Avoiding Common Mistakes in Small Business Ownership

Owning a business can be very intimidating, even when owning a small business. The pressure to be successful is always a hindrance, especially when competing with larger businesses. There are common mistakes small business owners make along the way that could have been easily avoided. In order to ensure the success of your small business, it is imperative to avoid these mistakes:

 

Failing to Plan

No matter the size of the business or how it got started, there must always be a business plan. This is vital to the success of the business and what will help it stay on its feet. Although it can be a bit tedious and seem pointless, it’s the most important step to running a business. Make sure to do the proper research and identify the market potential. Before your business takes off, be sure to have a business plan, marketing plan, and financial plan in place.

 

Undervaluing the Business

Whether it be lack of confidence or lack of proper market research, a common mistake first-time business owners will make is undervaluing their products and services. This could ultimately lead to a business’s failure because they’re not realizing their uniqueness and the value of what sets them apart. In order to avoid this, it’s important to do extensive market research to understand your value. Instead of realizing you’ve been undervalued when it’s too late, identify your best selling start price ahead of time. 

 

Hiring Too Late

When a small business first gets off its feet, often times there aren’t many employees. This is normal, but shouldn’t last for very long. When the business finally gains momentum and starts to take off, often times they haven’t hire the right amount of employees to assist with the growing demand. Waiting too long to hire can lead to hiring incompetent employees which can reflect poorly on your business. It’s important to delegate small tasks at the beginning instead of waiting until you are desperate. 

 

Not Having a Website

In today’s new technology age, not having a website for your business is a death wish. Every business, no matter what kind it is or the products they sell, must have an online platform. Not only does this give your business instant marketing, but it also establishes itself as professional in the eyes of consumers. There are many web-hosting companies that will host your site, design, maintain, and market it for you for very low monthly prices.

Handle Entrepreneurial Stress like a Professional

geoffrey-byruch-stressIn being an entrepreneur, you have to learn to juggle many different ideas, projects, and tasks all at the same time. This must all be done while you are also trying to build up your own company and create success within your business. One of the significant issues that come into play when entrepreneurs are dealing with multiple things at one time is stress.

Stress is something that hits us all in different ways when we have too much on our plate. The way we handle stress is essential to whether we are successful or not. Not managing your stress can lend itself to a great deal of failure in the entrepreneurial world, and your business will suffer because of it.

Understanding the effects of stress and what causes stress are the first steps to success and also healthily dealing with stress. When you are stressed, your mind automatically begins to think negatively and therefore, shuts down the possibilities of innovation and utilizing your brain to its full capacity. The best thing you can do is realize you are indeed stressed and make a choice to think positively with a small amount of stress. This way, you will continue making plans and ideas that will push yourself and your company forward.

Another way to handle your stress is by removing unnecessary worry. A lot of times, entrepreneurs and business leaders take on a lot at once, and many times, they worry about things that are out of their control. Take the time to make a list of everything that is currently on your mind and stressing you out. Then go through and either delegate things to others or shift your focus from the things that aren’t yours to handle to the issues you can personally deal with.

Instead of continuing to take on project after project or even more clients than your company can handle, just to grow your business, only take on what you can complete right now. If your business is not ready for the influx of clients, then do not take the extra work onto your plate. The same goes for projects. Learn to delegate and take work off of your plate and give it to others who have the extra time to do it. This removes the continued downward spiral of work piling up on top of the work that is already there. It will also help to remove that stress for you.

Managing Customer Relationships in Your Small Business

geoffrey-byruch-handsThere are a few key items that your small business should value, but the most important are the customers. They form the backbone that helps the business achieve its goals, fulfill its mission, and realize financial growth. Experts advocate for small businesses to invest heavily in the realization of their goals by taking a series of measures that focus on managing customer relationships. Here is an idea of how your small business can approach the entire concept of customer relationship management.

Understand your customers first
The first thing to do is to build an overall and individual understanding of your customers by coming up with an appropriate profile of every customer in the business. The profile should be comprised of valuable information such as the customers’ details among other personal but insensitive details. The profile created helps your business to gain an overview of what to do in the bid to nurture a good relationship.

