Have you ever looked at a business owner and wondered “What in the world are they doing?” Or worse, have you ever looked in the mirror and asked the same question?
I know I have. Many times.
There were times when things weren’t going well and I’d be absolutely confused and dumbfounded by how poorly I was performing. I’d think, “Come on man, you read all the books, you’re a smart guy, what the heck are you doing!?”
I’ve failed more times than I can remember. But luckily I never let it slow me down and I jumped right back in with both feet. I tell you, nothing mask failure like success.
Nowadays, I invest most of my time consulting for a variety of businesses, from banks to golf courses to retailers, fast food establishments, and startups.
But I have some bad news…
MOST startups and small businesses will fail.
If you’re thinking of starting a business, you’re probably going to have a great opening—nearly everyone does with little effort because everyone loves the new guy in town—then slowly fade into oblivion, working longer hours than you thought with less pay than you thought and with far less personal satisfaction than you ever could fathom.
Ouch! Thanks for the pep talk, Al!
You’re welcome. In fact, the only people who will tell you otherwise are friends and, unfortunately, business coaches who AREN’T self-employed. It’s the college business teacher telling you “You can do it!” Or it’s the local business center’s “small business expert” who works 9 to 5, employed by the city, who often naïvely tells you it’s possible and that you’ve got “a great idea.”
Fully 60% of businesses will fail within a few years, and many more over the course of 5-10.
You may think, “Great, 40% succeed!” but not so fast. Here’s the part you won’t find in the statistics… Many of those that “make it” are miserable. Most are underpaid, work their butts off, have zero security, and deal with more problems than they ever thought was possible.
Here’s the real kicker… With a tiny, 1-2 millimeter shift they could be rich, happy, and free.
Don’t believe me? Let me explain…
Most people are convinced that they are way off, or that they need some major, astronomical shift to really “make it” but that’s simply not the case.
Let’s take a look at golf.
Have you ever played golf before? Have you ever lined it up perfectly, taken your time, done all the right things, smacked it out of the park, and it was looking great. Perfect take off, seemed to be going in the right direction, yet seemingly out of nowhere it started to drift left.
Over the course of its travel it veered more and more to the left and before you know it you’ve landed in the bushes, never to see that ball again.
So what happened? Everything seemed so good at first!
It’s simple. You were but a millimeter off at the very start and, yard by yard, over the course of its journey it got worse and worse.
One tiny millimeter off at the start can take you down an entirely different route than planned. And it’s so easy to be just one tiny millimeter off at the start.
For most businesses, it doesn’t take an entire overhaul to quickly change directions and start seeing incredible results. Typically, over a 6 month period we’re seeing 100 to 300% improvements. Let me ask you something, what would it do to your business, to your life, if you could—from now until Christmas—receive an added 300% to your bottom line?
For most, that would completely transform their life.
Of course, let’s not be naïve; for some businesses, the market won’t allow that, or there’s just not enough margin for the cost it would take to produce that jump, or they just don’t want to.
Here’s the challenge… Most small businesses can’t afford to bring in someone like me. It’s just not feasible, given my rates, the required work, and how little reserves they usually have.
That breaks my heart, because those small businesses are the ones that truly deserve the help, considering how hard most work!
But since I can’t commit the time, here’s the next best thing.
5 Rookie Snafus – What To Do, What To Avoid
* Side note, isn’t snafu such a fun word? It means a mess, not the exact meaning I wanted, but I couldn’t turn down such a fun word. I challenge you to use it throughout your day today, it’ll make everyone smile! *
Snafu #1 – Starting a business based purely on the fact that you want to be your own boss.
Unfortunately, this is the number one cause of pain and frustration for many entrepreneurs because they misunderstand the meaning of “be your own boss.”
Let’s say you are an automotive mechanic, and you’re sick of working for the man (or lady!) so you decide to open up your own garage so you can be your own boss. You do realize that it means you can’t be the mechanic anymore, right?
Otherwise you’re not the boss, you’re the mechanic. The boss is in the office, he’s building the business, he’s networking, he’s doing quality control, and he’s making sure you do your job, which is to be a mechanic.
If you want to be the boss, you need to be the boss. And when a business owner does not act like a boss (in terms of the DUTIES of a business owner) the business suffers.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be done. You can be the mechanic, have your own little shop, handle everything yourself, and make a modest living and be 100% okay with that. But that’s not what this conversation is about, this article is about making it big, and if you’re doing everything, you’re doing nothing big.
Snafu # 2 – Whining, Crying, or Begging.
I know this sounds harsh, but 10 times out of 10, any of the above will lead to distance between you and your customers. And should someone actually visit your store because you whined that business was down and they felt pity on you, it’ll be the last time you ever see them again.
People who feel pity for others have a tendency to AVOID them at all cost as to not feel that negative sense of pity. It’s sad, and we all avoid it.
“But I don’t beg for business!” Oh, of course you may not call it begging. There are many ways to beg that may feel like they are discrete or indirect, but we see right through it. More importantly, we FEEL the message you’re really sending.
Let me give you a few examples…
- Comments or social media posts complaining that people aren’t supporting local. I know, people should support local, and I agree, but they should support YOU because you’re AWESOME, not because you’ve made them feel guilty for not supporting local.
