Like a butterfly, small businesses tend to have short lifespans.
That’s partly because small businesses, by their very nature, have fewer resources to draw on when times get tough — or even when they are too good.
With the odds stacked against them from day one, there are at least as many ways for small businesses to fail as to succeed. Here are 10 common mistakes for entrepreneurs to avoid, drawn from 20 years of experience from CPG Executive Consulting & Entrepreneurs Worldwide founder Helen Roberts and Start Up Britain Champion for Richmond, London.
1. Getting married to your idea. Not every idea is a good business idea. We encourage our small-business owners to go through a process of testing their idea by doing research, by speaking to other business owners and really testing to see if it is a viable business.
2. Not doing enough research. Similar to the first mistake, entrepreneurs often fall in love with their latest ideas of products or services without doing the necessary groundwork.
3. Not worrying enough about the owner/CEO. “By taking care of yourself, you can help ensure that you maintain that enthusiasm and positive attitude, which is so much a part of a small-business owner.
4. Failing to create and stick to a plan. Small-business owners hate to hear that advice. But a business plan helps you think through all the strategic elements and discover where you might need a Plan B.
5. Making yourself irreplaceable. (Entrepreneurs) don’t develop systems and processes, so the business relies too much on them.
6. Lack of money. Small businesses often run into trouble because they run out of capital to grow the business or survive a slowdown.
7. Losing touch with your customer. Sometimes in the day-to-day, crisis-to-crisis environment, there is the potential to miss an opportunity, identify a fatal flaw or see what your customer is doing.
8. Undercutting the market, and your business. Too often, small businesses undercharge for their products and services.
9. Going it alone. Small-business owners often tend to be islands unto themselves. That independence can be positive, but the risk is missing out on a “wealth of information and wisdom” from those around him or her.
10. No marketing or sales focus. You may have the greatest product or service in the world, but it rarely sells itself. Getting caught up in the day-to-day minutiae, and not getting the word out or contacting sales leads, can mean slow growth or even a slow death for your business.
During the week whilst giving an interview I was asked this question – Who and What in the world inspires me?
It’s a great question and always fun to think about what serves as my inspiration at any given time. I find not a day goes by without being truly inspired in some way. I seek out inspiration in so many people and things all over the place.
The number one for me in terms of “who” inspires me has to be; people living their dream, doing what they’re passionate about, what they love each and every day. People that know why they’re here, who are tuned in, playing full out and actively fulfilling their life purpose.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing someone doing something they love, they work from a truly inspired place and create incredible success. They live a life on their terms and paint their own picture in life.
Having supported thousands of people in their career to date I know it’s a minority, the number people that find and do something they love. And as a result the majority work in an area they don’t enjoy and lead unhappy work lives which in itself has a knock on effect at home in their relationships and health and wellbeing. How many people do you know that have a restless night sleep on Sunday night and dread Monday mornings? And how many people do you know that sleep like a baby on Sunday night and can’t wait for a new week to begin?
I am truly inspired by the human spirit. People that have been knocked down a thousand times or suffered incredible hardships that get up each and every day and try again. People that succeed against the odds. Many entrepreneurs that decide to take life on and be the master of their own destiny inspire me. It’s a tough ride, there’s lots of bumps in the road and it’s that dogged determination, dedication and commitment that carries you forward. You keep getting back up and going for more, relentless in your journey of success. This really inspires me.
People that have had a tough life and continue to have a warm heart and to continue to see the best in people and things, inspire me. As an example I had a chance encounter with an old lady recently when I sat on a park bench. Her name is Anne. I had about 15 minutes to spare before running in to my next meeting. We got talking. It turns out she’d been married for 60 years and had lost her husband just two weeks before. She was also losing her eyesight, it was progressively getting worse and she was nearly blind. When her husband passed away she found it difficult to get out of the house, he always drove and now that her sight had deteriorated she could no longer. She told me that most days she was housebound. However that day was her birthday and she was determined to get out and feel the sunshine on her face. Anne told me she was 84 and felt like she was a 30 year old trapped in an old woman’s body. Accepting of her husbands’ death and health deterioration she still remained amazingly upbeat. Anne shared another story of having her purse stolen by a couple of teenagers just the week before. They asked her for the time which she obliged and in the process they stole her purse from her handbag. She has just collected her pension money. Her concern was not for herself but more for the youths themselves and the harm they may come to if they used the cash for drugs. She was also concerned for other elderly people that desperately relied on and needed their pension money in case it happened to them. There was not even a flicker of concern or self-pity for herself. Despite the incredibly difficult few weeks that she had I was truly inspired by Anne and how upbeat she was and how her heart remained full.