Express passion and sympathy in customer service
The next step is to develop a well-integrated system within your customer service department where customers are handled passionately and with emphasis on empathy. When serving your customers, expressing genuineness gives them the impression that your business is caring and thus outstanding.

Invest in CRM solutions
The entire concept of managing thousands of your businesses’ customers can be so complicated and challenging. To make your work easier, you may need to invest in the various CRM solutions designed for small businesses. Such solutions come in handy in helping your small business to manage its customers efficiently without having to worry about the multitude of data that you will have to deal with.

Build a long-term relationship
Customer relationship management should be approached as a long-term project and idea. The relationships you target and build upon can exhibit benefits if they are nurtured to maturity in the long term. It, therefore, requires patience and emphasis on resilience to ensure that such relationships endure the test of time.

Incorporate CRM in your marketing
When marketing yourself to your existing and potential customers, it is important to consider nurturing good customer relations. You may, for instance, focus on giving your existing customers incentives and offers to help build a strong and continuous relationship. Incentives such as offers, discounts, and other forms of customer engagements by your business help create a good impression.

How the Internet of Things is Changing Small Business

geoffrey-byruch-iotThe small business community remains both progressive and ever-changing, and this is arguably best reflected in its embracing of modern technology. The internet of things (IoT), or the embedding of interconnected devices, stands as a key example of such innovation; from heightened time management to increased mobility, its benefits have only grown more profound in recent years, leading more small businesses to consider IoT-based investments.

Here are a few ways the IoT is currently shaping small business.

General productivity

Broadly speaking, the IoT has shown potential in enhancing internal productivity; this currently being observed on a variety of fronts:

  • Virtual assistants and other bot-based resources have increased efficiency by saving time spent on small, yet collectively hindering tasks — from payroll fact checking to the ordering of office supplies.
  • Some IoT workplaces have observed stronger time management tendencies thanks to interconnected scheduling devices. Workers utilizing a Google suite, for instance, are able to stay on top of daily obligations both at their desks and on the go via connected mobile devices.
  • Detailed business insights stemming from IoT technology have grown into a new analytical norm. Many businesses, especially those previously lacking in proper funding, are now able to effectively track and interpret key customer data via their own connected devices, accessing a potentially vast amount of data in a manner that is both quick and, in many cases, cost-friendly.

Equipment management

More specifically, the IoT has made it easier for certain companies to track and maintain equipment and products. IoT sensor technology is currently revolutionizing inventory management, a variable that, like customer data, may have been difficult to broadly oversee in the past while remaining efficient. Higher level supply chains are now able to tap a culture “rich in analytics, insight, and contextual intelligence and accountability for results” (which itself hinges on advanced IoT functionality) without sacrificing time otherwise spent on complex aggregation and subsequent insight analysis — not to mention the additional time spent on physical equipment errors.

With these notions in mind, it is easy to see why business-to-business (B2B) applications of IoT are currently expected to exceed $300 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

Incorporate Pinterest into Your Marketing Strategy

When your business is trying to find the right digital marketing strategy to utilize, there are so many options to choose from. This is especially true when it comes to social media platforms. Because there are lists of different profiles to use, it’s essential to know which is best for your business and which one will give you the most bang for your buck.

One of the great things about digital marketing is the fact that it can be relatively less expensive than regular marketing tactics such as magazines, billboards, and television ads. This is one of the main reasons small businesses look to digital marketing to achieve their goals without having to put all of their money into a few methods that may not bring in their target audience.

To many business owners, Pinterest may not always seem like the “go to” social profile to use for engagement and gaining followers. But, it is in fact, beneficial when you are in the business of selling products rather than services. Pinterest has such a broad reach which can help your business gain a new audience with the proper utilization.

Be sure to become familiar with what the site is used for before developing a digital marketing strategy around it. This is true for any social media profile you decide to use in your business, so you understand the language and differences of the particular media.

