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Nine deadly small business mistakes

As a small business owner, I tend to see mistakes that businesses make as a lesson for my own business in what not to do. Here are the top nine small business mistakes to avoid, and some examples of businesses (mostly larger) which made the mistakes.

1). Understaffing. I had the fun opportunity of spending a day in the Emergency Room of a fairly new, large South Denver Suburban hospital in December. The E.R. was dangerously understaffed, with only two nurses trying to take care of a couple of dozen rooms. For-profit hospitals such as this one tend to cut corners on staffing and patient (customer) care. You shouldn't.

2). Great edifice, poor service. This same hospital has one of the most beautiful, huge and elaborate atriums you'd ever want to see, but, as I pointed out above, patient (customer) care leaves much to be desired. Don't spend money on the flash or the office space. Spend money, time and care on the customer. While you have to have an office that is appropriate for the business you do, I've found that most customers care more about the service they receive than how pretty the office is. Beautiful offices are mainly for the egos of those who have the business.

3). Delegation to the wrong person. The E.R. mentioned above was staffed mostly by temps. Rather than doctors, they delegated most physician-level patient care to Physicians' Assistants. Delegation is essential for any business owner. But don't delegate mission critical customer-interactions to those who do not have a stake in your business (temporary or contract workers) and make sure that the staff member you're delegating to is qualified to handle the customer issue.

4). Arguing with the customer unnecessarily. I know that the customer is not always right, or even sane. But pick your battles. My wife bought some chicken a few weeks ago at one of the big-box membership stores. She threw it in the deep freeze, as usual, when she got home. Last week, she thawed and opened it and almost vomited. It was very bad. When she returned it the mindless clerk argued with her. We spend thousands of dollars a year at this store as we own a business. The clerk argued with her over $10 of spoiled chicken. A manager eventually relented, but she was angry enough to think about moving our membership to the store's competitor. If you can do something for a customer, do it and be gracious about it. Don't argue.

5). Distracted employees. We went to a fast-food restaurant and ordered. The clerk repeated back the order wrong. We corrected her. She repeated back the order the same wrong way a second time. We corrected her again. She repeated it back wrong the same way again. We told her to listen this time to the correct order. She walked away, and we had to start all over with a new person, who, at least, got it right. I hope the brain-dead one did not spit in our food. Make sure that your employees are paying attention to your business, not to their texting or other activities.

6). Watching out for your ego rather than the business. Low overheads are as comforting as a rich uncle where you're the favorite relative. Keep both your business and personal overhead low. You'll sleep better.

7). Assuming that the boom time is going to last forever. When things are great, we tend to make decisions that, in tight times, don't look too bright. While optimism is a necessary trait for a small business owner, don't get carried away. Always plan for the tough times.

8). Assuming that your product or service will always be needed. A good small businessperson constantly has their eyes open for future trends (read Tom Frey). Remember the hula hoop? At one point it was the bee's knees.

9). Keeping bad employees too long. If an employee isn't doing his or her job, and you've tried to correct the problem, it is time for them to be successful elsewhere. It may be difficult to throw an employee out into this nasty employment market, but it isn't going to do you or the employee any good if your business suffers as a result of their incompetence or laziness.

All of us with a small business are in some degree of survival mode. Make sure that your business is one that makes it out of this recession and thrives in the future.

Do you want some hands-on practice in making the Law of Attraction work for you? Join John at his class, “Making the Law of Attraction Work for You” on Monday, Aug. 13, from 6-9 PM. More info and registration here.


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John Heckers

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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