Don't Make These Business Mistakes!
Why do some businesses succeed and others fail? There are hundreds of books on this topic. Every business school can offer tomes of knowledge to answer this question. So why am I weighing in? Because in the last few weeks, I’ve observed a bunch of local businesses making these very mistakes.
If people don’t know you exist, you can’t have any word-of-mouth.
1. Not taking credit cards when your customers want to pay with a credit card. I’m thinking about a few local restaurants in particular. I rarely carry cash, and find it frustrating when I am forced to go find an ATM to pay for a pizza. It’s enough to dissuade me from going back again.
2. Relying only on word of mouth. Hey, word-of-mouth is the best kind of business. The best salesman you can get is the free one – evangelists that are such big fans of your product that they are willing to stake their own reputation on it and send their friends or colleagues your way. But it takes something to earn that kind of fan. Until then, you have to hit the streets – handing out business cards, networking, advertising, etc. If people don’t know you exist, you can’t have any word-of-mouth.
3. Picking a terrible location. Convenience is a HUGE factor in making insignificant decisions. If I have a choice between two equal stores (based on quality, price), I go to the one that’s easier to get to. What makes it easier? Closer, easier access, better design, faster service, etc. There are a few stores and restaurants in South Bend with parking lots that you can’t turn left into. You have to find a place to turn around and then turn right into their place. Is it any wonder that all of those locations seem to turn over everything 2-3 years?
If you’re not proud of the work you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.
4. Being inconsistent. Customers have expectations. It’s what makes up your brand. Inconsistency means you can’t make up your mind. Even when the experience is generally positive, customers who don’t know what to expect will avoid your business. In E-Myth, Michael Gerber describes a barber that kept changing things around. At one appointment, he was offered coffee. At the next, he was offered champagne. Each time the decor was a little different and the treatment, while always positive, was a surprise. People hate surprises.
5. Believing that the customer is always right. At “fancy” restaurants (you know, with a chef that designed the dishes he’s preparing), when the waiter asks you how you like your meat cooked the correct answer is “I’ll leave that to the chef’s discretion.” The fact is, the chef knows a lot better than you how the lamb should be cooked and served. In the vendor-customer relationship, you’re the expert. It doesn’t mean you’re always right, but you have to stand up for your product when it matters. If you’re not proud of the work you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.
If you don’t keep them happy, you won’t keep them at all.
6. Forgetting your employees Happy employees are worth their weight in gold. Work hard to get excellent staff and then work harder to keep them there. If you treat them badly, you’ll see it in their work and how they interact with your customers. And eventually, you’ll lose them. No matter how replaceable employees may be, it’s harder (and more expensive) to replace an employee. If you don’t keep them happy, you won’t keep them at all.
Learn from others’ mistakes
An exercise for you to try: observe other businesses and look at the mistakes they are making. Think about what they’re currently doing that is working against them. Businesses start and fail all the time. Of course it is from the successes that we can learn what to do, but it is from the failures that we can learn what not to do.