One of the first things you should do when either creating your Pinterest business profile or updating a current one is making sure you are indeed registered as a business profile instead of the standard personal site. This will give access to analytics so you can track engagement, audience, followers, and people who view particular boards and pins.

When you begin to create pins, be sure to make them eye-catching to draw attention and gain followers. You will also need to fully optimize them by adding a photo, title, description with relevant hashtags, as well as your keyword.

Pinterest also offers the option to schedule your pins so they will post at certain times as well as paying for advertisements. The profile gives a wide range of options when it comes to paid advertisement depending on your company’s needs. This would include carousel ads, promoted pins, as well as video ads.

Lastly, keep your boards neat and organized. Give your site a theme that represents your company’s brand what you are all about. When you can keep your pins in specific boards organized, it allows your audience to navigate your site and find what they are looking for much easier.

Motivation For Your Small Business Team

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Small businesses definitely have some advantages over large businesses. Smaller teams make it easier to keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. In many cases, small businesses actually outperform larger businesses based on scale. There are some challenges that all businesses face regardless of size, but the answers are not always the same. Small businesses will struggle with keeping their teams motivated the same way larger businesses will, but they may not have the same level of resources to throw into programs to help increase motivation. Here are 3 tips to help keep your small business team motivated.

Regularly recognize their accomplishments
You might be surprised just how far a little recognition can go towards improving employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees tend to be productive employees. While large companies may recognize employee achievements on an annual or semi-annual basis, small businesses have the opportunity to recognize employees on a daily basis. Recognition doesn’t have to be in the form of a plaque or award. Just a few words of acknowledgment of their hard work on a regular basis may actually be even more effective.

Set team goals and create a visual to measure progress
Anyone who has any experience with fundraising knows that simple visuals go a long way towards motivating donors. This is why almost all fundraising sites will have some kind of chart or measuring device to show potential donors how close to the goal the campaign is. The closer a campaign gets to achieving the goal, the more motivated donors become. Some donors may even pledge a second or even third time. The same thing that is true of fundraising is true of your small business.

Provide incentives they actually want
If everyone on your team loves Indian food, then promising a catered lunch from an Indian restaurant might be a great motivator to achieve a specific goal, but not if your entire team does not like Indian food. Providing incentives is a great way to motivate your employees, but not if the incentives are not attractive to your entire team. While they say you can’t please everyone, if you genuinely want to provide an incentive to motivate your entire team, then you will, in fact, have to find an incentive that is equally attractive to them all.

The Power of Saying ‘No’

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Whether you are a young professional fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran entering your first day at your new company, making a strong first impression will always be one of the biggest priorities at the workplace. It is, in itself, an inauguration to the position and professional brand you want to establish the minute you walk through those doors. But as much as it is important to please those around you, it is absolutely imperative that you learn the concept and power to say ‘no’ to certain things.

In today’s society, we are driven by our ideals and endeavors to be the Jack-of-all-Trades at whatever company or organization you are affiliated with. While I will never reprimand a person for giving it their best to a particular position, I will say that when it comes to success, success and all of its glory will come when you know how to pick your battles. To this, I mean saying ‘no.’

Like many others, saying ‘no’ can be an incredibly difficult thing. With the word yes, you are not just accepting new and exciting opportunities, but also assuming new responsibilities for leadership and growth. While the positive gains will always favor that of saying ‘yes,’ you also have to live in the realm of reality. Not everyone can do XYZ while also managing an entire company. Understanding the limits and negative impacts that the word ‘yes’ can have can save you from undoing your success.

To start, as much as saying yes gives you opportunities for success, it also gives you ever-growing responsibilities for stress and anxiety. With a new task, you will be forced to assume various roles that go beyond the standard. Now, it never hurts to assume those particular roles. But if you know said-opportunity will hinder your work, it is your job to evaluate whether or not the overall return on investment and sacrifice is worth the hassle. Yes, you will need these chances to grow, but you also do not want to risk your own personal work because of the addition assignments you take on. Make sure you know your limits. Many young professionals are blinded by the opportunity to move up within the ladder that they end up shooting themselves in the foot because they were not paying attention to their initial responsibilities.  If you know the additional assignments are too much for you, just say no. The only harm a simple ‘no’ can do is that the new assignment will be given to another person.