Athletes inspire me. They push out the boundaries, they are on a constant quest of getting better and better, they play full out, giving their heart and soul to achieve better results, to be the best that they can be. They have the courage to put themselves out there again and again. Andy Murray immediately springs to mind. He had been beaten in 4 major grand slam finals and questions were asked would he ever win a major. For the Olympic gold medal match he was the overwhelming underdog going in to that match having been beaten by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final just a few weeks before where he broke down in tears in defeat. He dusted himself down, picked himself up and brought it, he was ready and like a true champion he took his opportunity. And again just a few weeks later at the US open. Despite all of the naysayers the doubters and the press on his case and the pressure of there not being a British champion for 76 years. Andy went on court with one thing on his mind, victory. He left it all on the court that day he gave it everything and was triumphant at last to win his first major. It was Andy’s destiny – it’s testament to his strength of character, it was his spirit that carried him through.
Roger Bannister and the 4 minute mile. He was told that he wouldn’t do it and that it couldn’t be done. He was told it was impossible and that he may suffer a coronary if he were to try. Roger pushed through and led the way. On the 6th May 1954 Roger broke the 4 minute mile. He ran it in: 3 min 59.4 sec. He believed he could do it and he did. In the following months a number of other athletes also broke the 4 minute mile.
I live in Richmond and therefore I’m close to Heathrow. When I see a Virgin plane fly over I think of Richard Branson and his values and what he’s been able to create in his career to date. An incredible man that has created a legacy. Richard truly inspires me.
What Else Inspires Me?
Running inspires me. I run 5 to 6 times a week. I find I come up with my most inspired ideas on my runs. I like to push my body to the limits and to continue to improve performance.
I am inspired by the outdoors, green spaces, sea/river, mountains, wildlife, animals. I am inspired by people taking action, being active – biking, hiking, running, walking, skate boarding, roller blading etc.
Music inspires me. People pitching up at the tube station or in random places playing an instrument.
Art inspires me. People tapping in to their creativity.
Books & poetry inspire me.
The sun, blue sky, nature in its constant state of change.
Travelling immersing myself in new cultures. Learning new things inspires me.
Ice cream – Haagen Daz inspires me.
People that create a legacy inspire me.
Single parents and so much more.
To be around inspirational people is truly uplifting. Seek out your inspiration and surround yourself with it, people or things that truly inspire you.
Tune yourself in to find out who and what inspires you in your life. It’s there in abundance we just have to change our frequency to tap in to it.
Who & What in your life inspires you? Who do you have in your life that shines a light for you..
Here’s to inspiring and being inspired!
FAO: Sarah Sands
London Evening Standard
Evening Standard Ltd
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT
19th September 2012
I searched through the first 5 pages of your newspaper the Evening Standard today Wednesday 19th September edition, again and again to find the good news story around school leavers & graduates successfully finding jobs/starting a business and there wasn’t one. Not one around the 16 – 24 year olds that have been successful and landed a position. Instead what you served is utterly depressing. I know that bad news stories sell more papers however I think we need to think more about how we can truly serve our customers best. There are a record number of people between the ages of 16 – 24 unemployed that’s undeniable and we’re all too aware of it. Would your audience not have been better served if you had used at least one page or some of the pages to focus on the good news stories of school leavers and graduates finding positions? After all, 75% of school leavers and graduates are employed, not the other way around.
If I was a student and read your paper today, I would be well and truly depressed and defeated before I even started. I’d give up. I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. However that’s the exact opposite of what we need to help Britain get back on its feet.
Whereas if students had read about how other school leavers and graduates successful navigated the difficult job terrain and found a position, it would have given them some tips and most importantly – hope.
