it through a feed. When I asked you to think of Instagram, you may have even pictured Instagram's logo. It’s an image of a camera. Simple as that. Easy to grasp and recognizable.
Another example is Target, the department store. When you think of Target, do you picture its logo? My guess is that many people do. Target's red and white color scheme and bullseye logo is a staple in America.
Target and Instagram are not small businesses like ours by any stretch of the imagination, but they are clear cut examples of branding and the way people regard a simple, easy to grasp brand and the staying power that brands establish in the minds of their customers. That same staying power works for small businesses too.
One example of a company on the smaller end of the “small business” spectrum is the wagon company, Radio Flyer. You’d recognize Radio Flyer’s logo on the side of its red wagons. It looks like this:
My guess is that a large majority of Americans would recognize this brand. But did you know that in 2013 Radio Flyer was an $85 million company that operated with only 60 employees? To put it simply, those numbers are incredible remarkable for a small business.
Let's repeat. Radio Flyer has grown to an $85 million company with 60 employees. Holy smokes.
No entity could grow to an $85 million business without solid, focused branding. Yet, Radio Flyer is a small business like yours and mine.
We would all love to become the next Instagram, Target, or Radio Flyer, but the point is this: you have to start with something recognizable and easy to grasp for your target audience, even if you’re a solopreneur or small business, in order for people to understand what you do and who you serve.
THE SOLUTION FOR BRANDING YOUR COMPANY
There are companies who specialize in designing a brand and can help guide you in the right direction. I know several amazing companies that do this, so if you need one just ask.
If you decide to go it alone to develop your business's brand, there are lots of business tools and resources that can help create the look and feel you're going for.
Either way, create a Brand Style Guide and refer to it each time you develop content that represents your brand. Give the guide to anyone responsible for helping shape the public's perception of your company.
A Brand Style Guide doesn't only identify how the brand looks, it also identifies how the brand sounds - word choices used to describe the company, appropriate copy, exactly who the target audience is, and so on. All of these characteristics matter as you work to solidify who you are as a company, what you stand for, and how you'll serve customers well.
Mistake #4: Cash is King - What this means to your small business
The reality is that ecommerce is beginning to chip away at brick and mortar revenue in many industries. Take a drive through your town and you’ll likely see the skeletons of once-behemoth brands like Macy's and Toys R Us. Recognize the scene below?
Working from home or from a coworking space like what we have in Peoria called The Nest often cuts down on or eliminates much of the overhead that used to be associated with starting a company. Ecommerce allows companies to maintain a far leaner system in a world where "Cash is King."
The proliferation of ecommerce in recent years a beautiful thing because it means awesome ideas have a far better chance of implementation if business owners have access to the right tools and fewer barriers to entry. And while technology has driven the cost of starting a business down and removed many barriers to entry, there’s no denying it takes capital (even if minimal) to get a business off the ground.
Bootstrapping is gaining popularity because it means business owners don’t owe anyone anything once they begin turning a profit. Bootstrapping can lessen the risk of starting a business, but it also presents a fair share of challenges in return.
Without adequate investment or access to capital, building the infrastructure a company needs to grow in the future can be challenging, which often leaves business owners piecing together the different components of their company down the road. For many, what results is makeshift strategy and the need to pivot quickly and often.
So with startups and bootstrapping gaining popularity, entrepreneurs often make due with what they have.
Substantial evidence points to the fact that access to capital - cash flow - remains the #1 reason why businesses fail.
When new entrepreneurs map out expenses, it’s easy to forget the maintenance side of running a company and that unexpected costs arise beyond the initial investment. It’s also easy to underestimate the timeline for turning incoming cash flow which will fund employees, rent, inventory, bills, marketing, and so on.
My recommendation is to research, research, research. Starting a company is no time to fly by the seat of your pants because those same pants will soon boast empty pockets. Research, then allow for unexpected costs and more time than expected for incoming revenue.
And while it’s true that sometimes you need to act fast to be first to the market, it’s always worth taking the time to consider what's required to sustain not only your company, but also the growth you’ll need to establish your company in the market over the long term.
