Small Business Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

Startup tips Business advice
Estimated read time: 7 mins
Published: 22/11/2019

It’s easy to make small business mistakes as you build your empire. When trying to scale up your business, there are many different things to consider, and poor decisions can set you back.

We’ve listed 19 common small business mistakes, including cultural mistakes, marketing mistakes, and communication mistakes – and how to avoid them.

19 Common Small Business Mistakes

1. Charging too little

Of course, you’re keen to get work and build up your client list; but don’t sell yourself short. Undervaluing and under-pricing your product may work in the short term, but if you can’t make enough to cover your overheads, costs and other outgoings, it’s unsustainable. Set a fair yet competitive price based on your costs, competition and competence – and rather than decreasing your prices, work out what you can do to add further value to customers. Charging too little is a key commercial small business mistake that many owners make.

2. Using the wrong social media

More doesn’t mean better. It’s not about how many social media platforms you’re on, but whether they are relevant to your business, audience and aims. Think about the strengths of each of the key social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest – and whether they serve your purpose. For example, LinkedIn is a great social network to focus on if you’re a B2B company, and Instagram is a great B2C platform. Choose wisely; because if you can’t maintain compelling content with regular updates on all the platforms you’ve signed up to, your brand will suffer. This is one of the most common small business marketing mistakes.

3. Poor time management

Poor time management is one of the most common business mistake companies make.

Your productivity is suffering, yet you’re working all the hours in the day. It’s not the quality of your work, it’s the quality of your organisation. Review how you approach tasks and manage your workload.

Can you improve how you prioritise work and divide up your day? This is a surprisingly common small business mistake that can be easily avoided with a bit of pre-planning.

4. Not setting clear goals

An important part of starting a business is laying out clear goals and creating strategies to get there. Unfortunately, many small businesses make the mistake of failing to set clear goals at the start, and then stick to them. This can cause businesses to fall off track – which can be damaging as you’re trying to get off the ground. There are plenty of helpful guides to small business goals setting out there.

5. Becoming isolated

Your first office is likely to be your living room with occasional relocation to the local café. Either way, it can be a pretty lonely life, and not necessarily a productive one if your only sounding board is the cat. The cost of those turmeric chai lattés can soon eat into any profit. Joining a shared workspace like Work.Life has myriad benefits, not least gaining a work/life balance, social interaction, and office facilities at your fingertips. We have different memberships available to suit different needs; Flex, Local and Resident.

6. Not taking a holiday

When you work for yourself, you’re usually the first one you neglect. Remember that you’re allowed a vacation and you can take time off if you’re sick. You might think working through the year without a holiday is admirable. It’s actually unproductive. Fire up that motivation, morale and mood by giving your brain some quality time off from your business. If you absolutely can’t tear yourself away from your business for a few days, try mixing it up by visiting different office spaces – this will help stimulate creativity and reboot your brain. Consider a phone answering service such as Verbatim, to allow you to take short breaks without worrying about missing calls. With Flex and Unlimited memberships, you get access to all Work.Life coworking spaces – helping you stay productive day-in, day-out.

7. Losing perspective

Maybe you’ve fallen out of love with your industry, or your ideas or circumstances have changed. Take a reality check; and consider if it’s worth the time, effort and expense of continuing the business in its current form. Have the courage to re-assess your strategy and aims, even if that means a completely new offering. No-one will have passion for your business if you don’t, so if you are losing perspective, try to re-focus your efforts.

8. Not delegating

You may be a one-man band at the start of your business journey, but startup growth could require an orchestra. Avoid burnout and stunting the ambitions and potential of your business by trying to do everything yourself. Consider taking on freelancers if full-time employees aren’t cost-effective just yet, there are several freelance websites like Fiverr that can help you find freelancers on a budget. Outsource tasks that prevent you focusing on the big stuff, or those that someone else can do better than you.