I am the MD of CPG Executive Consulting Ltd and CEO of Entrepreneurs Worldwide. I’m a career coach with 18 years- experience and have coached, mentored, trained and supported over 50,000 people in my career to date. I’m also an entrepreneur and have coached mentored trained and supported thousands of people to go in to business for themselves.
We are all too aware of just how tough the job market is out there for everyone, especially school leavers and graduates and one of the key determining factors of whether you will be successful in a job search, is your mind-set. It’s maintaining a positive attitude which is key – it’s getting up and bringing it, playing full out EVERY day no matter what. We need to encourage, motivate and support those unemployed every step of the way.
As the StartUp Britain Champion for Richmond one of the key areas we are focusing on is 18 – 24 year olds and encouraging them to think about starting a business. We provide a range of support services that can help get your business idea off the ground and in to a business very quickly. We will provide on-going, coaching, training, mentoring and support along the way. StartUp Loans is also a new initiative specifically targeted to help people between the ages of 18 – 24 years olds to get started in business. These loans are currently only available for people between the ages of 18 to 24. As of today 17544 businesses have been set up already this month – there has never been a better time to go in to business. Fortune favours the brave, if you want to find out more about the StartUp Britain campaign check out our website at: www.startupbritain.org or to get in contact with me and attend our local events at: www.startupbritain.org/richmond
There has been so much positivity around the Olympic games, London was such an inspirational and refreshing place to be. We should build on that momentum. Success inspires success. Look at what our athletes were able to create by working as a team and seeing each other succeed and inspiring each other to do better. That’s exactly what we need to do to for each and every school leaver or graduate or in fact anyone that is unemployed. We need to come together and develop a can do attitude and help and support each other to make it happen. We need to read about success stories which will inspire more success.
80% is attitude – 20% is technical for most interviews. There is increased competition so even more important that you play full out, that you prepare, look the part and present well. It can be nerve wracking and some people manage nerves better than others. It’s about practice, it’s about having a positive mental attitude, and it’s about believing that you will be successful, you will find that perfect job.
Come on London, I challenge every one of us to play a part and get behind a student TODAY. Let’s take them under our wing, let’s empower, inspire, motivate and support our youths to take action, to keep trying and to go after their dreams. Help them get clear on what they are looking for and encourage them every step of the way. The most important thing we can do is to help them stay focused and on track and encourage them not to give up and they will succeed.
You get what you focus on – positive or negative!
Tel: 0207 193 5885 & 07768 733 966
Here are some top tips to help navigate this difficult market and accelerate your return to the job market.
1) Make your job search your full time job
2) Create a well thought out, professional CV focusing on the experience required for each specific job.
3) 50% of CVs have typos and spelling mistakes – make sure yours doesn’t
4) Always tweak your CV to ensure its tailored specifically for each role you apply for
5) Only apply for jobs that you have at least 80% and above of the skills required
6) Focus on what makes you unique, different and your major achievements
7) Tell the client about who you are, what your values are and why they should hire you
8) Know your experience well – be able to talk about it fluidly
9) Create a cover letter for each application
10) Always follow up your application to ensure it has been received
11) Have a job search strategy – use at least 4 different avenues for your job search e.g. job boards, agencies, direct approaches, social media, newspapers, network etc.
12) Interview preparation is KEY – if you are not prepared you’ll flounder. Know what the interview process & style is in advance and prepare for it thoroughly. The more prepared you are the more control you have on having a successful outcome.
13) Practice, practice, practice your interview techniques. Ask people to do a ‘dummy’ interview with you.
14) Always ask for feedback on your interview and take it on board and improve on it
15). Take massive action each and every day
15) Look and dress the part.
16) If you don’t have any experience – volunteer
Are you a SLAVE to your Business? Or can your Business run effectively without you in it?
One may ask has there ever been a better time to start a business. There are literally hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the UK & Ireland & millions around the Globe. Some are one person and some are a few hundred employees. There are so many small businesses, it almost seems that everyone is doing it. Almost everyone IS doing it. It is a smart thing to do, just for the tax benefits alone. Many small business owners decide to go in to business for themselves, to create time & financial freedom, to be the captain of their own ship, instead of being at the mercy of an employer. So why do so many business owners get trapped and become a slave to their business? Often working longer hours than they did in their JOB, often earn less and suffer greater amounts of stress and pressure. It happens because the business owner becomes the business and it won’t function without them. Ask yourself can your business run effectively without you? If the answer is no, you are a slave to the business, you have to be there to make money.
