17 Absentminded Mistakes That Will Cost Your Business Big Time
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Distracted by daily tasks and critical goals, most entrepreneurs let a lot of seemingly unimportant issues slip through the cracks.
Business owners often make the mistake of overlooking small changes and tweaks that they could make that would do wonders for their bottom line.
These are among the silliest things entrepreneurs do that negatively affect their business:
1. Accepting too much responsibility. The much praised “can do” attitude is more limiting than it sounds. Business owners who insist that they can do it themselves unintentionally neglect the efficiencies that come with delegating tasks to others, including outsourcing. Leaders lacking skills in certain areas should accept their role as being responsible for recruiting smart candidates who will excel in their roles and lighten the leaders' workload.
2. Assuming debt. Debt financing is a viable option for businesses that are unwilling to give up equity, but loans from banks and investors can be hard to come by and can cost more than they’re worth to a company. If a firm expects to grow 10 percent in the next year, it will be hard to justify taking on a loan that accumulates 15 percent annual interest. Credit cards, with up to a 21.99 percent annual percentage rate are an even clumsier way to finance a company.
3. Being unresponsive. As of January, 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone according to the Pew Research Center. Businesses that generate a lot of leads, revenue and sales online are leaving a ton of money on the table if their sites are not mobile optimized. Few customers have enough patience to pinch, zoom or finger drag to read or see anything on a website.
4. Communicating the wrong thing. Entrepreneurs have the job of ensuring everyone on the team is on the same page. Though it is tedious to be careful with words, clarify points and overcommunicate; communication failures easily create new issues and damage morale. It is better to err on the side of caution than allow someone to misinterpret meaning.
5. Counting research as a productive activity. Reading about startups, management, marketing or programming is a waste of time if an entrepreneur doesn't put that knowledge to use. I’m all for personal enrichment. That being said, I’m also a firm believer that if people can’t turn information into action and create value, they haven’t done anything productive.
6. Failing to encourage action. Every page on a company's website should serve a purpose. It is very altruistic for a business to create content that informs consumers about the industry or teaches them something new, but opportunity is lost without a meaningful call to action on every page.
7. Forgetting about site performance. A fancy site is nice, but no one will ever see it if it takes minutes to fully load. Digital audiences are impatient and will not hesitate to bounce, finding their way out of a website’s proverbial door.
8. Forgoing vacations. An executive's relationship to work is toxic if he or she feel unable to stay away from the computer for a full work week, let alone a few hours. The feeling of constant anxiety is all too familiar to many business owners. Stress and burnout are serious issues. What's being ignored is that the costs of running on a tank that's half full are significantly higher for the leader and the business than expensing a five-day resort getaway in Aruba.
9. Limiting your social media reach. Although it is harder than ever for companies to have their messages heard as a result of algorithm changes by search engines and competing marketing campaigns, users can do some of the work. Adding obvious social share buttons make it a no-brainer for any site visitor to "like," tweet or pin a company's awesome content.
10. Loosely tying up loose ends. A change to a business leader's contact information can be as painless as an Uber ride without surge pricing, but it is a nightmare for acquaintances, customers and friends who find it nearly impossible to reach the person. Though it is a common practice to alert one's contacts about a new address, email or phone number, consider having forwarding services for an extended time. One never knows when someone from a former life may ping with the next six-figure deal.
11. Making decisions without data. Without using performance metrics, making the same mistakes over and over again is easy. Use analytics to identify fundamental problems with the business such as a leak in the sales-conversion funnel or a high customer-attrition rate.
12. Mismanaging supplier relations. Neglecting to inform suppliers about slow months when they expected a steady stream of orders can quickly put a business on their less-preferred client list. This, done over several months, may eventually cause them to fire a company and label it as an unreliable partner. Earn their trust by being upfront and honest to cement the foundation for a viable long-term relationship.
13. Missing a marketing moment. It's a miserable user experience when users click on a link that reaches an unimaginative 404 page. Optimize the error pages for the company's website in a way that makes users giggle at the hiccup rather than shake their head in disappointment. Lack inspiration? These are among the best 404 pages on the internet.
14. Paying too much to receive payments. Credit card processing is expensive. Most merchants are at the mercy of firms that charge 2.9 percent plus 30 cents a transaction. Cheaper alternatives worth adopting exist, such as LevelUp, which charges businesses 1.95 percent, or Freshbooks, which partners with PayPal to charge a 50-cent flat fee for online payments.
15. Selling features, not solutions. Customers have a slew of problems, yet a company's products and services won’t mean anything to them unless the benefits are spelled out. Features only tell part of the story while most customers really only want to hear the spoiler, which is how a particular offering can help them in their current situation.
16. Skimping on scale. It is easy to scoff at the idea of spending hundreds of dollars each month for something as basic as web hosting. Although a current plan offers the best value at $19 per month, a company owner might wish he or she had upgraded months ago if the website crashes. It's possible to lose more in sales during a site outage than it costs to upgrade to premium web hosting.
17. Taking SEO for granted. For many websites, search still drives about 40 percent of overall traffic. Optimizing the company's content for search engines isn’t rocket science, and while it has become an advanced skill for many marketers, most entrepreneurs simply need a basic understanding of SEO to reap the benefits.
As a business owner, what numbskull mistakes have you made that cost you more than monthly office rent?