5 Habits That Can Kill Any Small Business – The Motley Fool

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by Dana George | Published on Dec. 7, 2022
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Few things are more satisfying for a small business owner than getting it "just right."
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Over 99% of America's 28.7 million companies are small businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The majority of these businesses have fewer than 20 employees, and almost 40% of them bring in less than $100,000 per year in revenue. Small businesses truly are the backbone of the economy. That's why it's so important that small business owners get it right by avoiding the types of issues that undermine their success. Here are five habits that can kill any small business.
There's an electrical charge of sorts that comes along with starting a business. You can't wait to get going each morning, and you pour everything you have into making the enterprise a raging success. While passion is important, it's also passion that can blind us to common sense.
Common sense tells us that one person cannot do it all — not for long, at least. You can't be out on sales calls while also providing an existing customer with the product or service they're paying for. You can't be in the middle of applying for a business credit card while also working with a vendor to score a discount.
While you may be able to multitask for a while, it is not sustainable. And nothing burns a business owner out faster than spreading themselves too thin. If you find yourself trying to do it all, the following tips may help:
One of the tough parts of being in business for yourself is the number of people who seem to believe it's a hobby. For example, if you're a personal trainer, you may have friends who want free workout sessions. If you're a baker, you may be asked to provide baked goods for a special event free of charge. If you own an online business, there will be those who act as though you owe them a discount because they're friends or family members.
You may want to introduce them to reality. Not only do freebies and deep discounts cut into your profit, but they can cut into your sense of owning a "real" business.
Business plans don't have to be complex. They don't have to read in any specific way. What creating a business plan does is provide a roadmap for where you want to be both in the short and long term.
It's tough to build a strong foundation for your business when you're freestyling. Go in with a plan that reminds you of your goals and how you plan to achieve them. It's possible that your business plan will change over the months and years, and that's okay. The point is to have that map available to you when you need it.
Making mistakes is part of owning a business. It's how you figure out what works and what doesn't. Let's say you've had the same customer for several years and they suddenly disappear. Take the time to figure out why the customer left, what you might do to bring them back, and how you can avoid the issue in the future.
Maybe you inherited a business, or perhaps you've lost the passion for a business you once thoroughly enjoyed. Being a business owner is not a typical 9-to-5 job, and without passion to drive you, it's difficult to maintain the energy and enthusiasm you need to make it a success.
If you find that you no longer have a fire in your belly for your business, it could be time to let it go. Hopefully, you can sell it and recoup some of what you've put into the enterprise. In any case, there's nothing wrong with finding a business idea that excites you and starting all over again.
No business owner gets it right every time. The important thing is refusing to give up.
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Dana has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years, specializing in loans, debt management, investments, and business.
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