To quote my favorite entrepreneur ever, Dave Mueller, when making a business decision about investment, “Do you need it and can you afford it?”
THE SOLUTION FOR KEEPING TABS ON CASH FLOW
Don’t let the simplification here fool you. A LOT goes into making sure you have cash on hand for your business to survive and prosper. I’m not an accountant so this is where I give credit where credit is due. If you can’t manage cash flow alone, find an accountant you trust and who has a proven track record for helping businesses stay profitable.
Don't know where to look? Start by jumping on your local Chamber of Commerce website. Then do your research by Googling a few options to find reviews that previous customers have left. Finally, ask for an initial sit down with a couple of options to ensure they're a good fit. After all, this person could (rather, will) have a large stake in your profitability.
Mistake #5: The marketing strategy you must incorporate from the beginning
This point cannot be stressed strongly enough. Often, business owners come to me with strong assumptions that social media marketing is all the marketing they'll need, but when I ask how they plan leverage other marketing components like email marketing, their response is that they don't have a plan.
START COLLECTING NOW
I urge you to implement a system for collecting email addresses even before you launch your company, even if you don't have a consistent email marketing structure in place at this moment. Connecting with your audience through email is integral for building a loyal following, so if you aren't doing it now, anticipate implementing it in the future...but start collecting now.
DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP IS CRUCIAL TO YOUR SUCCESS
When I mention email marketing, I’m not talking about hard selling. I’m talking about establishing a relationship and leveraging the value you provide to customers - to the people who have already expressed interest in what you have to offer by signing up for your list. Customers who come to know and trust your brand have more of a propensity to buy from you.
You own your email list, with means you control the messages you send. You don’t have that same control over your social media presence and you never will.
Even if you start with 100, 50, 20, or even 10 email addresses, you’ll come to understand quickly how email marketing can deliver incredible value to your customer base if you prioritize establishing relationships and delivering value over hard selling.
If the email marketing concept is new to you, or if you’ve been meaning to solidify a system for email marketing but you just haven’t gotten around to it, put it on your to-do list today.
Connect an opt-in to your website to something like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Active Campaign, Convert Kit, or Aweber. Deliever value as you establish your company’s presence in the market and you'll be one step ahead as you continue to shape the other components of your marketing strategy.
THE SOLUTION TO DEVELOPING AN EMAIL MARKETING LIST
Even if you haven’t technically started your business yet, choose an email marketing platform and integrate it into your systems from the beginning. Like always, do your research to find a platform that works best for your product, service, business needs, industry, and target market.
I use MailChimp and I’ve been happy with it. It integrates well with other platforms and I plan to continue using it as my community grows. It would be ironic not to provide the opt-in link for you to receive future updates. Click to receive emails on actionable strategy for running a better business.
Mistake #6: How to Identify Unnecessary Business Expenses
In the beginning, it's difficult to know what you don't know. When you start a company, the sky is the limit. Typically, new entrepreneurs leave a 9-5 and become flooded with freedom to choose and implement whatever resource they perceive will most benefit their new company.
It's easy to be enticed by, say, project management software, without first understanding that every single business cost has a ROI (return on investment). However, weighing the benefits with the cost is absolutely essential in order to best leverage initial investment costs.
A subscription cost of $15/month doesn't sound like much...until you realize that cost becomes just a small slice of the expense pie after adding all of the other $15/month costs that also seemed necessary at the time.
When I started my company, my role was that of project manager. Naturally I thought I needed project management software, right?? Wrong. I signed up for the Basecamp trial. If you aren’t familiar with Basecamp, it’s a monthly subscription-based resource companies can use to collaborate with other team members, outline to do’s, delegate tasks, let team members access a project’s timeline, and so forth. It's great for some companies, but it wasn't right for mine.
About a month into my business, I realized I didn’t need Basecamp because Google Drive completely fulfilled my needs...and guess what, it's free. In my opinion, Basecamp is too cumbersome for a solopreneur anyway but I didn't know that in the beginning and I'm thankful I didn't get locked into an expense I didn't need.
