Businesses have been around for thousands of years — and the same mistakes are made over and over again with different ingredients. Whether you’re selling electronic components or running a staffing agency, there are some common business mistakes that even the most successful businesses in the world make. Fortunately, there are also ways to overcome or avoid these problems.
Blowing a Deal
For a variety of reasons, you might make a large mistake in a business deal. Maybe your paperwork wasn’t in order or on time, you had the wrong point of contact, missed a major meeting, or delivered the wrong product. The important thing is that even when you miss the mark, apologizing the right way can turn a bad situation or potential disaster into one where you earn your client’s trust.
One of the best ways to turn a lost deal into a positive is to do a post-mortem to figure out what went wrong — and where you can improve. Once you’ve gotten over the initial angst, call the prospective customer and schedule a lunch meeting so you can talk about what really caused you to lose the business. The answers might surprise you, and it’s good intelligence to have for your next sale.
Miscommunicating Needs and Deadlines
When you don't understand what your client is asking you to do, simply ask them. This will help you avoid an awkward situation later on, and while you may be asking your clients to repeat themselves, they will appreciate that you want to do the job right. At the same time, it is important to keep organized files so that you know your deadlines and details — just be sure to confirm them politely.
One of the best ways to make sure everyone is on the same page is a weekly status call. Even if you have nothing other than the weekend’s football games to discuss, a standing call will give you and your customer a forum in which to red-flag issues before they become problems.
Expanding Too Quickly
You’ve started up, you’re doing well. But before spreading your resources — including your time — too thin, ask yourself some key questions: Have I completed what I want to do here? Is it realistic to set this portion of my business on relative autopilot? Can my business handle the stress of not having my full attention?
If you decide to expand, make sure to develop a realistic budget and a tight business plan that mitigates the risk of taking on too much debt. Even if your core business is making money, an underperforming second location or subsidiary can bring your company crashing down.
As we’ve discussed on Open Forum before, it’s important to be adaptable and flexible in business, and to have a commitment to innovation. At the same time, pouring money into something that has become a lost cause can mean the end of your business. It’s important to swallow your pride and admit when a business idea has turned sour, or has exhausted it’s lifetime. Let go when things fail: Learn from the mistake.