Thousands of new businesses will start up this year during uncertain times. Unfortunately if history tells us anything, most of them (over 90%) will close their doors within two years.
Businesses are started with high hopes and glorious dreams, it is easy to start a business, it is much more difficult to build it, to make it succeed, to avoid the traps and pitfalls and frustrations and enjoy the fruits of success over the years.
In working with thousands of entrepreneurs over the years, here are the mistakes we’ve seen most often. Avoid them!
1. Fear and confusion. There is either a sense of being over-whelmed by the size of the tasks, or a refusal to master the work of being an entrepreneur and business owner. There are specific skills to owning and running a successful business. Learn them! You can master these. You can focus and succeed! ( this is often the time to hire a business advisor)
2. Lack of capital. Capital comes in three forms: time, money and energy. Some people have one or two, but not all three, and they fail because they simply cannot sustain the growth phase of their business. Every business is a commitment of everything you have. You may start ‘small’, but that does not mean causal or part-time.
3. Lack of courage or commitment. Building a business is always risky. Some people perceive the risk as frightening, others see it as an exciting challenge, but there is always risk. Manage it. Limit your potential losses. Understand the risks and enjoy the process. You will make mistakes. Learn from them and go on.
4. Refusal to select and target an audience. No one can sell their services to ‘everyone’ – a message that goes to everyone is unlikely to create a sense of urgency in anyone in particular. Attorneys focus on one type of law. Physicians specialise. So should you.
5. Choosing the wrong audience. A market that cannot or will not pay, or an audience that is too small or dispersed, is a recipe for disaster. The ‘poor’ desperately need medical, dental, legal and other services, but who is going to pay you? The same problem exists when trying to reach an audience that is dispersed over a large geographic area and not easily identified.
6. Fuzzy or unfocused message. What exact benefits do you provide? To whom? Under what circumstances and at what cost? How can people contact you? Be precise, be clear, be specific.
7. Lack of planning – too many random efforts. Many entrepreneurs try a little radio, a direct mailing, join a service organisation, offer free samples and then report that they have “tried everything and nothing worked”. Pick one and stay the course! You become identified with your marketing techniques. Choose a logo, a colour-scheme and a marketing technique and stay with it!
8. Laziness and/or greed. Your business ONLY exists to serve the customer! You must make a profit in order to continue serving the customer, but service is the key to success. Everything must be focused on that. The statement, “I want to be my own boss”, or “I want a business that supports me” may be true (and be totally honest and reasonable), but they are a dangerous focus for your business. Customers first!
By Dr Philip E. Humbert
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