The normal situation for business owners is that they run a business that is totally dependent on them. They actually get stuck in the centre of the business, so as the business grows the pressure of running that business increases. We often hear business owners saying they don’t actually want to grow a bigger business because of all the headaches that it creates. That’s the normal situation for most small businesses in Australia. That normal situation is really created because the owners of the business typically will make at least one and maybe five typical mistakes.
Those mistakes are firstly having a short term focus. Their focus is on the day to day issues and challenges they face. Some people describe it as putting out fires. They race around trying to put out all the fires in their business and that’s the only thing that really takes their focus. What we found is that the short-term focus really limits their capability to achieve long-term success.
The second critical mistake is around reactive marketing. What tends to happen, and often in professional service firms it’s really prevalent because you can get busy doing the work and you’re looking at how do we get this work done? We’ve got deadlines to meet, we need to get the work done. Everyone is busily doing the work and then the work finishes and we are saying where is the next lot of work coming from? We need to find more clients. So then the focus goes on how do we find more clients? We need to do some marketing or some advertising, we need to get out there and shake the trees and get some more clients coming on board. They do that and it works, they get more clients but then we have to do the work again and it creates this endless cycle of up and downs where it’s like a roller coaster. One minute you’re busy with all the work and then the need to find more clients becomes most important.
The third typical mistake is around ineffective delegation. It’s about how to communicate with your people and ensure that they’re doing the work that you expect them to do. Often what happens is because there’s not an investment in developing skills or even developing systems in the business that give your people the infrastructure and the systems and processes that would help them do the work, they’re often just thrown in the deep end and asked to do a job that they may be trained to do but they are not trained in how you want it done. So that creates issues and a difference in expectations between what the owner wants them to do and what they think they should be doing and a lot of issues and challenges are experienced around that.
The forth mistake is lack of control and this increases the risk of failure as a business grows. So typically if you’re doing a good job and you’re successful, people want more of what you do, so the business will automatically grow. But as it grows your ability to actually know what’s going on and be able to manage people effectively is more of a challenge. You’ve got to develop control systems and mechanisms that mean that you can actually step back from being in touch with your finger in every pie and your finger of the pulse of what’s going to give you feedback about what’s actually happening in your business. Without that it’s very easy to lose control.
The final mistake is doing it all yourself. Most small business owners end up reinventing the wheel on how to grow their business successfully, instead of taking advice from experts and people that have been there and done it before, they tend to go through the process and think they have to come up with all the answers themselves. So that mistake in particular is the main challenge that people face in their business and they get stuck at the barriers that if they only knew there was someone there to help them break through that barrier it would make their life a lot easier.