Sometimes it just takes time to know what works and what doesn't, but often entrepreneurs jump the gun and become locked into a year subscription before finding out that expense is completely unnecessary.
THE SOLUTION TO SPENDING MONEY UNNECESSARILY
Consider and document all your costs. Re-evaluate regularly whether the cost is 1) something you need, and 2) something your business can truly afford. Error on the side of using free trials and month-by-month subscriptions until you know for certain the cost is something your business needs and can afford.
Mistake #7: How to balance your time between value added tasks and support tasks
Let's tease this point out. I'm alluding to value added tasks. Value added tasks are tasks that produce a result that customers would be willing to pay for. Value added tasks pay the bills.
Spending time on things you have nothing to show for, on the other hand, is a black hole that many new entrepreneurs fall into while they're working out the kinks. Non value added tasks are distractions that appear to be helping your business, but they’re not often tied to action. They show up in the midst of trying to figure out how to run your business and they take your focus away from value-added tasks...you know, making the bacon.
...Like chasing an idea even after finding out it’s not viable. Chasing the idea isn’t going to make it a better idea.
...Like checking email every hour. Checking email every hour is unproductive and distraction-inducing, yet it's something we tend to do automatically without even realizing how unproductive it is. Set times to check your email and for the love of all humanity, stop with the notifications.
...Like obsessing over reviewing analytics. Review analytics occasionally and with the intention of turning numbers into actionable value added tasks.
THE SOLUTION TO BALANCING VALUE ADDED ACTIVITIES AND SUPPORTING ACTIVITIES
Time management and systems.
We can’t talk about value added tasks without mentioning time management. In a 9-5, you’re paid even when you’re visiting the watering hole...or using the restroom, or scrolling Instagram when you should be banging out that project.
But when you’re running your own business, most entrepreneurs don’t get paid unless they're committing time in value-added tasks. My suggestion? Keep a list of monthly tasks, weekly tasks, and daily tasks with this free pdf. Check tasks for the next business day before you go to bed at night. Check in with yourself on the hour to make sure you’re focused on value added tasks.
In the beginning, entrepreneurs are trying to find the ever elusive balance between tasks that make money directly and tasks that don’t make money directly but support value added tasks. Download my Productivity System Guide included with information on how to be sure time spent on your business is productive and effective.
Make it a habit to ask yourself whether there is some other more valuable use of your time.
...Like creating systems.
Entire blog posts...companies...industries can be dedicated to creating systems but the bottom line is this, if there’s a task you keep doing over and over in your business, create a system for it.
- Invoicing? Create a system.
- Answering customer inquiries? Create a system.
- Contracts and welcome packets? Create a system.
- Time management? Create a system.
- Hosting events over and over again? Create a system.
Creating a well-oiled system helps you eliminate unnecessary time spent on non value added tasks, helps you cut out the fat and lean up the process over time, and keeps you ultra focused on value added tasks.
Mistake #8: How Neglecting to Repurpose is Detracting from Value Added Activities
Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose.
If you’re going to invest time into producing outcomes in your business, why wouldn’t you reuse the outcome to positively impact your business in a different way?
Turn a blog post into an email, and then into a YouTube video, and then into a podcast, and then into a downloadable PDF.
Take repeat questions you continuously get from customers and send an email, or write a blog post, or do a video series presenting a solution. This will provide value and free you up from spending time attending to their needs.
Repurpose social media content. Turn social media engagement into a FAQ series.
You get the point. If you’re going to put time and effort into producing a result once, why not take a slightly different spin and continue serving the market with that same value over and over again?
THE SOLUTION TO REPURPOSING IN YOUR BUSINESS
Optimizing efficiencies is one strategic way to propel your business forward. It allows you to put more of your precious time into value added activities. Take 5 minutes to evaluate how you spent your time at the end of each day.
Identify patterns and opportunities while the day is fresh in your mind. At that time, decide when you’ll set aside time to contribute to developing a system for repurposing. Once you begin identifying opportunities to repurpose, you won’t be able to ignore them. In fact, you’ll begin planning your efforts around how you can repurpose. Your efforts will be compounded and your time will be wisely spent.
