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Top 10 Small Business Mistakes         Tweet This

By: Dr. Deborah Osgood

Individuals have been succeeding in businesses for decades. Because of this, there are many resources available in many forms to help anyone start, grow and also succeed. Some of the most common practices are list below yet, all too often, are not followed to the detriment of the venture.

  1. TEST MARKET: Many individuals fail to test market before business planning, before funding and even before launching a full blown marketing campaign. Before business planning and to the extent possible, get out and get someone to pay you for what it is you plan to offer. The experience tells you more about how to deliver it, who will buy it, how to find them, where to reach them, what they'll pay for it and if and how you can repeat the process profitably over time.

  2. BUSINESS PLANNING: We've all heard it many times, yet many of us still resist developing a business plan. Whether it's because we don't get to it, don't understand it or don't want to, the old adage holds true over and over; "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

  3. SELL, SELL, SELL: Selling may sound like common sense to any small business owner, but I've seen many start-ups focus on anything else but sales. It can be building the website, getting a database just right or refining the offering to perfection, but the point is, if you're not selling, you're not going to be in business for long.

    To overcome this common mistake, pick a reasonable number to what it is you sell (I usually recommend 5), and each day, make it a point to pitch what you offer that many times. The activity must represent a direct correlation between your outreach and someone buying what you offer. Check out 6 Steps to Small Business Selling for more tips.

  4. MARKET, MARKET, MARKET: Marketing is often the first thing that gets cut during tough times, yet it is the most critical. There are so many no-cost marketing opportunities today through social media, as well a variety of proven publicity strategies. Sure, your time costs money, but if you're out of business, you won't have to worry about that either. Check out Using Social Media to Grow a Small Business to learn more about how to get and stay on top of marketing your small business routinely and strategically.

  5. KNOW THE NUMBERS: Particularly for smaller businesses that have few products or services, bookkeeping often gets put on the back burner. This includes timely invoicing, payment tracking and knowing at any point in time how profitable the business is. Don't make this common mistake. QuickBooks offers easy to use and affordable desktop and cloud-based accounting software packages that are specific to different types of industries and related bookkeeping requirements.

  6. CASH FLOW IS KING: You can have new customers pounding down your door to do business with you, but if you don't have the cash to support investing in the equipment and resources to deliver the orders, you can go out of business just as fast as if you had no customers. In business, cash is king and managing cash flow is everything!

  7. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS: If what you're doing now is profitable, don't dilute profits by trying something else just because someone asks for it or because you feel like it. Sure, diversification offers growth opportunities, but all too often small business owners frequently go off in many other directions just because they can.

  8. I NEED HELP: Three small words, yet many of us fail to use them. The fact is that there are thousands of free government and nonprofit small business assistance programs available across the country to help any of us with any aspect of starting, growing and succeeding in business. This includes start-up, marketing, workforce training, funding and financial management. Visit, a nonprofit online directory that catalogs these programs by state, by type of service as a free public services.

  9. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK: Who loves to network? Not many of us. Yet for decades, building relationships has remained at the heart of business growth. It is who you know and not what you know that opens doors.

  10. CELEBRATE SUCCESS: Many successful small business owners are driven. No matter how well the business is doing, it is never enough. This type of thinking leads to workaholic behavior that can be physically, mentally and emotionally debilitating. For these folks, I prescribe that each week for 5 days a week, write down five things to celebrate at the end of each day and read the list at the start of the following day. This simple practice avoids burnout and invites balance between professional and personal quality of life factors.

Owning your own business can be such a delightfully rewarding process! With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of self-discipline, it's a great way to do what you love and make a great living in the process.

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