By Jacqueline Mumford, Business Development Assistant
Navigating a small business can be tricky. You’ve got a lot on your plate -- friends, family, attracting clients, keeping clients and, hopefully, taking care of yourself! Balancing so much can often bring out the worst in a business owner, causing you to cut corners and let things slip through the cracks, or the opposite, latching on too hard and holding on to all control.
After working with small business for years, we’ve noticed a few SCARY business practices that, while they may seem inconsequential, end up damaging the business. We’ve made a compilation of the most common things we’ve seen, and what you can do to help your business GROW instead of bogging it down!
1. Building a Bad Team
You may be tempted to hire staff and team members because you’re friends, you’re family, or you just liked talking to them in the interview. Of course, it’s important that you like those that you work with -- it makes the process so much easier, especially since you’ll be spending a lot of time together lifting your small business off the ground, or keeping it running! Still, our advice for hiring anyone based off of personal relationships is simple: DON’T!
It’s true for any business, but even more so for small businesses: your team is your l lifeblood. You’re probably limited in how many members you can bring on board, so it’s absolutely critical that those that you hire are skilled, talented and capable of carrying their weight. You need an efficient, smart team that can get along, support each other and get work done. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you know someone in one environment, as a friend or family member, for example, means you know them in another, like work.
As Drake once said, “Know yourself, know your worth.” Understand the value that your business and its products or services create, and what you mean to those you serve. We often run into small businesses that undercharge for their work. The benefit that consumers receive far exceeds the small amount that they pay. While it’s a fair strategy to be a cost leader in your market, sometimes, you can go to far, and end up missing out on income that you, your team and your business really did deserve, and that others are willing to pay!
3. Not Respecting Your Time (and Others’ Too!)
Sometimes it’s hard to remember (for me, too!) but you have a life outside of your small business, and so do your team members. Make sure that the time that you have assigned to work, and that you’ve assigned to your staff, is fair and reasonable. For people to work well, they must be well!
A big culprit of time-sucking within small business is meetings -- many small businesses meet too often, or not enough. If you find that your meetings run too long and no longer feel productive, you’re not alone! First, make sure that you plan out the meeting beforehand, assigning topics and tasks to each team member, so that everyone is prepared coming in. We’ve found that having agendas handy at meetings keeps everyone on task, and helps us to communicate any issues that we’re having.
Conversely, not meeting enough can breed even worse problems. You may feel like you’re not on the same page, confused about who’s working on what, and end up wasting more time trying to connect all of the dots. Conflicts, questions and more are also more likely to be solved in face-to-face conversations rather than in an email chain. Try to have at least one standing meeting per month, with more, possibly team or project focused, as needed. You’ll all be grateful for it in the long-run.
If you’re struggling to find a way to communicate better outside of meeting times, read our recent blog post about digital organization -- we love using Asana to stay informed about what each other are working on.
4. Neglecting Your Audience
It should go without saying, but social media is a BIG DEAL! We’ve noticed that many small businesses don’t use Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Facebook and more. You really miss out on large markets, especially if you plan on using e-Commerce, if you decide not to tap into the digital world. However, we get that venturing into the social internet from a business perspective can be scary. Let us help you structure social media plans that increase engagement and help connect you to a bigger audience by scheduling a free consultation here.
Even if you are actively running social media profiles, that doesn’t mean you’re interacting with your audience. We’ve seen many accounts that Tweet like they’re talking to a wall, just putting content into the void. To avoid that pitfall, ask interactive questions! Like, favorite, retweet and repost other accounts and posts that you love, that fall in line with your business’ mission. And, most of all, RESPOND to your audience! If you receive a bad review, RESPOND to your customer and try to ameliorate the situation. RESPOND to those who comment on your posts, or share information about your business on their own accounts. Let them know that you’re listening, and you’ll be better for it.
