I can walk into a business, talk with staffers and within 30 minutes, tell you if the business is successful. I don’t need to read the financials or talk to their competitors. Staff already knows.
I want to present some bad habits I see in the downright failures. If you see yourself adopting any of these habits, you can identify and break them, thus increasing your chances of survival. You can add to this list, but here are the top five bad habits I see:
1) It is a hobby and not a business. Some businesses are run like hobbies. The owners spend time and energy in the business whenever they feel like it. They let their personal lives and relaxation pre-empt their budding business. As a solution, I recommend scheduling blocks of time for the business. If you own the business on the side, schedule blocks of time outside of work to run the business. If you are full-time self-employed, schedule honest workdays. You (the employee) owe you (the employer) an honest day’s work.
2) Lack of a plan. People don’t plan to fail; rather, they fail to plan. They launch their business but don’t know a) what products and services they will sell, b) how much time and energy the business will need, c) how much their raw materials will cost, d) their overhead, e) how they will acquire customers, f) who the competitors are, g) how to monitor progress, and h) what is happening in their industry. As a solution, I recommend writing a business plan. I introduced business plans earlier in this chapter and will create one when you meet Daphne the Dancer.
3) Marketing is weak. If potential customers do not know who you are, where you are, what you do, or what you offer, they will not know you exist. They will look for someone who provides the goods and services you offer, but end up buying from somebody else. You have to have good marketing to survive. This includes good marketing of your company as a reliable business partner, and of your goods and services as being of high value to the customer. This also includes deciding which marketing tools will work for you. When I discuss social media later, you will learn how folks are abandoning newspaper, phonebook, and magazine advertising and replacing it with online marketing, videos, and QR Codes. It’s the wave of the future. As a solution, I recommend asking yourself how others view you, your products, and your services. Can they find you? Do you have a decent logo? Can you show why your products and services are better than others’? Are you getting a good return on your marketing investment?
4) No retraining. Just because you had success doing something a particular way yesterday does not mean it will bring you success tomorrow. You have to continuously find new and more efficient ways to accomplish the same or a better result. If not, someone else will, and at a lower cost. This applies both in your line of work and in your marketing. I have one customer who is not very successful. I told him social media will help him get more business. I invited him to one of my “Use Social Media to Improve Business” presentations, but he declined, telling me he would do the social media “thing” after business improves. I kid you not. As a solution, look at your tools. See if they are the same as you were using last year and then ask if you can replace them with something better. See what others are using and be open to retraining. You have to refine your habits.
5) Employees don’t care. I’ve seen employees stand around wasting time while they could be helping customers. I’ve seen employees disappear for long lunches or long afternoons without caring about their work. This cannot happen in a successful company. You are paying people for their time, energy, and attention. If they are not at work but getting paid, you need to hold them accountable for the missed time and kill those bad habits. As a solution, I recommend having employees keep a journal. This journal will show what they did at work, with whom, and for how long. If they know their supervisor is supervising, they will not try stealing time from you.
So, what do you think? Was that a sufficient challenge to your desire? Self-employment is not for the weak or lazy. You have to be strong. You need good ideas and practices to survive. You also need a hero. From Escape the Cubicle