Now to speak more about saying ‘no,’ the one thing every business will tell you is that quality is, and will always be, better than quantity. It is a simple concept taught to us throughout our formative years but has somehow lost its way when it comes to the corporate environment. While handing a bunch of tasks and completing them will always be seen as an achievement, nothing can showcase your strengths and professional development than the quality of your work. The simple reason is that quality is everything. It provides a stronger attraction and holds a more lucrative profit than anything in the world. When it comes to saying ‘no,’ you want to make sure that those opportunities you do say ‘yes’ to will not impact the quality of your current work. Yes, the work itself will change because of the amount of task you will be assuming, but if you know that the standard of your work will greatly suffer, then say ‘no’ might be your best option. Think of this in baseball terms, if you want to knock it out of the park, one home run will always be better than two doubles. Make your standards and your quality your top priority. Anything else should be secondary unless you know you can handle both tasks.

Lastly, after assessing the request and evaluating an opportunity’s benefits, make sure you say no in a proper and respectful way. Harvard Business Review goes over this concept and outlines specific tips that can help you through this process. First and foremost, after politely declining the opportunity, still show a willingness to pitch, even if it is in a small way. The ability to still be an asset will showcase your versatility and respect within the office. In addition, practice saying ‘no.’ The more you do it, the better and easier it will become. Make sure you are cognizant of your tone and provide a specific logical reason for bowing out at the opportunity. The more transparent and understanding you can be, the better.

Time Management Tips

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When it comes to work, it seems as if our lives become busier and busier each and every day. While it usually impossible to check off everything on your ‘to-do’ list or calendar, there are certain time management tips that you can utilize to help you prioritize your day. This, in turn, will allow you t to alleviate iron out all of the logistics within the workplace, while also alleviating your stress and anxiety at the office.

To begin, it is imperative that you plan ahead. I like to call this backward planning. Yes, we all have a calendar that, at times, dictates our day-to-day. But to create a schedule without an end-goal in mind will leave you scatterbrained and disorganized no matter what you have planned out. To do this efficiently, effectively, and consistently, start by creating a goal of what you want to accomplish within the workweek. You can even go as far as to create a backward plan for the entire month. Whatever is the case, make sure you are planning for the future. From there, you will be able to prioritize various projects and assignments and create a tangible realistic list that you can accomplish each and every day; the more comprehensive your plan and end-goals are, the better. Look at this in the perspective of a teacher. If a teacher is looking to have their students write a book report at the end of the month, they need to make sure they can compile and consolidate various lessons that can help them achieve their goals on a day-to-day basis. While everything cannot be accomplished within a day, having that time frame because of their backward plan strategy will allow them to leverage and capitalize various holes and opportunities for their students Similar to a teacher, you want to make sure you create your daily operations in a similar way. If you know you have a project to accomplish within a three-weeks time, make sure you break it up. This will also give you an opportunity to internalize the problems and task on a deeper level so that you can execute it in the most optimal way possible.

Now to have that sort of plan, make sure you have various systems in place. For many young professionals, one of the biggest mistakes they make is not creating an organizational structure that irons out all of the logistics within the workday. One thing that you absolutely need to master is your calendar. Some people do this in a variety of ways. Whether it is online or by hand, make sure your systems allow you to effectively execute on whatever task you are working with. Allow it to even work in your favor even if there are flaws within the system itself. By creating a system of this magnitude, you will be able to take control of various situations even when they may not seem manageable at the time.  

One way to truly perfect your systems is, of course, perfecting how and what you prioritize within a day. Prioritizing will be an extremely important fact when you are planning your day. While you want to, of course, tackle the toughest and most urgent projects first, you want to make sure you have a specific game plan for each task. Remember, projects of that magnitude will always take time. Because of that, break that task down and prioritize and hit specific objectives that can lead you to your end-goal. By prioritizing your schedule in this way, you will be able to alleviate stress and schedule certain blocks of ‘free time’ to answer calls, respond to emails, and eliminate unnecessary distractions. Remember, a simple email will always be there for you to respond to within a day. But the task of getting a project started will always be the first hurdle to your success within your company.

