Even if most topics in business management tend to seem rather technical, methodical, and dry, the truth is a business is a lot like a dynamic living organism. It’s why many organic terms, such as “growth,” “development,” and “maturity” have become an accepted part of business vocabulary.
When you look at your business like an organic entity, the key business decisions you make day in, day out, begin to take on new meaning. No decision is made in a vacuum. Every move, big and small, will either lay the foundation for business growth and development or stifle it. It’s your job to make sure that the sum total of your decisions lead your business towards growth or else it will just whither away- taking with it all time, money, and energy you invested in it.
But, how can you tell if your business is headed in the right direction? See if you recognize these 10 factors that can effectively stunt the growth and development of your business:
1. You’re too focused on short-term gain. Many of the factors that follow can often be traced back to the owner’s lack of patience and long range foresight. Regardless of the reason behind it, once a business owner puts more importance on short-term gain and instant payouts over a bigger gain in the long-run, the demise of the business will surely follow. It may not happen in one day, but it will happen, and it will be quite obvious to customers and potential business partners as well. Sometimes this happens in a business not because the owners are inpatient, but because they are too financially dependent on their business’ performance.
2. You have no or limited access to outside financing. For anyone who follows me on The Frugal Entrepreneur, you know that I’m a big supporter of bootstrapping and a general frugal approach to business. But the reality of bootstrapping for the majority of businesses is that it will slow down your potential growth. If you don’t have ready access to funds- whether it’s a line of credit, a business loan, or even a significant pool of your personal financial resources- then it will be hard growing and developing your business quicker than a snail’s pace. This is due to the fact that you have to wait to invest in necessary equipment, supplies, and/or additional workers, until you have amassed enough revenues to cover these expenses.
3. You don’t think of your employees as valuable assets… and you don’t treat them that way. Your employees make your business go round. If your employee satisfaction is at an all-time low, then it will hold your business back in several ways: your employees will be less productive, they’ll be less likely to offer their ideas about how to do things better (ideas that could be saving your business a ton of money), and they will in general take less initiative on the job. Their dissatisfaction will also effectively push customers away.
4. You’re not investing enough in your equipment and furnishings. Chalk this one up to Mother Nature. No matter how well you maintain your business’ equipment and furniture, they will eventually, become outdated, obsolete, or just plain too old to be put into service. This is especially true for any kind of electronic equipment. If you don’t make a sufficient effort to revamp or replace the old assets that have gone past their prime, then you may be exposing your business to an assortment of added expenses, such as repair costs, down time and lost productivity. You may also lose customers to any competitors that have better equipment
5. You’re not paying enough attention to your competition. There are two main reasons why you will be missing out by not looking at what your competitors are doing. First, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of these companies and how these things are effecting their performance can give you vital information about your target market’s preferences. If your competitors are succeeding, then what is it about their products and services that people are drawn to? You can also use the information you get about your competition to help you differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors.
6. You aren’t cultivating customer feedback. If you aren’t actively trying to get your customers to tell you how they are feeling about your business- what is their overall customer experience, what is currently working, what additional things would they like see, what do they wish could be changed- then you are missing out on a golden opportunity to improve your business and strengthen customer engagement and loyalty.
7. You aren’t delegating. If you want your business to grow then that automatically includes bringing in a sufficient amount of other people to help you run your operations. There are several ways to delegate jobs: You can give your current employees more autonomy and input; you can hire additional workers to complete certain roles, or you can hire contractual workers for specific jobs- especially those tasks that you have neither the time, interest, nor the expertise to complete.
8. You aren’t reaching out to other businesses and professionals. If you are not actively persuing some synergy with other businesses, professionals, or peers then you may be missing out on countless, amazing opportunities to expand your reach ( via co-promotion), reduce costs (via group purchasing), and increase your product or service offerings via some strategic partnership.
9. You are not paying enough attention to industry trends. The minute you take your eyes off the road, you are susceptible to crashing. If you don’t have your eyes and ears trained on key market and industry trends, then you will be setting yourself up to miss the boat on significant industry shifts and leave a wide opening for competitors to gain valuable market share.
10. You have a negative attitude. Last, but certainly not least, your own attitude can hold your business back. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you are putting out negative vibes, if you are cynical, argumentative, unyielding, or just plain pessimistic about the future, then rest assured your employees and customers will pick up on it and send that same negative energy right back at you. As a small business owner with limited resources, you just can’t afford lose either current and potential customers or your talented employees because of an unpleasant and unproductive attitude.
In short, your business will be what you put into it. If you make an effort to nurture the key areas of your business and are mindful of the pitfalls mentioned above, then your business will be in the best position it can be to flourish.