Just because you are self-employed and own a business, doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. The difference between an entrepreneur and a business owner is the mindset of how you go about building your business.
Take an example: an Interior Designer, an Architect, Lawyer, or even a Doctor. All could own their own business, large or small, but if the business depends on the talent of the business owner to be there and perform the work, then the person is just self-employed. As an entrepreneur, the mindset and therefore the daily tasks are slightly different. As an entrepreneur, your daily routine is working on designing the systems to keep the business running, and then putting those systems into action. In both cases the self-employed or entrepreneur might work 70-80 hour weeks. The self-employed person works to make money, while the entrepreneur works at making money work for him/her.
Observe a day at your office. Are you building the business or are you running the business? If you find that you are running the business, don’t be surprised if you are still working the same “job” after 20 years and ready to retire with nothing to show for it. If you are simply running the business, your business is your “job”, with no fringe benefits paid for by someone else. However, if your mindset going into work every day is, “What system should I put in place to automate the [fill in the blank] part of the business today?”, you have a mindset of an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is an art. It takes practice and requires a lot of knowledge of disparate areas of business. It also takes a certain mind set, which unfortunately, many business owners never seem to learn. The baby boomers are now retiring, many of whom are self-employed business owners with no money to retire. They ran successful businesses for 30 years or more, but sadly they never learned that running a business and owning an automated business are very different. And after 30 years they result in two very different outcomes.
Make the best use of your time today and every day. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime”. If giving the fish is doing the daily work of the business, while teaching others to fish means the work is now repeatable on its own, then be the one teaching others to fish. Be the one focused on building the systems that can be repeatable without you. That is where real value is created. And in the end, the sum of those values determines the worth of your businesses.
Written by Helen Roberts
One of the first things you learn as a business owner is that there’s no such thing as “set in stone.” Everything’s a moving target, and adapting has to be part of the plan-even when it comes to your business plan itself.
In fact, it’s a good bet that the product or revenue model you originally start with will be worlds away from what you’ll end up doing. If you fail to recognize what needs changing in time, the business can evaporate faster than you might think.
The co-founder and Chairman of TripAdvisor, came to that brink. Two years into operations they found themselves a few months from running out of money and having to shutter the virtual doors. Commitment to their original business plan was the catch: they actually launched TripAdvisor as a travel search engine. They had built a complex algorithm that searched and indexed links to the best online sources of travel information from around the web (Fodor’s, Frommer’s, etc), and the revenue model was to license the technology to other web publishers.
While the product itself was on the mark, nobody was interested in paying for it-in fact, one major travel site thought they should be paying them for its use. So much for their brilliant revenue model!
Running out of funds, they took inventory of what–if anything–about the business was salvageable. There was evidence that the product itself was valuable, as traffic to their own test site, TripAdvisor.com, was steadily increasing. The growing community of users presented an entirely different opportunity: perhaps they could be a consumer facing web business and not a software licensing company.
The real business, it turned out, was morphing into a consumer facing website where they made money sending traffic to booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. Those companies were willing to pay for the steady stream of consumer leads. They tested the idea with Expedia and–voila–and had a new revenue model. Fast forward to today and TripAdvisor now has over $650 million in annual sales.
The lesson is clear: don’t be wedded to your first business plan, revenue model, or product. It pays to keep this in mind from the very beginning. In fact when pulling together a new business, I always steer clear of the 20+ page business plan with items like six year projections. It takes a lot of resources to generate that material, and it’s likely to get tossed out the window a year or two after launching.
Much more effective is a short set of powerpoint slides and a good verbal pitch. If you can grab lunch with an angel investor, you need to be able to quickly and effectively communicate the idea and show that there’s adaptability built into it. When you’ve launched, stay committed to testing new avenues.
And when your perfect business plan goes awry (and I assure you that something will not go the way you expected), don’t sweat it. Try something new. In the end you won’t be measured by your failures but only by your victories…