(Editor’s Note: Sam Carpenter offered this guest post on common mistakes. These certainly apply to small town small businesses, too.)
Five Common Mistakes People Make When Starting Up a Small Business
And How to Steer Clear of Them
Whether you’ve established a small business, are in the midst of launching one, or simply considering it for the future, it’s certain you want at least one thing out of this investment: success.
Here are five common mistakes people tend to make when starting up a small business – and how you can avoid them:
- Business owners don’t create documented systems, or what we call, Working Procedures. It’s a simple equation: Systems = freedom. A working procedure is a documented way of performing a task that prevents problems, ensuring the task is performed properly and consistently. Procedures help you delegate and improve your scheduling ability. You work smarter and accomplish more with less effort; thus, work less and make more. By implementing documented system procedures, your employees are free to be creative because they don’t have to “wing it” each time they perform their job duties; everyone operates at a smoother pace because there is a proven, working process. Best of all, your people don’t have to be mind-readers or fortune tellers.
- Owners don’t delegate. The reason a business owner can work a few hours a week, or take an extended vacation without stress, is because they have created systems, implemented written procedures and documentation, and have learned to delegate. I know, I know. You’re zealous, dreamy-eyed, and proficient, and as the leader of an organization, you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get your new business off the ground. Well, my friend, successful people don’t work harder; they work smarter. This means focusing on what you do best, and delegating the rest. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing least for your business. Perhaps that’s bookkeeping or making phone calls to potential clients. Then, imagine literally giving away these mind numbing, frustrating tasks. Get rid of the “I am Superman” attitude and hire people who are trustworthy and qualified to take some of that weight off your shoulders.
- Owners don’t use time wisely. Biological Prime Time is when your brainpower is at peak capacity. People function at maximum effectiveness about six hours out of a 24-hour day. It is important to take advantage of this interesting facet of human performance and it is critical to know precisely when your prime time occurs and then to use it wisely. Six hours out of a 24-hour day is not much. Presuming you wish to reach your goals sooner rather than later, it is best the tasks that contribute most to your primary goals are performed during your prime time hours and you protect those hours from interruption. Also, don’t start your day without a to-do list. Make a list of tasks and categorize them into business-building activities, client activities, and personal items. Then, prioritize, remove distractions, delegate, and stick to your plan.
- Owners see their job, life, and business are holistic. You must change your fundamental perspective of the mechanics of the world. Take a position “outside and slightly above” your job, your small business, and your life. See that they are composed of linear systems and that these systems can be perfected, one-by-one. Understand that by perfecting a primary system’s sub-systems, the primary system will be perfected – and, although you take a non-holistic approach, your end product – your business – will be a highly efficient and entirely holistic, “Primary System.”
- Owners don’t have a strategic objective or set of operating principles. A strategic objective is short, usually a single page in length, and is an individual’s well-though-out and carefully constructed “guidebook.” It defines overall goals, describes methodology, and prescribes action. It gives direction for making major and minor decision. It’s an essential instrument for a business and for personal life. General operating principles are typically a two- to four-page collection of “guidelines for decision making” that are congruent with the strategic objective. Essential for the work environment and in a simplified and shorter format, they also guide one’s personal life. An example of an operating principle would be “Do it now.” In other words, don’t delay an action if it can be done immediately. Just like any major retail outlet that updates inventories and databases at the exact time the transaction takes place, approach all aspects of your business with the same “do it now” approach.
Sam Carpenter, author and speaker, is president and CEO of Centratel, one of the nation’s handful of elite quality telephone answering services, and author of the new book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Working Less and Making More. Success in life, business, and relationships can be yours, too. Sam’s approach is not mystical or esoteric; it’s simple, mechanical, and attainable. Visit www.workthesystem.com to purchase your copy of Work the System today. A free download of “6 steps to working less and making more” is also available on the site.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.