Success in business is more than putting a good idea into practice, but also about avoiding the pitfalls along the way. Entrepreneurs often self-sabotage just as their companies begin to thrive. Here are nine ways you could be sabotaging yourself, and how you can avoid them:
1. Not showing up
You get a lead introduction or an invitation to quote, but you take days, even weeks to get back to the person.
A lack of urgency equates to a wasted opportunity. It’s vital to follow through timeously. And if your quote is declined, ask for reasons why, as this is an opportunity to learn.
2. Lacking persistence
Linked to the above, entrepreneurs sometimes miss obvious opportunities to learn.
If your client got a proposal but wasn’t happy with certain aspects of it, initiate a conversation even if it’s uncomfortable. Because in that, there can be tremendous learning in how to get it right in future.
3. Being a perfectionist
Entrepreneurs sometimes want everything to be perfect before even starting a venture, then lose too much time.
There is no such thing as zero risk in small businesses, so just start, and respond to issues as they happen.
4. Not communicating
Going quiet on a client during the service delivery can lead them to have doubts about your capacity to do it.
People want to be reassured that you have things in hand, so don’t wait for them to call you. Also, lay out your terms and conditions upfront, to avoid any confusion about what is or isn’t your responsibility.
5. Not checking client authorisation
In your excitement to get an order, you overlook the legitimacy of the source, only to discover that the individual who ordered your product/service didn’t have the authority to do so and you’re left unpaid.
This sometimes happens with large corporates or tendered projects that need multiple sign-offs for a job order, and the order hasn’t been approved at the necessary level. Take the time to verify the order is legitimate, and get it all in writing, and minute any dispute that arises.
6. Relying on one client
You have a big client placing high volume orders regularly, but to assume this client alone will sustain your business is foolhardy. Think about who you are. Are you a business or an independent contractor? If you’re a business, you need a diversified client mix.
Remember: The demands and expectations of a client can change or get reviewed with new staff replacements, to the point that it doesn’t make business sense to continue the contract.
7. Misleading the market
Entrepreneurs dream of building an empire, which is laudable, but not if you’re marketing a list of services you can’t fulfil optimally.
It’s common for entrepreneurs to call themselves a ‘group’, or add a raft of other services loosely linked to the main offering. Stick to what you are and what you do well, as your market soon loses trust in you if you don’t.
8. Not containing risk
Strategise in a way that allows you to absorb a degree of failure. There’s no need to bet the farm in everything you do. Maintain a financial buffer in your business so that you can absorb some loss or unsteady cash flow.
Ensure you take a large enough deposit to comfortably cover outlay on a project. The rule of thumb is, don’t invest more than your client on their product order.
9. Abdicating instead of delegating
Recognise that you are not a master of all the tasks required to run a business, yet entrepreneurs sometimes abdicate from these instead of delegating them to someone who is capable.
None of us can sell, and deliver the core technical expertise, and excel at finance and administration. Whichever skill is your weak spot, master it sufficiently to understand it, and then delegate it.