Like most small business owners I’ve made plenty of mistakes with getting my company off the ground. Here are 5 of the biggest.
When I started my company I thought a) I knew everything and b) that people would beat a path to my door to fall over themselves to employ me. I thought that as soon as they heard my pitch that would be it – “Home Run!”. Of course I opened my doors and…nothing, at least for a while. As I started getting business I realized that I’d have to work hard for each and every client and that nothing was guaranteed. Even when someone clearly could AND should my services I learned that there were many factors stopping this from happening. I’ve got better at identifying those factors but that still doesn’t mean everything is a home run – I’m now much happier with singles!
2. Underestimating the power of networking
After starting my own business I joined the local Chamber of Commerce. I floated around trying to get some traction when I was introduced to the world of networking – a world where the intense sales pitch was frowned upon and the phrase “give to get” was the order of the day. I almost dismissed it all as new age mumbo jumbo until I realized that the most involved practitioners were also the most successful business people. Some had been networking for 20+ years and didn’t do any other marketing and were super successful – What? How could that be possible? Simple – networking works if you give it time. Because of the “time” element the sooner you start the better the results – I certainly wish I’d started sooner.
3. Not asking for referrals
Still working on this one. I joined a local LeTip Business Networking group where referrals are the name of the game but of course it’s just as important to ask your existing clients for referrals and testimonials – maybe more important because they actually have first-hand experience with your work.
4. Spending needlessly on low-return marketing efforts
The world has changed with the advent of the internet – that much is clear. But getting traction online is hard so wouldn’t it be better to spend money on more traditional marketing methods? Direct mail, newspaper ads, etc? While I know that there are still some industries that NEED to market themselves via these vehicles the answer for me and I suspect most small businesses is a resounding NO! Every “traditional” method I used landed with a sickening thud with nothing to show for them other than a reduced bank balance. For me its much cheaper and I (and my clients) get much better ROI with new marketing methods such as Inbound Marketing and Pay-Per-Click advertising.
5. Not starting sooner
I had the original idea for going out on my own probably 15 years ago but I didn’t do it. Why? Because I was scared to give up what was at the time a well-paying secure job. Of course at the next downturn my “secure” job wasn’t so secure and after having a job, then not having a job, then having a job again and then not having a job again I finally decided to take the plunge. Although my salary may not have hit the heights of some of my paid employment I can honestly say I never been happier with what I do every day and only wish I had started sooner.
What’s your biggest mistake? And how did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net