As small business owners, we believe in self-determination and the power of the individual. We like doing things our own way. Many of us start businesses because we don’t like working for someone else. We believe we can do it better, smarter, bigger.
While believing in yourself is essential to success as an entrepreneur, there’s an underside to our self-reliance. Sometimes we fail to see the things we’re doing—ourselves—to sabotage our own business success.
Here are six ways you might be unwittingly hurting your own business:
1. Thinking too small
Are you focused on the short term, just looking to meet payroll? Of course you do need to keep cash flowing and pay your bills and employees. But if you don’t have a bigger-picture plan in mind, you may wake up 10 years from now and realize you’re in the exact same place you were today.
2. Thinking too big
I know I said thinking too small is a big mistake. And thinking big is typically revered as a hallmark of entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Howard Schultz didn’t get where they are by thinking small. But there is such a thing as thinking too big. By that I mean thinking big picture without worrying about the smaller steps you’ll need to take to get there. It’s fun to fantasize about your ultimate goals for your business, and it’s also energizing and inspiring. But if you don’t sit down and plan some concrete next steps, your “big thinking” will only build castles in the air.
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3. Being too cheap
Small business owners have to watch the bottom line, it’s true. But many entrepreneurs fall prey to the common mistake of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. They invest the bare minimum, whether it’s buying the minimum technology to do the job or the inexperienced worker. Being smart about spending means understanding when a smart investment is necessary to grow your business.
4. Taking your eye off the cash-flow ball
As a small business owner, you’re often so occupied with the day-to-day issues that arise in your business, it’s easy to forget about the one that matters most: How much money is coming into your business, and how much is going out? Not being too cheap doesn’t mean you don’t watch your budget—which can get out of whack surprisingly fast if you don’t stay on top of it. With so many simple-to-use tools today for managing your cash flow, there’s no excuse for dropping the ball. The minute your cash flow starts to slow down, take steps to collect payments more quickly, and watch your spending.
5. Not listening to others
I hope you’ve got people you can talk to about your business. Your significant other, your banker, your lawyer, your partners, your informal advisors, your fellow entrepreneurs all have wisdom to share. Ask them for advice—and listen. That doesn’t mean you have to act on everything they suggest, but at least take time to give it some honest consideration. And keep in mind that, if you hear the same thing from five different people, there might be at least some truth in it.
6. Not listening to your gut
Yes, you need to take advice from others, but the buck stops with you. The times I’ve made moves I regretted as an entrepreneur were when I didn’t follow my own instincts. Consider others’ opinions, weigh the options and then do a gut check.
Notice there are a lot of opposites on this list? That’s because entrepreneurial success is a delicate balance. Find the right balance, and you’re golden. Get out of whack, and your business starts to suffer. Want to be sure you’re not sabotaging yourself? Take time every few months to run through this checklist. If you see yourself in any of the six traits, take steps to bring your business back in balance.
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