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In your car, you’re generally aware of a couple of blind spots. You check them regularly to make sure you’re clearing other vehicles as you pass them, but occasionally, a blind spot still surprises you. You’re driving along, as you always do, being careful (or at least thinking that you’re being careful), when all of a sudden, something catches your attention from the corner of your eye and your heart stops. You narrowly avoid a crash that could have been cause by a blind spot you didn’t even know existed.
I think about this all the time as it relates to my business. Generally, we come up with plans, ways we’re going to market our businesses, manage them, and keep things growing and moving along smoothly, but what are we missing? Are there blind spots we don’t yet know exist that could potentially be fatal to the success of our companies?
Blind Spot #1: Giving Up Too Soon (or Not Planning to Weather the First Years)
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen small business owners make is simply giving up too soon. We all want to chase after shiny new distractions as they show up, but many times, we already have everything we need to succeed, if we would only stay the course and allow enough time for our business ideas to take hold.
It’s so important to plan for the hard times of that first year or so in business, when there’s very little money coming in. Plan to cut corners as much as possible, both with your personal and business expenses, so that you can afford to stick with it until you start generating revenue.
Many times, it’s easy to look back on past ideas and failures and think, “If I had only stuck with that, I think it could have worked.” You have to be willing and able to hang in there for the long haul, and so often, it’s just too hard for business owners to weather that first year or so.
Blind Spot #2: Not Consistently and Actively Promoting the Business
A close runner-up in fatal blind spots is not actively and consistently promoting the business. So many times, business owners get caught up in planning and tinkering the minor things within the business that they neglect actually going out and finding new customers or clients on a regular basis.
I was fortunate to have gotten my start in real estate, where you have to work under the guidance of a broker for several years before being able to go out on your own, and in the real estate industry, one of the first things you’re taught is how important lead generation is to your success. I can remember my broker telling us that the most successful and experienced agents in the firm still did lead generation a couple of hours a day. Of course, I had no idea what lead generation was at the time, but at least the importance of it stuck with me all these years.
Part of the problem for most business owners is not knowing what to do when it comes to promoting their businesses. There are so many different tactics for marketing and promotion that it can quickly become confusing and overwhelming. It would be far more helpful for new business owners to hear that they should simply pick two or three tactics for promoting their businesses, plan to stick with them for six to twelve months, and to be very aggressive with them for at least two hours each and every day.
Blind Spot #3: Thinking You Can Do Everything Yourself
A third blind spot most business owners have is thinking they can do everything themselves (or thinking that they have to do everything themselves). Lack of money, time and even experience can make a business owner think he or she is not in the position to hire help, and the process of finding and building a support team can seem like a full time job on its own.
The good news is that it’s possible to inch your way into delegation by finding ways to outsource one piece of your work at a time, and if you don’t think you can afford a paid assistant at the beginning, start with a few interns. That way, you can slowly test the waters with a support staff, while also seeing if the interns you hire would make good permanent additions to your team.
For most of us, the thought of starting a new business is as exciting as first learning to drive: we just want to be given the keys, jump in the car, and go! Certainly, there’s room for the thrill of being in control and finally going where we want to go, but if we want to avoid as many fender benders as possible, it helps to know to look out for blind spots.
What blind spots do you think most small business owners have in the beginning?
Photo by Flickr user PhotoDu.de, licensed under CC 2.0