Start out logically: One of the first and more simple to avoid mistakes new business owners make is starting out too strong. Going after the gold and burning through your finances too quickly (and too soon) is a bad idea. It is an often reoccurring, unfortunate reality that a new business owner opens their company and implements all the most premium features and services to help them get off the ground. Buying the most expensive building in the most expensive part of town is an example of this. But what is more likely to kill an emerging company are the smaller things. Things like hidden fees or seemingly insignificant fees that provide a small (usually unnecessary service) and only take a few dollars here and there. If you run a website (and you should for your business in this day and age), you have probably noticed several “little” add-ons that charge a dollar or two here and there every month. This sort of service is often overlooked and adds up when you allow too many of them to stick around. But hidden and seemingly insignificant costs are not only found in the online world. Look at your bills and receipts closely. Things like rushed deliveries, credit reports, lots of stuff with credit cards, monthly fees for technical support you don’t need, etc. The list can go on and on. Being frugal to begin with will serve you well years down the road. Of course, make sure to do your research and get the best deals that you can on high-dollar products and services too. Just don’t let those small expenses sneak by undetected. It’s important to keep overhead in check just as much as one-time buys.
Understanding your finances: This tip goes hand in hand with the first. Again, it’s important to keep in mind that hidden fees and unnecessary expenses are the silent killers of many businesses. But there is another—one which starts early on and sticks with you in mindset. It is unrealism in the extent of your resources and finances. When starting out, you probably are aware that you have a set, limited amount of money to allot to your business. This is where it gets very important to research things before you buy and look for the best deal. But also, there is more. Over time (sometimes a very short amount of time) we can get a little too comfortable with the state of our finances. This can lead us to believe they are in better shape than they are. Which further leads us into believing we can afford unnecessary expenses. Or perhaps that we don’t need to watch our expenses as closely. Like allowing small things to bring us down, this will be the death of our new business.
Along with this point, there is another to be cautiously aware of. Don’t assume that you have more background support than you do. It is always a positive thing to have friends, family, or partners there to back up your business if it gets in trouble financially. However, another sneaky flaw in mindset that kills new companies is thinking the help you have backing you up is more extensive than it is. Or even thinking that your product is really good, therefore you will have plenty of people lining up to invest in it. Although this occasionally happens, it is actually very unlikely. Unless you have people from the beginning hand you money to invest in your company, don’t count anyone in. Too many new businesses fail because the owners believed they had background support when they didn’t. If you are looking for investors (and you should be at some point), consider investing your own time (money too but not too much) into improving what you offer. Baby steps in scaling are safer and definitely look more natural to investors later on.
Work on your sales pitch: This is one of the aspects of business that many new and prospective owners dread. The sales pitch. And they dread it for one simple reason—mess it up, you lose the sale and potentially the customer/investor. And why are most people afraid of messing it up? That would be because of the sales people we have faced in life ourselves (particularly the bad ones). Everyone can remember a time in their life when they encountered a bad salesman. They come in all varieties: the pushy ones working on commissions, the in-you-face and extroverted small business owners nearly forcing you to buy, the hyper car salesman spewing features and benefits and swearing up and down that their cars are the best, and the over-confident individuals acting like you are not worth their time. And then there is the other end of the spectrum: Salesmen with the lack of motivation, rude or insulting salesman, salesmen with no knowledge of the product they are selling. The lists are long and tiresome. However, in short, this is why everyone fears the sales pitch. They don’t want to be like these people and push their customers away.
There is a certain balance of confidence, helpfulness, and passiveness that is required to earn a sale. It is important to not be too pushy or in-your-face. But at the same time, customers need to be greeted and helped. Your company must find the balance that works with its company personality. On the subject of finding the balance, though, it is a good idea to remember to try to keep the pitch under 30 seconds. This is called an elevator pitch. People are busy and prone to having short attention spans. You need to refine your pitch until it can state who you are, what you do, and what benefit your customer can get in 30 seconds. You never know when you are seconds away from a sale or even bigger—a potential investor. Getting your message across accurately and quickly will help you to keep their interest.
Always promote your business: No matter where you are or what time it is, always be in the mindset of promoting your business. Being a business owner is not as much of a job as it is a way of life. If it has not yet already, your business will become entrenched in your mind almost every minute of every day. This means you must keep up your reputation and be driving traffic to your business even when you are not there at it (especially when you are not there at it). When you are out in town or having dinner or walking, make sure to keep your business fresh in your mind. You never know who you will bump into that you can pitch to. Remember, this is a lifestyle. Your business is now a part of you and you have to act like it.
As far as your online business goes, getting traffic to your website and talking to people is a little more complicated. It is not a simple as seeing them in person or by passing them in the grocery store. There are few good practices that will help you attract more online traffic. One, your website needs to be clean, modern, and friendly. Two, you need to cultivate relationships on social media. Three, consider investing in SEO services—such as those at http://moveyouup.com. This last one is one of the recommended expenses to take on early. It helps rank your website and give it great visibility for whatever it is you sell. Together, these practices will help “get you out there” online and be easier to find. Now more than ever there are many people online. Getting your online business (your website) in front of people online is vital to bringing in new business.
Stay focused, stay dedicated: Perhaps the most important tip to new business owners would be to stay focused and not get side-tracked. There are going to be countless shiny objects out to get you once you begin your entrepreneurial journey. Most of them will only lead you and your new business to unnecessary expenses. All of them will require your time (even if it is only a little) to at least investigate and keep track of later. Like the little expenses discussed earlier, make sure that you research any “offers” that come your way. Ask yourself. Is this something my business really needs? If it is, is it something new or will it replace a service I’m already getting? And if it is new, can I get it cheaper somewhere else? Most of the time, you will find that you can either cover the service with your own time, it is already being covered, or you don’t need it until you expand a little more. With this last case, if you are needing to expand, you will have a greater amount of revenue to use on services.
All in all, it is important to stay focused on what you set out to do with your new business in the first place. What was the reason you started the business? It is important to perfect your products/services before going out and chasing new shiny objects. It has been said that it is better to do one thing very well than to do many things very badly. Keep focused on what you do well and the money and investors will come. Not to mention customers. When the core of your business is perfected, then you will be able to spend some time and money on improving everything else. Always remember to learn from your mistakes too. Failure is going to happen in some aspect or another. Just make sure that you use the knowledge of that failure to benefit your business in the future. Stay learning for a lifetime.