Now, as much as you want to be a go-getter within the office, you will often find out that some things are just impractical to do. This can be a specific team assignment a person is asking you to do or a new task given to you by your boss. If you know you already have a lot on your plate, do not think you are in the wrong or saying ‘no.’ Saying no can be a powerful tool within your artillery. With the armies of work may be at the gates, you as a professional need to prioritize your time for the more important tasks. Because of this, this will require you to say ‘no’ to particular opportunities, even if they benefit you in the future. If you do see a greater return on investment in those opportunities, try and find a way to capitalize it. If you know for a fact that those opportunities will hinder or impact your work in a negative manner, politely decline. At the end of the day, quality will always be better than quantity. Never mistake that.

Lastly, spend some time reflecting on your day-to-day. If you found that today was filled with stress and anxiety, ask yourself what you could have done to alleviate or lighten your load. At times, that type of positive thinking will help you improve and develop as a professional. One mistake many people make is that they allow those bad days to weigh heavily on them. While bad days will always exist, you cannot allow that to question or doubt your abilities. Everyone has those bad days, but to self-reflect and to find various ways in which you can improve on them through your work schedule will be incredibly beneficial in getting you back on track.

What to Learn from Failure

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The road to success can be a very difficult and arduous task. As a young professional, you will face a variety of different obstacles. But the one biggest obstacle that we all face in life is failure.

While failure itself has a negative stigma associated with it, the concept and overall idea provides great lessons and insights about ourselves. Many people have even gone as far as to say that failure is the great teacher. While true in a way, accepting the concept of failure is harder than that it seems. Why? The problem is that failure is not just cryptic in its nature, but also it is downright damaging. Trying to figure out its lessons is no easy task, especially when you are nursing a bruised ego and are trying to move beyond the frustration, disappointment, and demoralization of the situation. For some people, it takes a few weeks. For others, it takes almost a year. But as much as you can refer to those moments with resentment and hopelessness, it is imperative that you, as an individual, accept them as they are if you want to grow both personally and professionally and move on to greater things.

Now to do this, you need to see these disappointing moments as windows of opportunity. As difficult as it may be, framing these incidences in this manner will allow you to learn and uncover those hidden teachable moments so that you can not just move on, but also grow in a bigger and better way. To help you deduce what exactly those lessons are and how they can help improve your chances of future success, I have provided various guidelines so that you can understand, plan, evaluate, and execute later on down the road.

To being, think back and reflect on those moments. Ask yourself those overarching questions of what happened and why did the result end the way it did. By challenging yourself with those hard-to-ask questions, you will be able to dive deeper into the minuscule flaws that you could have refined to help rectify the situation. Now, this is by no means a way for you to regret anything that you have done. What was done is in the past. The only thing you can do now is to learn from those mistakes and move forward. If there is a way where you can change your style of work or change your style of thinking, do that. If not, try thinking of other alternative routes that can help you get to your end goal.

Once you have self-evaluated and reflected on your goals, it is now time for you to reevaluate your planning and preparation for the next step. For some people, this is just the next project. For others, this is for their next job. Whatever is the case, make sure you spend your planning on the basis of your personal and professional goals. If the task and or job was similar to that specific moment of failure, try and strategizing of various ways of how you can avoid those similar mistakes. Remember, learning to anticipate for hurdles and problems will be your biggest asset starting anew. In the grand scheme of things, a vast majority of people spend a little time planning and deciphering these moments and continue to run into the same obstacles and unexpected circumstances. To prevent that from happening to you, utilize what you know and leverage it to your benefit.

After strong and strategic planning, try and focus on variables in your own control. During the early stages after a failure, you can often feel very passive and helpless going into a variety of situations. That fire that was once there seems to be only a flicker of light that may or may not be extinguished. While the dark times can be suffocating, do not allow that perceptual distortion to push you out of your locus of control. Instead, leverage what you know. Much of this goes back to the strategic thinking and self-reflecting portion of this blog, but to start executing specific objectives will give you the confidence necessary for controlling your failure and putting you back on the path of success.