- Whining about some changes to the city, bus routes, neighboring businesses, corporate behemoths, etc. Same point as above, I want to support you because you’ve done a great job at getting me in there via great marketing, you’ve satisfied me with great service and delivered on your promises. Because of that, I want to support you. And if you’ve gone out of your way to exceed my expectations, I’ll support you through thick and thin. Fail on all those points and no, I won’t support you just because I feel bad that you failed to attract me and now a major corporate chain that HAS put effort into attracting me is moving in next door.
- Crying that people aren’t loyal. Listen, if you’ve run your business as purely a commodity and have never gone above and beyond for me, then when someone else offers that commodity at a better rate, or THEY (whether someone else local or a big chain) go above and beyond, I’m gone. You see, Uber didn’t steal anyone’s business away. Taxi cabs can cry all they want, but the truth is that they never went above and beyond, they acted like a commodity and, when someone came around offering something better, they lost. When you compete on commodity, there is ALWAYS someone who’ll undercut you.
Snafu # 3 – Bragging or being all about YOU.
This one is the almost polar opposite to whining and begging, but it’s an equally destructive “turn off.” When I see businesses (specifically small, unproven businesses) shout they’re the best from the rooftops, it’s generates an instant distrust in the brand. It’s too easy to say, “Yeah, right, sure you are!”
Here’s the thing: don’t let your lips to the talking, let your feet do the work. Put in the work, put in the hours, and go above and beyond for your clients until everyone KNOWS you’re the best based on your actions, and not your mouth.
Those that truly are the best let their FANS tell the world, they don’t do it themselves. Does Apple go around saying that they are the best? No. In fact, I’ve seen Apple execs say, on multiple occasions, that other companies have superior products. The difference is they’ve built a brand based on WHY they are in business, their mission, and it’s the Apple “cult” that goes around spreading their greatness.
When you’re self-focused you leave no room for your clients to be the superstars. Stop talking about yourself and start talking about why your CLIENTS are the best.
Snafu # 4 – Not realizing that every company is a marketing company FIRST.
A lot of small businesses have marketing all backwards. They see it as something they should do, if they happen to have some extra cash lying around. But the second cash gets tight, it’s the first thing that gets cut.
That’s like stopping the clock to save time.
When I ran my landscaping company, I was a marketing company that used landscaping as its deliverable. When I owned a gym, I was a marketing company that used health and fitness services as the deliverables. And when I consult, I’m a marketing company and consulting is the deliverable.
McDonalds is a marketing company that sells hamburgers.
Coca-Cola is a marketing company that sells soda.
Krispy Kreme is a marketing company that sells grease routes to health hell. I mean donuts.
Real estate agents are marketing companies that sell homes.
I think you get the point…
Whatever business you are in, it’s vital that you understand this. If you’re going to be successful in any business, marketing comes first.
Of course, many people are confused about what marketing really is… Marketing is the way you answer the phone, it’s the way you call on prospects, it’s the way you invoice, it’s the way you email, it’s the way you sell, it’s the way your website is designed, it’s your customer service, it’s… EVERYTHING.
And there’s great marketing, and then there’s everything else that gets lost in the noise.
Last but not least…
Snafu # 5 – Confusing activity with productivity.
We all love to feel busy. It gives us this misguided sense of accomplishment, but that’s all it is. Misguided, and for the most part, pointless. Activity has zero correlation with productivity.
All of those folks shouting “hustle” all day, burning the midnight oil, and working nonstop could very well do absolutely nothing and get the same result.
Think of it this way… Let’s say you’re sitting on your couch and you decide you want to head to the grocery store, and you decide you want to jog there. It’s about 5 kilometers away and should take you, say, 30 minutes. No big deal.
You head to your garage, open up the garage door, throw your headphones in, blast the tunes, hop on your treadmill and start jogging.
You’re doing great time, you’ve jogged for 15 minutes and have already crushed kilometers worth of distance and are really hustling.
You’re hustling, activity level is high, but let’s face it, you aren’t going ANYWHERE.
Okay, you’ve been running on your treadmill for 30 minutes, you’ve hit your 5 kilometer marker and crap, you realize you’re not at the grocery store yet! “More action, hustle harder, work all night!” you think, so you crank it up, you keep jogging, you put in more and more action, and still you get absolutely nowhere.
So let me ask you, is more activity going to make you more productive? You can’t deny that the activity level wasn’t HIGH in this scenario, but the productivity was incredibly low, and the goal of arriving at the grocery store will NEVER materialize.
Again, let me repeat: activity has no correlation to productivity.
Before starting any activity in your business it’s vital that you ask yourself if it’s the most productive thing you can be doing that’s going to bring you closer to your goal. And don’t be confused, often highly productive things take very little activity to accomplish, and sometimes low productivity things take a tonne of activity. They aren’t tied together.
If you’re in business right now, or considering going into business, I encourage you to audit yourself, audit your plans, audit your mission and values, and determine if what you’re doing—or planning on doing—is going to get you to your goal. If it won’t, adjust, change your approach, educate yourself, or reach out for help.
But whatever you do, don’t ever point fingers. We are all in charge of our own lives, our own businesses, and our own futures.
To your success,
PS – Feeling stuck in your business? Let’s connect and give your business the boost it deserves. You deserve it.
CEO RYS Group
The Blais family enjoying the views at Lake Tahoe.
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