Are you looking to start or grow a successful business? If so, you’re in luck. Success seldom comes overnight, but with hard work and these five key steps, you can see rapid success. Plus, we’ll warn you about some of the most common mistakes business owners make so you can avoid them. Keep reading to learn more!
Perception and Awareness
Have you ever seen the video on YouTube where you’re asked to count how many times players pass a basketball? It’s called the Awareness Test.
Regardless of whether you’ve just watched the video for the first time, or you’ve watched it in the past, the takeaway message is the same: if you focus on the details, you might miss the big picture.
As foolish as you might feel failing the test, if you’re asked to complete a similar task in the future, you’ll likely recall this video and remember to keep an eye on all of the details, both big and small, to avoid falling prey to a similar trap.
That is the purpose of this blog post.
Learning through examples may not be as salient as lessons learned through actually making the mistake, which has an emotional sting to it, but you can choose to make them more powerful by thinking about instances in which you’ve already made these mistakes or in which you might make them in the future.
The most powerful lessons are visual lessons whether those be imagined or viewed first hand. Let’s dive in.
1. Forgetting You Have Options
Growth is not the only thing stunted when you refuse to get outside your comfort zone. Many businesses get caught in a trap. When things are running smoothly, and there are no major issues bubbling up to the surface, businesses will nestle in on the arrangements they already have in place.
From employees to software application services, businesses become complacent even if the performance they’re paying for is not exactly what they wanted. And, instead of re-assessing those options and exploring new avenues, businesses will keep chugging along, which affects both their bottom line and their year-over-year performance.
Yes, re-negotiating contracts with providers is a hassle. Yes, going through the hiring process is time-consuming. Yes, switching your e-mail platform sounds exhausting. BUT! What if making just one of those changes saved your business a couple thousand dollars? What if making a couple of those changes netted your business an additional $50k in revenue per year?
What if making all of those changes propel your business into the next tier of annual earnings?
Change is uncomfortable, and often a lot of work, but it can pay off tenfold. Businesses that consistently ask, time and time again, “how can I be even better?” always come out ahead.
2. Leading with Fear
It’s easy to fall victim to making decisions that are fear-motivated. Why do you think countdown timers are so effective at making you pull the trigger on an impulse buy? Fear of missing out.
While FOMO is a popular idiom for explaining why people make brash decisions in their personal lives, it can also drive the important decisions individuals make when operating or owning their business.
Fear can make leaders pull the trigger on bad deals, unnecessary spending, and allocating human resources in all the wrong areas. Enough poor decisions driven by fear can lead to lost revenue or, more importantly, lost time.
So how do business owners and individuals in decision-maker positions avoid leading with fear?
The best approach to erasing fear is multi-layered. First, before you pull the trigger on any major investment, regardless of the resource, do some due diligence. Research your options. Google some basic ideas you have. Get more than one quote or bid. Decide whether you can expand your current roles and resources to encompass this new area to avoid hiring additional help.
Ever buy an item at full price only to find it a week or so later on sale? Buyer’s remorse can happen for businesses too. Like when you pay for independent contractors that don’t do a good job, when you hire the friend’s cousin’s boyfriend as a favor, and when a big customer pressures you into biting off more than you can chew on a project — setting you up for failure.
In business, it’s not just your profits you need to protect — it’s also your reputation. The more informed you are about the decisions you’re making, the more confident you will feel.
How do I know if I’m making decisions based on fear, though?
You know that feeling you have when you’re at the casino and you put an enormous amount of money on red? Or you tell the dealer you’re going to “hit” on 16? It’s a complicated feeling. You’re excited, happy, and full of hope, but at the same time, you’re filled with self-doubt and anxiety.
Making fear-based decisions feel a lot like that. Hoping it will work out should not be the underlying foundation for your business decisions.
Second, sleep on it. That sounds like a ridiculously basic, common-sense idea, but it’s true. Some of the worst decisions we will ever make as humans are the decisions we didn’t let simmer. If, after a day or two, you still feel confident, then your intuition is probably right.
Caveat — you cannot make sound decisions (even if letting it simmer for a few days) while being pressured incessantly by a third-party about making the decision.
This happens all too often when, in a more commercial-based business, a customer or supplier starts sending you ultimatums or baseless threats. If (and when) this happens, immediately resort to your third resource: a second opinion. Call a meeting, speak with a peer or, if you’re a solopreneur, ask your friends, family or attorney. Even if the person you reach out to for advice doesn’t give you any, it’s usually good to talk through your options out loud.
In that process of explaining your goals and the actions you intend to take to reach those goals, it will become abundantly clear if your decision is foolish. You will immediately feel like you’re grasping at straws or as if you’re having to qualify or over-explain your intended actions.
Immediately, you will know, deep down, it’s not the right move — maybe it’s a good decision a month from now or down the road when your business is more established — but at this very moment, the decision isn’t right.