9. Not spending on marketing

Think your product is amazing, and wondering why no one is buying it? Spending on marketing is a key business mistake that huge numbers of businesses completely ignore. Marketing is sales, and without effective marketing no-one will know about what you have to offer. Invest in different types of marketing (print, digital, branding, etc) early on, to help grow your business, increase brand recognition, and define your customer base.

10. Not hiring an Accountant

Your best investment as you set up your business is probably getting an accountant. Unless you’re a well-organised maths whizz with the time to stay up to date with tax law, employing an accountant is a good investment. It’s one less time-consuming thing to worry about; and chances are that someone can do it better than you.

11. Forgetting to listen to advice

Not listening to advice is a big mistake. As you grow your business, seek out the advice of other people in your industry, and when you hire talent, trust their expertise. If you’re investing in hiring a marketing expert, for example, there’s no point in overriding or disagreeing with everything they say. Listen to your staff and learn from them as your business grows.

Equally, you don’t have to take any advice from outside influences; not everyone is a reputable source and if you’re sure on something, go with your gut.

12. Making business communication mistakes

Key business communication mistakes examples include:

  • Not speaking to your employees – make sure you know what is going on across the business
  • Avoiding difficult conversations – if you need to deliver bad news to your employees, don’t do so by email, or avoid doing it at all. Speak to your employees face-to-face wherever possible.
  • Using a one-size-fits-all approach – when speaking to your employees, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t necessarily work. Take into account the differences between each of your team members, their personalities, and the work they do.

13. Neglecting your health

Have as much focus on yourself as you have on your business. There won’t be a business if you don’t look after yourself or stop doing the things you love. If you don’t have time to cook healthy meals, fail to see friends, cancel your favourite exercise class or miss out on doing your hobby, it’s time to reassess if you’re running your business or the business is running you. Avoiding burnout is a tricky thing to master when setting up and growing your own business; but it’s important to bear in mind if you want to be successful.

14. Ignoring your competition

Ignoring the competition is one of the worst mistakes you can make as a small business. There is always going to be competition in your industry; so recognise what they do well, and highlight where you think you could do better. Learn from competitors’ mistakes so that you don’t make the same ones. Don’t obsess over following their every move; but do keep an eye on what they are doing to help inform and drive your business strategy. Ignoring competition is also one of the most common small business marketing mistakes. Reviewing your competitors’ website and blog is a great place to start.

15. Not hiring the right staff

Especially in the early days of your business, hiring the right talent will be a key part of your strategy. To make sure you are hiring the right staff, make sure you’ve laid out what you are looking for in an employee from the start (read our talent management guide for inspiration). Throughout the interview process, remember the qualities you have set out to look for; and stick to these to help you hire the right talent.

16. Not utilising new tech

From sales to marketing, technology can be a huge help to teams. Not utilising new technology can be damaging to businesses, as other companies in your space do so. Marketing automation software, customer relationship management, and web analytics can help you to understand your customer, what areas you succeed in and where you can improve.

17. Not knowing your customer

As small business mistakes go, not knowing your customer is a big one. As businesses start to grow, they will often make sweeping statements about their customers, where they come from and what they are looking for. It’s important for them to stay in-tune with their customers, regularly analysing their customer base.

18. Not having a website

For modern startups, not having a website is almost always a bad move. So much is now digital that it makes sense for companies across all industries to have a well-designed, informative website that contains business information and sells the product or service. Online is now how most customers find businesses, so not having a website can be really damaging. As a starting point, use a customisable website builder like Wix or Squarespace.

19. Overspending

Underspending on aspects of your business can be dangerous; but so is overspending. A key commercial mistake business owners make is spending big on flashy dinners, fancy equipment and tools they think they need early on. In reality, it’s better to be more conservative at the start, and only invest in things you know will bring tangible results.

Work.Life can help small businesses thrive. With convenient national locations, networking opportunities, social events and agile working environments, we support small business owners and budding entrepreneurs as they look to grow.

Ready to join Work.Life? Book a tour here.


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