Mistake #9: WHY BUILDING A FOLLOWING FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS IS HURTING YOU MORE THAN YOU THINK
Some social media accounts have a small effective following.
Some social media accounts have a large, ineffective following.
It's important to know the difference. It’s important to have a purpose behind posting, engaging, and up-keeping a social media presence. After all, it's way too time consuming just for an ego boost.
Understanding how to target the right people is essential for a company's brand. In essence, hang out online where your target market hangs out and don’t spend time elsewhere.
Consider this. I follow your page and you post an article that I 'like.' What is that value to your company?
The reality is my 'like' is only as valuable as 1) my network, because that's who my engagement exposes you to, or 2) my propensity to patronize your company.
It’s great to have engagement and it’s great to know who is reading and interacting with your posts, but the underlying point to social marketing is conversion and if your mom, friends, or employees are the only ones engaging with your content, pivot now.
Without conversion, social media engagement is really just an ego boost. I don't need to tell you that people with big ego's don't necessarily become successful business people. The concept of value-added activities applies here.
THE SOLUTION FOR FOCUSING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS
- Research your industry and target market.
- Find 2-3 social media platforms that best resonate with your industry and target market. Don’t be afraid to step outside the norm. You don’t have to be omnipresent across all popular channels.You do have to invest time in developing a consistent, engaging presence with your chosen platforms.
- Research how to set up an effective presence on those platforms.
- Maintain a consistent and engaging presence.
- Fill your content calendar with posts related to your product, service, industry, and target markets’ related interests.
- Use those platforms to show customers what your values are by sharing entertaining and valuable content.
- Sell your product or service occasionally. Develop relationships like you would with professional in-person relationships.
- Don’t aim for numbers, but rather let the numbers reflect progress toward your goals
If there are two tried and true rules in business, the first is that cash is king and the second is that relationships are the holy grail. Focus on relationships and your social presence will grow for the right reasons and positively impact your bottom line.
Find online "communities" whose purpose relates to your niche and thoughtfully interact and engage. More than that, provide real value to that community of influence. Put forth effort to interact with those people so you can understand their needs, wants, and interests and respond accordingly. Then (without hard selling) organically invite them to learn about your brand. This takes time and good intention to interact with people, but honing in on a target market is worth it in the long run.
A large social media following looks good, but is it positively impacting your bottom line, and in turn, propelling your company forward? That is the real question.
WHAT WE COVERED ABOUT MISTAKES ENTREPRENEURS MAKE
Let’s recap. In this blog post we covered the 9 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them. We covered the following mistakes and corresponding solutions:
- How assuming “If you build it, they will come” sets you up for massive disappointment
- How failing to recognize a bigger purpose works to the detriment of your business
- What a brand means to even your small business
- Why assuming small businesses don't need a brand hurts the longevity of your business
- The one marketing activity you must incorporate from the beginning
- How to identify unnecessary business expenses
- How to balance your time between value added tasks and support tasks Download the Productivity System Guide now.
- How neglecting to repurpose is detracting from value added activities
- Why building a following for all the wrong reasons is hurting you more than you think
This blog post won’t entirely prevent you from making these 11 business mistakes, but hopefully it will make you aware of them and able to recognize how to make your business more efficient, effective, and profitable.
My goal in every post is to make the most of your precious time and pack these articles with insanely actionable content. Have I done that for you today? I'd love to hear your feedback. Contact me or comment below.
And please do me a little favor and share this post with others because there's a good chance it will help them with their business.
Your business matters. Now go do something awesome in the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, FRANCIE
Hi there, I'm Francie. I started my business, Simply Integrated, in 2015 and have fallen madly in love with teaching small business owners how to start, grow, and market the successful and profitable business they dream about.
My knowledge and experience comes from earning an MBA and from coaching small business entrepreneurs while managing and marketing their projects. I focus solely on business strategy and marketing and created this blog to help others run more successful businesses. If you’re interested, you can read more about me on the About page of Simply Integrated’s website.
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