Keep this in mind; failure is a part of life. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you will never change. See these moments as not the opposite of success but as a part of your growth and success in the future.

Applying to the Big Firms

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With application season continuing all year round, it is imperative as a young professional to truly understand the logistics that goes into applying for a job, especially for the big banking, consulting, and accounting sector. For many of these companies, hiring managers are searching for reasons to rule out applicants. To help better prepare your application in the best light, make sure you invest a strong amount of your time to design a strong and viable foundation that can help design and showcase your personal and professional background and achievements in the best possible way.

Now to start, it is imperative that you understand the type of company and job you want. For many people, it is easy to say that you want to work for Goldman & Sachs or Bain Capital, but to have a strong and holistic understanding of the nature of the job, it is imperative to your job application that you do a sufficient amount of research and cross-examination for that desires and needs of your future employer. To help narrow down your options, think about the kind of position you want and the type of qualifications and assets that you can bring to the table. For many of these high-level positions, they are seeking world-class applicants that are the Jack-of-all-Trades if you will. While this may seem daunting, do not let this discredit your educational and professional work experience. Consider the field and the position and the skills that are required from you and your future employer. If you feel that you have an ample amount of knowledge and skills to handle said-position, continue doing your research. If you feel it may be a bit of a stretch, still do further research. There may be other alternatives for you to get to that position in a different path. The main thing here is for you to create strong and tangible goals that can help proliferate your professional trajectory in the best possible way.

Once you have done a strong overview of the various positions and companies that you are interested in, make sure you take a look at their recruiting timelines. While hiring may be an ongoing thing, do not make the mistake of missing specific recruiting applicant timelines. For many of these big firms, they take weeks, sometimes months to decide if an applicant is right for them. Because of this, they have set specific recruiting timelines in the Fall and Spring, most usually around January to seek prospective applicants from all different backgrounds. By paying attention to the recruiting timelines, you will be able to take advantage of any recruitment events and meet and greets that can get your foot into the door.

Once you have mapped out the recruiting timeline, go back to the drawing board and review the position and application requirements. During this process, you should only have a handful of companies to look at, especially if it is within one of these specific fields and firms. Make sure you do a strong amount of research on the company, the company’s history, and the company’s goals. In addition, look at the application requirements. For these positions, they will go beyond the standard background information and ask you to do various case studies. If they have a particular application toolkit, make sure you utilize that to your advantage. The more prepared you are, the better. In addition, take a look at this in this perspective, much of these interviewing processes are strong learning experiences for the next opportunity. What you say and do that be big factors in helping you move forward in getting that dream job. Now, last but not least, make sure you know what your position entails. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to only know the position by the title itself. Do your research and even ask and interview friends or mentors who are in similar fields. This can give you a greater insight into the type of work you will be doing in the future, while also highlighting your knowledge to a said-hiring manager.  

As you are going through the application process, just know that this will take a lot of time and dedication to truly know the ins-and-outs of the business. Every task and preliminary application case study you will be working on will speak loudly to the type of worker and application you are to whoever is reviewing your work. With that being said, make sure you give yourself an ample amount of time to work on your application. For these companies, they want to see an investment portion as well as the skill during this process. Be cognizant of any mistakes and take a third or fourth look before submitting anything. Any preliminary sloppy work can be incredibly costly to your chances. Remember, not many people have this shot to make it that far. Show them that you are the person that they need.

Last but not least, practice specific interview questions. In many of these situations, you will be asked to interview in a variety of ways: Skype, phone, or in-person interviews. To get you ready for those situations, make sure you have a holistic understanding of your resume, your application coursework, and your knowledge and understanding of the company and the position. Besides the standard application questions, try and think of higher order thinking questions about your previous jobs and what skills can be transferable to that new position. This can give them a greater insight of what you can do for them in the future.

Good luck.