9/10 small businesses fail in the first 3 years, leaving behind a pile of financial and emotional debt that generally weighs heavily on the “owner”.
Often, the failure comes as a surprise to the owner, full of optimism and the sense of freedom and commitment that usually goes with a start-up, irrespective of the nature of the start-up, globally targeted tech innovation, or a sandwich shop in the local mall. However, the signs are usually pretty obvious to an observer who knows the symptoms.
- Mistaking sales for profitability
- Having the wrong customers
- Not managing their cash
- Not knowing the difference between cash flow and net profit on the P&L
- Losing sight of the reason they are in business
- Poor allocation of limited resources, particularly time
- Outsourcing tasks to the cheapest available resource, rather than the most appropriate
- Not understanding the detail of their cost drivers
- Thinking that the competition thinks and acts like them
- Mistaking speed for efficiency and productivity
- Not treating existing customers like gold
- Not recognising when the horse is dead
- Poor hiring decisions under pressure to fill a seat
- Not leveraging the digital productivity tools now available
- Not understanding their primary customers sufficiently well
- Failing to leverage obvious collaborative opportunities to engage and serve customers
- Chasing the next customer rather than obsessing about the current.
- Taking the money of anything that walks through the door
- Not being able to say “No”
- Missing some of the regulatory stuff, particularly in relation to staff
- Not understanding and leveraging the digital tools available
- Failure to plan
- Failure to recognise when an existing plan is leading to a dead end
- Unclear business model
- Inconsistent application of the business model
- Price increase “phobia”
The list can go on and on, I am sure you can add some, but people still keep trying. Being prepared to work 18 hours a day,(or often just being sucked in) be the worst paid in the place, risking the house after writing a 100 page business plan for the bank against a template you got from the web that you know they will never read, and being patronised by employees of some institution whose riskiest act today will be to have chicken instead of ham on their sandwich.
Who would not want to work for themselves?
In 20 years of being such a dumb-arse, I have seen all the above, and more, while usually making less than I did as a corporate operator, but reveling in the personal and intellectual freedom. If that experience could help you to avoid that “oh shit why didn’t I see that “step, give me a call.