We have all experienced failure at some time or another. For one person, it might be botching an important job interview, for another, it might be working on a third divorce.
For a small business owner, failure is a natural part of the landscape. Every day is another opportunity to succeed or fail.
Here are the most common missteps business owners make:
• "Winging it" as a constant strategy: You built the business to a profitable level on raw instinct, passion, and drive. Now you have employees, customers, and lots of obligations. You're not really sure what to do next. Losing a big client, increased competition, or employee turnover could put you back in the red. Trouble is on the horizon, and you're burying your head in the sand. Optimism is important—but so is having the foresight to realize when you are getting in too deep.
• "It's just the way things were always done": Using the past as a road map for building a long-lasting business may create some issues in today's environment. Increasing competition, a changing economy, and the Internet demonstrate that business has changed dramatically just in the last five to 10 years. If you're not moving forward, you're being left behind. Unfortunately, most old-school business owners find this out after their business has lost profitability, or worse, they've already closed their doors.
• Doing things "alone": Some accomplishments are meant to be done without assistance, such as running a 5K or closing a sale. What should never be done completely alone is building a business. Not having the ability to ask questions or learn from someone more experienced than you is a recipe for disaster. By not having the right business coach, accountant, or strategic partners, a small business owner has little chance of succeeding long term.
If one of the three examples sounds like someone you know, or perhaps even yourself, don't worry—there's still hope. Here are a few simple suggestions that might turn a possible failure into a real opportunity for success.
Idea No. 1: Seek out a business coach or consultant. Learning from someone who has been successful coaching other business owners is one of the easiest ways to grow your business. Be sure the individual coach fits your personality, has a proven track record of success, and solid references you can speak with before making a decision.
Idea No. 2: Find someone in your specific industry who would be willing to help you. Seeking out a mentor who has "been there, done that" might be what you need to help you build your business. For example, if you are in the closet and cabinets business, find someone in a different market who is willing to take you under his or her wing. Weekly meetings over the phone will allow you to ask questions and share ideas with someone who has taken your business route and succeeded.
Idea No. 3: Reading sales- and business-related materials will keep you fresh and sharp in building your business. Talk to the most successful businesspeople you know and ask them what they have read. Ask them, "What did you learn from the last book you read? Has it helped to improve your business?"
Unfortunately, business has never been more challenging than right now. In a world where failure means your livelihood slipping away, it's best not to take chances. If your business is not achieving the results you desire, make the right decision and ask for help.
Steve Fretzin is the founder and president of Sales Results, Inc., a national sales training institution established in 2005. Sales Results, Inc., offers a hybrid of coaching, one-on-one sessions, debriefing sales scenarios, and role-playing exercises. Fretzin also is founder and partner of The Executives Profit, LLC; founder and managing partner of Team Discovery, LLC; and founder and managing partner of Networking Monkey, LLC. Contact Fretzin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.317.1575.