3. Failing to Negotiate
You don’t always need an attorney to negotiate business matters. Although, it can certainly be helpful to have an experience professional zealously advocating for your position while you remain the “good cop”.
Negotiation should be a part of every business process. From buying office equipment to hiring independent freelancers, what you’re buying is fluid and the price is too.
In fact, I once read in a negotiation book that, if you truly wanted to, you can negotiate with big box stores when purchasing expensive items or in bulk. I’ve never tried that myself, but I’ve certainly negotiated with stores when the item I want to purchase is damaged or defective in some way.
In our family, negotiation isn’t just about getting the right price at the initial purchase, it’s also about fighting for better pricing after a customer relationship has been established. My future father-in-law habitually calls his phone provider every month to negotiate a few dollars in savings.
I initially thought this was bonkers. Arguably, if your time is worth money then perhaps wasting it negotiating your phone bill monthly isn’t the best use, but little amounts can really add up over time.
Nocturnal Legal helps businesses of all sizes assess costs and save money in the least expected ways. We help businesses save thousands every year. Even if you think there’s no expense that can be cut or an additional way to save, we bet you there is. We’re even willing to bet on it — if we can’t save you any money then our services are free.
I’ll share with you a real life business example. A medium size business went remote during the pandemic. Once remote, it became clear the office employees would not be returning for quite some time and, when they do return, the staff may rotate throughout the week to keep human bodies at a reduced capacity.
One thing that business no longer has as much supply and demand for is the number of expensive, high resolution commercial printers.
After negotiating with the printer company about the business’s printer needs and the existing agreements, I was able to get the printer company to give the business continued use of one printer for free for a year and the other printer at a heavily discounted price for the remainder of the contract.
Instant savings achieved! Multiply this sort of approach across all the functional areas of your business and the savings do the same.
4. Signing Contracts You Don’t Understand
We’ve all done it personally — buying a ski ticket, visiting one of those indoor trampoline parks, purchasing cell phone services — we sign on the dotted line without reading any of the text waiving rights and agreeing to terms we’ve never even read. While it’s true, most of those agreements we sign on a personal basis aren’t negotiable. It’s an entirely different story when it comes to business agreements.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new ventures, increased revenue and boundless opportunities, but do not forget to look before you leap. Businesses have a bad habit of signing off on contracts without reading the fine print or having an experienced attorney complete a thorough review.
This mistake happens even more frequently when sole proprietors and small businesses enter into collaborative business arrangements with friends and family. Suddenly you’re wearing rose colored glasses singing arm and arm without thinking about the potential issues. For example, what happens if we “break up” due to some sort of disagreement?
It’s all too common to get into hot water first and then look to the governing contract to find out how hot the water is going to be. Which, at that point, the contract is usually just more bad news: liquidated damages, no early termination, unexpected transfer of intellectual property rights, and having your work product subject to work made for hire provisions.
If you don’t know what some or all of the above means, I highly recommend you form a strong relationship with an attorney who can act as your resource (not your billing center).
In my practice, I’ve always prided myself on billing for the moments that matter — not just by the minute. It makes it hard to have your clients reach out when they need a five-minute strategy call that ends up costing $300.
It’s the overzealous attorneys that bill for every call and every minute that make their clients afraid to use their attorney to make smarter business decisions, which (in the long run) ultimately costs the business more anyway.
Recommended Reading: 10 Legal Documents Every Business Needs
5. Failing to Protect Your Trademarks
Your business name, logo, slogan, and product names are all items that can be protected with federal trademark registration. Without federal registration or state-level filings, the very essence of your business can be duplicated and used freely by others in the marketplace.
The biggest mistake businesses can make in this department is electing to forego this protection. While it’s true there are some instances in which you may not be able to register a word or collection of words, in most cases, a business’s name and logo are unique enough to be afforded this protection.
Recommended Reading: Why Trademark Your Business Name?
Stealing another business’s name might be shady, but free-market competition breeds ungentlemanlike behavior aimed solely at getting a leg up.
There’s a ripple effect that occurs when another business starts using a name that’s very similar to yours. If they start ranking higher on Google or create enough noise using social media, your business may not come up first when customers search for your name.
On the Internet, SEO is king, and having anyone who competes with your search-ability will inevitably impact your business’s ability to bring in cold leads.
Simply put, avoid the headache and make the investment to protect what’s rightfully yours.
Your business can avoid making 5 common mistakes by:
Consistently looking for areas of improvement
Avoid leading with fear by making more calculated decisions
Negotiating every business deal both big and small
Thoroughly reviewing legal contracts and utilizing a trusted attorney to review them
Registering your business name, logo, and other important words related to your brand
Nocturnal Legal is your resource to help you become legally compliant, gain new insights that will help you protect and grow your business and evaluate areas in which your business can save money.