Three fundamental errors to avoid in the early days of your business

There will be times when you are just too busy to be able to run and grow your new business smoothly and effectively. The launch of any new business is bound to make life difficult for a while. In those early months you may well be tempted to do everything yourself either through a desire to keep costs down or maybe simply through over-confidence that you think you know more than you actually do!

In either case this can have disastrous effects on the business. Then you may well pay the price both in terms of your personal life and harm to your business too. Luckily you can do something to solve the issue as long as you recognise the danger and call in outside help before things really go wrong.

As an example, here are three common mistakes that small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can make during the first three years of business — and how to avoid them.

First Mistake: Don’t leave it too long to seek external expertise!

As we all know there are so many things to do and think of when setting up a new business. As it grows and evolves, new challenges crop up. Although as a business founders you may be a ‘Jack of all trades’ you will certainly not be ‘master of all’. It is totally unrealistic to expect you can handle everything. If you ignore this and try to carry on doing everything yourself you will not only waste a lot of time but you will undoubtedly make numerous mistakes in areas where you lack expertise, or you could become a bottleneck for the business.

Solution: Focus on your core skills and managing the company. Do not be afraid (or too proud) to seek outside expertise in areas that will help your business to develop and run. What you should do, however, wherever possible, is to get recommendations on who to contact, then set a budget for them to work against.

Second Mistake: Being unrealistic about time scales to do jobs

Setting up a new business itself demonstrates optimism. Unfortunately this can easily mean that business owners are not realistic about what’s achievable. Time scales are under estimated and soon the calendar manages them, not the other way around. The business week becomes far too short to achieve what needs to be done. This can cause panic, as a result of which essential jobs can be either postponed or, in the worst case, totally overlooked.

Solution: Get your priorities right. Identify what is important and work out which of these you can realistically handle yourself. Put tasks in the diary and ring-fence them as much as you would with an important meeting. Don’t let random emails and text messages distract you. Don’t simply take on tasks because you like doing them, even though they are not really a top priority.

Third Mistake: Not having a realistic plan that will grow with the business

There are three things to be considered when it comes to business planning:

  1. Firstly do not keep everything in your head. Produce a proper, realistic plan. If you have not done one before then call in professional advice (maybe your accountant or a proper Business Mentor) to make sure that what you are planning is realistic and on a reasonable time scale. These are the two key elements to a good business plan.
  2. Do not produce a rigid ‘roadmap’ that becomes quickly outdated and that does not allow for unexpected changes e.g. economic factors, illness or competitive activities.
  3. The Solution: The most important, indeed essential, element of a good business plan is to monitor performance against that plan on a regular basis and in the early stages of a business this does not mean looking at it once every couple of years! It is essential that if there are variations against the plan, particularly if they are negative ones, that remedial action should be taken at the earliest opportunity.

Are you becoming overwhelmed?

It is all too easy to for even the best of entrepreneurs to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions to be made and actions to be taken during the early years of a company’s growth. The sensible ones will avoid this problem by employing one or more professional advisors (Mentors) to work with them to provide expertise and balance. Having said this, it is advisable to employ someone who’s different to you, prepared to challenge you and, when appropriate, show you an alternative course of action. It could transform your business… and your quality of life. It also has the advantage of putting jobs you don’t have experience of into the hands of experts, leaving you to do the things that you know best.

Remember, employing an experienced Mentor will cost you but not employing one may well cost you your business!


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