Introduction – 7 Common Small Business Pitfalls

Last time, we talked about how to market yourself like a rock star on an air band budget. In this post, we’ll delve into seven of the common small business pitfalls you might find along the way — and how to avoid them!

Most small businesses start with a passion we want to share with the world. It’s exciting – and praiseworthy! Even those of us who have been in business for years can still feel that initial thrill of the idea that helped us get here in the first place. But it’s perhaps that passion that blinds us to some of the small business pitfalls that lie ahead.

After 35 years of being in business, we at Elite Office Solutions have learned a few things about how to avoid small business pitfalls. Our goal is to help you channel that passion and energy you have into a workable business idea while avoiding these common traps:

  1. Failing to set business goals.
  2. Failing to budget closely enough.
  3. Not scheduling your time.
  4. Being too risk adverse.
  5. Ignoring technology.
  6. Failing to self-reflect.
  7. Going it alone.

Failing to set business goals.

Business goals are so important to your success. Passion drives us to do what we do. But as soon as we turn our passions into a business, we have to get into the business mindset. Otherwise, our passion won’t be in business for long!

Business goals are so important to your success. They need to be specific: sales targets, growth, products sold, products developed, services rendered, etc. Of course, your goals will be different depending on your small business. The idea is to have a firm measure of success in mind with milestones attached so you can track your progress.

Another benefit to having business goals is that it’s easier to make business decisions. You can weigh the pros and cons by considering if those decisions get you closer to your goals or further away.

Failing to budget closely enough.

Budgeting is one of the biggest small business pitfalls. Budgeting is one of the biggest small business pitfalls. Overspending can be a huge problem, especially when you’re first starting out. Many go on huge spending sprees, justifying it by saying “it’s for the good of the business.” But stop and think – is it really? Remember that you don’t need the top-of-the-line everything. And perhaps you don’t need that one particular thing at all. Reining in the spending from beginning will help you avoid getting too far into debt. “A penny saved is a penny earned…”

Underspending is also a bad idea. Although it’s not as common a problem, it can be almost as detrimental. You don’t want to come across as looking cheap to your customers. Like they say: you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Spending money strategically – like buying services for things you can’t do as well or as fast as a professional – will make you more money in the long run.

One way to avoid both situations is to look at each expenditure as an investment.

  1. Will I get my money back through sales if I buy this product or service for my business?
  2. Are there alternatives that accomplish the same thing, but for less money?
  3. If I don’t buy it, will my business suffer?

Asking these three questions before every purchase will you help control spending.

Not scheduling your time.

The most successful entrepreneurs schedule tasks to ensure they get done.Not managing your time effectively is another small business pitfall. Part of the problem is that we become task-oriented rather than schedule-oriented. We have this never-ending list of prioritized tasks. Many of those tasks stay at the bottom of the list – and we never get to them. Have you noticed that those tasks tend to be the ones we don’t particularly want to do…?

The most successful entrepreneurs don’t just make a list of tasks. They schedule those tasks to ensure they get done. (Especially the ones they would prefer to avoid!) That means everything on your task list gets done.

There will be times when there are true emergencies and some task or another will need to be dealt with now. But when you schedule your tasks, you’ll find this happens a lot less than you might think. And you are much less likely to have tasks left ignored on your list.

Being too risk adverse.

Accept some risk by setting aside some “play money” you can invest in trying new things.This may seem like a funny one. Anyone getting into small business understands that risk is a part of the deal! But one of the small business pitfalls is actually hemming yourself in too much and not exploring other possibilities.

For example, if you’re a baker, do you need to concentrate on your famous 12-grain bread and only your 12-grain bread? Certainly not! Maybe you could explore pastries or a dark rye or something else that could be your customers’ next favorite. It’s how you expand your business and keep your customers happy.

Now, this example may seem obvious. But take a moment to reflect on your own business. Is there anything “obvious” you could try offering that is different than what you have right now? The pastry of your industry that customers might gobble right up?

Experimenting is good, but don’t bet the farm on one business idea, either. Big companies have research and development budgets – there’s no reason why you can’t too. Set aside some “play money” you can invest in trying new things. If you can invent innovative, creative solutions to your industry’s biggest pain points, you’ll be a step ahead of the competition.

Ignoring technology.

Schedule some time to learn about new technologies that could help your business become more efficient.If technology is not your forte, you’re not alone! There are millions of people like you getting frustrated with social media, new phone apps, and automated systems. It gets to the point sometimes where you just want to walk away from it all.

However, that’s a bad move. In fact, if you learn to overcome your misgivings, you’ll be ahead of most your competition. That’s because as much as technology can be frustrating, it can actually be extremely helpful.

For example, remember that section above about scheduling your time? There are actually apps for your phone or for your computer that can help you do that. Google Calendar is an easy one to learn, but there are a ton of other ones out there. The great thing about an online solution rather than the old school Daytimer is that you don’t have to lug that calendar around! (Besides, you always have your phone with you, right?)

Schedule some time to learn about new technologies that could help your business become more efficient. You could hire a consultant to help you through this process – even if the “consultant” is one of the younger generations you already know such as a child, niece/nephew, etc. It takes some work, but the time, money, and other savings you gain make it worth it!

Failing to self-reflect.

Be able to connect with your customers easily and meaningfullyYou may have heard of Simon Sinek, the guy who wants you to Find Your Why.  This ingenious approach helps you really discover what motivates you to do what you do – and is a great way to self-reflect.

But it also helps in another key way: you learn what motivates your customers as well. That passion you want to share with the world – that’s what’s going to connect you with your customers. So spending some time drilling down to discover what exactly about that passion that drives you will help you:

  • Have a clearer picture of what you want to offer
  • Improve your messaging to your target audience
  • Be able to connect with your customers easily and meaningfully

Sometimes self-reflection takes the form of studying spreadsheets. It’s always good to update your product and service offerings, especially if something isn’t selling that well! Reviewing sales, inventory, and customer feedback are also ways you can take a better look at the big picture, and tweak things that need fixing.

Going it alone.

Not only does getting help allow you to become more efficient with your time, hiring out non-core tasks allows you to focus your attention on the things that are really important.This is another natural tendency for entrepreneurs. Being boss is great, but being boss AND bottle washer because you can’t let go is another small business pitfall. The thing is, there are many bottle-washer-like activities that you can easily offload without jeopardizing your control.

Help comes in many forms including:

  • Hiring staff to take care of inventory or point of sales
  • Finding interns to do research or improve your business in other ways
  • Hiring third-party contractors for professional services such as marketing or general virtual assistance

Not only does getting help allow you to become more efficient with your time, hiring out non-core tasks allows you to focus your attention on the things that are really important. And, more than likely, those important things are the things that generate you money. You win both ways: you make more money doing the things you love and spend less time doing the things you don’t.

Find the Help You Need with EliteOutsource your marketing, transcription, and virtual assistant tasks to Elite for better business efficiencies.There you have it – seven small business pitfalls you should start avoiding now:

  1. Failing to set business goals.
  2. Failing to budget closely enough.
  3. Not scheduling your time.
  4. Being too risk adverse.
  5. Ignoring technology.
  6. Failing to self-reflect.
  7. Going it alone.

This isn’t an exclusive list by any means. But if you identify and fix these seven, you’ll be miles ahead of the game.

Need help? Contact the small business experts at Elite Office Solutions. We provide a number of professional services to help your small business succeed including:

Contact Elite for a free initial consultation to find out how we can help you streamline – and avoid those small business pitfalls!