Small business problems (SBW P.5)

part 5 in the series, helping you to take the leap and become a Small Biz Whizz! (SBW)

Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved so far – you’ve  started a new business, figured out your small business niche, have an awesome portfolio, are balancing that shoestring budget, so everything’s hunky-dory, right?

Wait, what’s that?

You’ve just made a crazy business decision that seemed like a great idea at the time, but has turned into a mini or massive disaster? Phew, come and join the club.

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What’s the size of your disaster?

It’s time to take a deep breath so that we can get things into perspective. You’ve started your small business because you’re brilliant at X or Y, so this doesn’t mean you’ll have the knowledge or experience to get every decision right. But that’s ok because you’re a human, not a robot, and your clients and customers like working with actual people.

For many of us, it’s the wrong financial decisions that impact us the most, so we kick ourselves harder when this happens. Whether any of these decisions happen because of well thought out but misguided intentions, or are made quickly under a time-pressured and stressful situation, now’s the time to reflect on what happens next.

Here are some real life ‘uh-oh’ small business problems from myself and other business owners, who all survived to tell the tale…

Starting a business that only YOU love

“I started a business without doing any research and then ended up selling to a bunch of people who don’t wanna spend a penny. Now proud owner of useless domain name, business cards and all sorts of other jazz I can’t reuse, ah well…”
Jessica, Coaching & Business Support

It’s wonderful when you get that lightbulb moment and realise what you truly want to do as your career. However, you also need to temper that excitement with the dull reality of research. You might be 100% sure there’s a gap in the market for cat ballet costumes or another coconut water brand, but you still need to do your due diligence.

Research is great way to find out if that gap exists for a reason (no one wants it), or if it’s already heavily oversubscribed by big players that you’re unlikely to be able to compete against. Yes, it’s fashionable to tell people to ‘follow their passions’, but running a business where no one wants to pay for your goods or services, is a very expensive hobby.

This brand or that brand?

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“I’ve spent loads on domain names. I’d get (what I thought was) a great idea for a name, quickly buy the domain because I was worried that someone would take it, then change my mind a day or two later. I did that about 4 times I think, total waste of money.”
Nic, Online Retailer

I think we’d all agree that the internet is a pretty crowded place, so it makes sense to want to secure your little piece of it. It’s difficult to reign in your excitement when you’re even thinking about starting a business, but unless you have an unlimited supply of funds, you really need to be sure which direction you’re heading in.

Take your time, do your research and make sure there’s a gap in the market. Yes, it’s amazing that your ideal domain is still available, but also very unlikely that anyone will snap it up within a couple of days, especially if you’re not yelling to all and sundry, “I’m going to start making peanut butter cheese shoes!”

The business card graveyard

“I spent £150 (I didn’t have) on 750 business cards and made two big mistakes. The first was that I thought I could give them all out to potential contacts at a 3-day show (in reality I gave away 100), and soon after, I tweaked my job title, so they don’t exactly reflect what I want them to say!”
Charlotte, Copywriter

It’s beyond exciting ordering business cards with your name and job title on them as – gasp – you’re actually telling the world that you are really doing your thang! It’s also easy to get carried away ordering loads, as cool sites like Moo tempt you with savings based on ordering bigger batches.

From experience, I’d advise ordering a test batch of 50. It’s not a huge cost if you end up venturing off into a different direction, but still means you have a fancy business card to hand when you meet interesting people. Reward yourself with larger batches at better prices as you get more established within your business, and have decided that this is definitely your bag.

“I too have a business card graveyard! I thought I was going to make my entrepreneurial splash as a Beachbody coach, then my own wellness thing, then I thought I’d use my psychology background to help people (and welcome business card iteration number three). Finally, I decided to smarten up, hire a business coach, and my fourth (and hopefully FINAL for a WHILE) business card iteration is shipping as we speak!”
Jennelle, Relationship Advisor

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Hiring an ‘expert’ to help you

“I spent a massive amount of money to get my website SEOed and all I got was a meeting, which was good for clarity, and a 24-page report of useful words. But no one touched my website even once…”
Linn, Nutritional Therapist

It’s an absolute minefield trying to find someone trustworthy who has expertise in an area of your business that you don’t know or really understand much about. Anyone can set themselves up as an expert in the vague and ‘black magic’ world of SEO, digital marketing, website building and Adwords, so how do you navigate this successfully?

Ask for recommendations from other business owners who’ve used these services and feel like they got great value for money. Ask lots of questions without fully confessing you have no clue as to what they do. If they’re really an expert, they’ll sense this anyway and go to great lengths to explain the processes to you as simply as possible.

I’m personally building up my own small network of trusted experts that I can refer my clients to, so feel free to ask me if I know the type of expert you might be looking for.

Deciding to go into partnership

“How’s this for a doozie? I spent 12 months creating an online and face-to-face program with a friend, and invested thousands of dollars and hours. At the end of the year, she announces that she never wanted to run it as a business – she wanted to give it away!”
Nicole, Chief Exploration Officer

Ouch, that’s a pretty painful lesson to learn so far down the road. Partnerships often look ideal on paper – a money-making combination of friendship and business skills sounds like the perfect plan. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve known each other, when things get tough, hard decisions need to be made.

I’ve heard lots of horror stories about business owners losing both their businesses and friendships because there were no contractual boundaries in place. I KNOW you think it will be different with your friend, but play it super safe, and invest in a contractual agreement right from the start. Buck the trend and become the case study people want to read about and emulate. Don’t be a muppet!

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Other small business problems like…

“I’ve ordered loads of branded stuff before and then changed my logo and branding… I’ve worked with clients who gave me a funny feeling and turned out to be dodgy… I’ve invoiced in $ instead of £ and been too embarrassed to say anything – the list goes on!”
Nadia, Business Coach & Mentor

These examples from Nadia made me stupidly happy. Why? Because she’s the most awesome business woman / coach / mentor / friend who’s an absolute expert at what she does. So thank heavens she’s also made mistakes along the way, because it reminds me that even brilliant business owners who are at the top of their game, travel the same bumpy road as the rest of us!

Got an ‘oops!’ moment of your own? Or have you got small business problems that haven’t yet blown up? Share it in the comments below and join the goofed-but-still-going-gang!

Don’t forget, if you’re a healthy lifestyle brand that needs a copywriter to help you write wonderful words for your website, blog and articles like this, email me!