5. Ignoring Advice
We know that your small business can feel like your baby. Regardless of your position within the company, you’re investing lots of time, energy and talent to starting it up or helping it take off. While being committed to your work is something you should be proud of, it can also sometimes lead us to put up blinders. No matter what field you’re in, how your market is doing, how wonderful your service or product is, your small business will have flaws. That’s okay! What’s not okay, though, is ignoring the constructive criticisms laid out by friends, family, coworkers and, sometimes, customers and clients, who are only looking to help you improve. Though it can be hard to listen, do it. You don’t always have to take every piece of advice handed to you, but carefully considering the suggestions of others who have new perspectives outside of yourself can really help you business in the long-run.
6. Not Taking Security Seriously
We’re all guilty of writing our password on a sticky note and hanging it behind our computer or somewhere else just as visible, convincing ourselves that it’s safe enough. It’s also a safe bet to assume that many of us use the same password for multiple if not all (oh no!) of our accounts, personal and business included. This may not seem like a big deal until you’re hacked, and your most personal information is compromised. It’s even scarier for your small business, where you risk not only your and your employees’ data, but your clients, customers and partners’, too.
There are many small steps you can take to make your small business more secure, like utilizing free password encrypting programs and training your team to look out for phishing or other forms of scams. Learn more about cybersecurity from Kara Turner, our security expert, in a conference we hosted here!
7. Being an Insufficient Planner
We’re big-picture thinkers. That’s why we love Slack, Asana, Hootsuite and other digital organizational tools so much at Gerber Business Solutions: they help us map out our small business plans, and our clients’, months in advance, so we can be prepared for any outcome. Many of our meetings focus on the future, what we can do to improve, what we’re doing well, and what we’re hoping to see come out of our business and our clients’ in the coming weeks and months. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t have this perspective.
If you aren’t already doing it, really invest time in thinking about the future of your business, mapping out your social media and outreach, website updates, product launches, email blasts and more. How do these all tie back into your mission statement? Are your actions creating value for your small business and for your customers? Though it may seem easier to coast by week to week, being so short-sighted will hurt your company a lot sooner than you think.
8. Not Reaching out for Help
You can’t do everything alone. Even though we have a wonderful team here at Gerber Business Solutions, when we first started, we knew we needed to build our connections and network in order to offer our clients the best possible service. We hired a fantastic freelance graphic designer, looked for help in the tech world to transfer websites, edit video, and have amazing Administrative Assistants that curate our Marketing and business development efforts keeping them in line with our company's Mission. We also collaborated with partners in order to offer more professional services for our clients.
We see the same situations with other small businesses, except they don’t ask for help. Your core business doesn’t have to be a jack of all trades -- that’s why we exist! You don’t have to be an expert in SEO and social media managing, grant writing, design, website creation, mission statement crafting and more, you just have to be willing to seek out help. If you’re struggling in any of those categories, need a business plan written up (or something else) reach out to us and set up a FREE consultation here.
9. Micromanaging Your Team
If you followed step number one, then you’ll have a well-balanced, smart, talented and invested team. Trust them. It can be difficult to let go of all of the tasks you’re balancing, but that’s why you structured a perfect team! Nitpicking their work, hovering over them as they complete tasks, and incessantly checking in may seem productive, but really, it drops morale and makes the team members feel like they can’t really contribute, even if that’s not the case. Give clear, well-thought out instructions, lay out tasks in digital tools like Asana, be available for guidance, and then let go.
You want to be able to do it all. We get it. But, sometimes this desire gets the best of small business owners, who tell their clients that yes, they can provide them with building sketches, pour the concrete, and sure, we can construct it too, when really, they don’t have even close to enough resources to deliver. Be honest with your clients about what you can really do, in a timeframe that is realistic. If you wish you were able to offer more, build up your team, rethink your mission statement, and add those new services! Just don’t get too excited about the idea before it’s actually coming together.
Want even more tips and tricks? Read last year’s blog article for my top 7 business practices not to do!