Whether you’re in business for yourself, leading an organization or performing a role inside one, there are ways to make a real impact and then ways to, well, not. However, when you’re in business for yourself, there tends to be much less room for error—hence the overwhelming failure rate of new and small businesses. The following list is not meant to be authoritative or exhaustive, but it does hit on the most common ways of being and acting that take entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employed professionals “out of the game”.
So, here are 7 steps to a mediocre microbusiness– and perhaps any endeavor at all (though for each one, I’ve detailed the opposite path, just in case you’re actually someone committed to being extraordinary):
Simply, this is a waste of time and energy. You will encounter enough obstacles on your path, and it will serve you well to realize that indulging in complaint only reinforces those obstacles. Deal with the reality of the situation, choose a path forward, and move. Oh, and complaining aloud will only serve to drive away others, which is not something you want to be doing.
2. Play The Blame Game
Own your results. Holding other people or external circumstances responsible for your performance robs you of your power to impact a situation that’s not working, and even robs you of full satisfaction when something does work. Take the view that it’s not the economy, your industry, your technology, the holidays, the people around you, “big business”, etc. that determine your results—fundamentally, it’s you. We’re all familiar with the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility”, right? Well, less widely recognized but also true: With great responsibility comes great power. Seize it.
3. Wait For The Right Moment
There’s no such thing as “the right moment” out in the future, so stop waiting for it. The right moment is the one where you act, so act. Worse-case scenario, you learn something. At least something gets done.
4. Do What You’re Okay At and Comfortable With
This is especially a killer for the one-person operation. If you are on your own or only have a small team, then you will likely need to perform many distinct roles, and well. The fact that you don’t like accounting is irrelevant—someone needs to ensure that the business is working on a bottom-line level or you will inevitably end up in a bad place. Hate the thought of being “sales-y”? Well, either get over your limiting opinions of selling or find/create an approach that works for you or you won’t make any money. We all have strengths, and we certainly want to design our business with those strengths and passions being utilized, but unless you have the resources to enlist some help, you will need to regularly perform functions that aren’t on your “favorites” list—even if it requires some learning, mistakes and discomfort.
5. Focus On Your Feelings
Sometimes you need to set your mood aside and do what needs to be done. And “what needs to be done” is determined by the combination of your strategy and your situation, not your feelings. Emotions come and go, and though they are a part of what makes us human, they must be buoyed by your commitment(s) if what you want is sustainable high performance. Design a clear strategy, lay out the framework and processes to fulfill on your objectives (including specific measurable results to manage for) and then do what there is to do.
6. Show Up Late
Coming through on what’s expected is the foundation of trust, respect and workability. How you handle the simple things like being on time (and prepared) for meetings, returning calls and messages in a timely manner and so forth says something to the people that you’re interacting with, and given a choice, people tend not to do business with people they don’t trust and don’t view as reliable. Set aside your justifications and opinions, and manage yourself, and your time, like it matters. It does.
7. Speak Jargon
This is about emphasizing benefits over features, and speaking a language people understand. People buy, apply, refer and so on because of the end result (and experience) you provide them, which satisfies some concern of theirs– not because what you’re offering is technically complex or “cool” sounding. And even if people are engaged by how passionate you are about what you do, and even if they think you sound really smart, it won’t matter in the end if they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about or how it serves them and what they care about.
So, there they are, informed by my experience with clients and associates and connections, and of course my own experiences. Yes, I’ve committed every “sin” on this list at one time or another, and in some cases many times over. It happens. The key is to set yourself up for success, avoid these tendencies when they show up, and learn from the damage they cause. It’s a never-ending process, but surely a worthwhile one. And like any subjective list, I’ve likely omitted some big ones—can you think of any?
Let me know what you think of the list and if it hits home for you, and feel free to contact me or my colleagues for some proven tactics to avoid these pitfalls. Onward and upward.