How Not to Run Your Own Small Business

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I have run my own business for the last 5 years. Despite having experience in my field, business training, a solid business plan and a mentor during my first start up year, I still have made mistakes along the way. Learning from these mistakes has helped me grow as a person and as a business. Follow my what not to do list to help your business succeed.

  • Don’t over extend yourself. Only carry inventory that you know you will sell and don’t purchase equipment beyond what you absolutely need. Suppliers and sales people will tell you what you want to hear to get you to buy their product. Many times I went against my instincts and over purchased, only later having to sell at a loss.
  • Avoid contracts or long term contracts at least. This is something I wish I had been told. Most internet providers, phone companies, security companies and the like require you to agree to a contract in order to get an introductory fee or for certain service charges to be waived. Make sure you have all of the information before you sign. Remember, a verbal agreement is sometimes legally binding too. I had a few situations where I was in a contract and didn’t even know it and the contract would be automatically renewed. When I went to cancel the service, I was told that I had to pay out the rest of my contract. Many times it is better not to be in a contract and pay a little more so you can cancel your service or switch providers without penalty.
  • Choose your location wisely. If you work from home, then you have no choice. But if you are setting up an office/studio or retail location like I did, then you need to do some research. Is it zoned for your type of business, is there parking, what is the demographics of the neighbourhood, and are there any construction plans under way in your area? This was by far my biggest mistake. I chose a location where the rent was reasonable, but the customers in my neighbourhood were largely lower income. As well, the area was slow to develop, despite a new Business Improvement Association. The final nail in the coffin was a large track work reconstruction project which halted my business for an entire summer.
  • Before you begin any form of marketing, do research, research, research. When you do your business plan, you should create a marketing plan. Once you begin your business, find out ways to get the most bang for your buck. When I first started my business, I had many print advertisers and sign companies want to sell me advertising, which I did purchase with high hopes. This campaign was largely unsuccessful and costly to my business. After some research, I discovered that on-line marketing was much more effective to my business. It was more economical and I could track traffic to my website.
  • Don’t hire friends or go into business with them! Oh, we all have friends and family that want to help out when you are starting a new business. It seems like a good idea at the time, but it can make for bitter endings. When you hire a friend, you might have higher or lower expectations for them. You might think because they are your friend that they should work extra hard or perhaps you are more lenient with them taking long lunches, arriving late, leaving early. That was my problem. Because they were my friends, I didn’t want to upset them. It is much easier asking a non-friend employee to arrive at 9 am or ask them not to talk on their cell phone while you are paying them. The worst thing is that you build up resentment for this friend because you think they are taking advantage of you. Luckily, it didn’t end badly for me, but it did strain some of my relationships.

Finally, with all of this in mind, trust your own instincts. Take your time when it comes to bigger decisions. Anyone who is rushing you is not professional. You should have time to mull it over. It is your business after all.


Source by Heidi Loney

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