Being a business owner is challenging. Not only do you carry the enormous weight of transforming a vision into reality on your shoulders, you do so while also attempting to balance these business pursuits with your personal life, managing a workforce and handling the financial ramifications of business ownership.
Unfortunately, given all of these competing demands, it can be easy to let bad business habits sneak into your daily life, undetected. To prevent this from happening, you must be vigilant in guarding against the following business mistakes – all of which can threaten your growing company if left unchecked.
Mistake #1 – Failing to lead by example
One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners and other managerial types making is the failure to lead by example. Basically, we tell our employees to do one thing – and then turn around and contradict ourselves by doing the complete opposite.
The results, as you might expect, are decreased confidence in your ability to lead effectively and lower overall morale – both of which are situations you want to avoid as a business owner. When you’re running a small company or managing a small team of workers, you need all hands on deck – and you can’t do that if you’re constantly undermining yourself in front of your employees!
The solution here is to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Whenever you give employees feedback or make corrections to some element of their performance, ask yourself whether you do the same thing as well. As an example, asking a slow worker to be better about meeting deadlines isn’t likely to carry much weight if you’re perpetually delayed in getting him needed instructions or materials as well.
Mistake #2 – Allowing fear to dictate your decisions
Believe me, I get it. There’s plenty to be scared about when you’re running your own business – from concerns over whether your current product line is meeting your clients’ needs as effectively as possible to fears that any major business decisions (from leasing new space to taking on new employees and more) will bankrupt your company.
But, of course, you probably already know that you can’t allow these fears to control how you run your business. If we all gave into these fears, there’d be no Apple and no Microsoft – really, there’d be no innovators in any space willing to overcome the scariness of risk taking and innovation.
For me, the key to this business mistake has always been to have mentors who keep me in line. Often, I’ll find myself explaining new ideas to these people – hemming and hawing while I try to justify why they might or might not work. My mentors’ answers for me are nearly always to quit letting fear disrupt my path and to just do it already – and you should do the same!
Mistake #3 – Not recognizing the difference between busy work and effective work
As a business owner, your time is limited. As a result, taking the time to focus on one project automatically means drawing your attention away from another – not necessarily because you believe in one project more than another, but because the reality is that time is finite.
Because of this, you must be crystal clear that you’re focusing on the right priorities at any given time – and that means being able to recognize the difference between busy work and effective work.
Effective work involves those projects that move your business towards its goals in a meaningful way. It encompasses the tasks that only you can do (versus those that can be outsourced to others) and serves to grow your business according to the goals and principles you’ve set out for yourself.
Busy work, on the other hand, meets none of these criteria. Essentially, you’re engaging in busy work to feel more productive – even though the tasks you’re engaging in aren’t those that will make a substantive difference in your business’s success.
I can’t tell you which of the tasks you’re dedicating your time to can be considered “busy” and which constitute “effective” uses of your time – only you can do that by asking yourself, “Is the work I’m doing truly necessary to achieve my business goals?” But do make it a priority to question your actions regularly, as any busy time you recapture can make a huge difference in your overall productivity levels.
Mistake #4 – Refusing to let go of control
When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that nobody else can do the work you’re doing. Even though it’s incredibly unlikely that you have formal training in all the different areas of business operation – from financial, to technical, to graphic design and more – it can be difficult to allow others to play a role in the vision you have for your growing company.
Of course, the obvious reality is that you can’t do everything. By trying to retain control over every facet of your business’s operation, you’re ultimately hindering its growth by failing to bring on capable team members who can allow you to focus on the things you do best.
If you struggle to let go, make a list of all the items that have been piling up on your “to do” list (the ones you always say you’re going to get to later, but then never do) and choose the one that’s least important to you and your business. Outsource or delegate this one task to another worker in order to gradually become more comfortable with the process of letting go of control.
Mistake #5 – Failing to pay attention to your health
I know you’re busy and that your growing business or ever-increasing work demands require more of your energy and effort than ever before. As a result, it’s incredibly tempting to take shortcuts – whether that means getting less sleep than you really need or relying on chemical stimulants to get you through the day.
Well, guess what? These shortcuts can take a major toll on your health over time – and if you don’t have your health, you sure as hell don’t have a functioning business!
Your health is one of your biggest assets, yet it’s often one of the lowest items on the totem pole for entrepreneurs and managers. You simply can’t allow this to happen, as burnout and its resulting medical issues can take as big a toll on your productivity and profit as a lost client or failed deal.
Instead, find a way to incorporate proper sleep, regular exercise, nutritious meals and other healthy habits into your daily schedule. Though this may require you to delegate even further or limit your involvement in some projects, the end result of being better able to serve your business over the long run will be well worth your efforts.
Mistake #6 – Not separating your business life from your personal life
Similarly, keep in mind that all work and no play makes entrepreneurs dull people! In addition to making time for healthy living practices in your schedule, it’s important to make time for your personal life as well.
Really, there’s more to life than work – though, if you continually prioritize your business activities over your personal pursuits, you might be surprised to find out that the people and activities you used to love are no longer there to support you. This is a huge mistake to make, as your friends, family members and hobbies all provide a welcome – and necessary – respite from the demands of the modern business environment.
To make sure these relationships remain intact, set boundaries on your business life to prevent it from overflowing into your personal life. Limit the amount of work you take home and make it a habit to shut your phone off at certain times – do whatever you need to do in order to retain some time that’s yours and yours alone.
Mistake #7 – Settling for a mediocre vision
Finally, while the previous few points make it sound like I want you to limit your involvement in your business, what I don’t want you to compromise on is the vision you hold for your company’s future.
Mediocre visions don’t inspire anyone – from the clients you rely on to provide your business with income to the employees you count on to turn these dreams into reality. So think big! Don’t make it a goal to expand to 10 employees – aim for 100. Don’t try to make a product that’ll help users complete a small task in less time – try to revolutionize the way these customers interact with their world.
Bold, dynamic visions can be found in the mission statements of nearly all successful startups and companies, so don’t compromise and settle on mediocre goals. Figure out how you can change the world, and then make it your mission to go out and do it!
Now, let me be totally clear – I haven’t mastered all of these different mistakes, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you to do so immediately after reading this article either. I’ve struggled with all of these habits and more over my last 5-6 years as a business owner.
But what’s important isn’t that you’re 100% perfect when it comes to entrepreneurial management. What matters is that you make an effort to be better each and every day – over time, the small steps you take will add up to big successes!