Careful! Destroying your business is easier than it looks
Common mistakes that will spell the end for your business in 5 years or less
What a terrifying title but we have to shake ourselves awake if we want to recognise and learn from some cold hard truths before it’s too late.
Who or what is killing our businesses?
You’re going to hear or read some pretty straight talk here because this is important and our aim is to not only support businesses but see them grow, enjoy success and make a difference. But let’s focus for a moment on a telling statistic published in last year’s “Small Business Counts” report from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO):
65% of small businesses survived over the reported 5-year period. Great. But 744,525 other small businesses disappeared beneath the waves. That’s right, almost three-quarters of a million small businesses failed.
So, the shocking reveal is that oftentimes, it is actually the business owners themselves that are leading the race to the bottom and why? It’s because of their reactions to two factors:
- Guidance or advice
- Change and the challenge of adaptability
This conclusion is based on our combined 30+ years of experience consulting with, managing and growing accounts in the digital business environment. Our experience means we can also provide some useful insights and tips to help you avoid disasters related to these two factors. Firstly…
If you don’t learn how to listen, you’ll learn how to fail
“Guidance” is a wonderful word because if we feel, as businesspeople, leaders or technicians, that we have guidance or are being guided, achievement and success is just around the corner. Here are three ways guidance can go wrong:
- Listening to poor guidance. This is the most obvious and so it’s both surprising and disappointing when this occurs. People will offer advice and guidance and they… well… have no clue what they’re talking about. They’ve never helped a business succeed, they’ve never run a business, it’s guesswork, cliché and BS. Pro tip: be polite, filter it out and move on.
- Mistaken identity. With all due respect to accountants, generally, asking them about achieving broader reach or online traffic would be a mistake. They will tell you what worked for them in their business but that doesn’t mean that their 5 -star rating for bookkeeping will raise your ratings from a 4 to a 5. Horses for courses, as they say.
- Not listening enough. Yes, listen to everyone. The challenge though is to realise what’s useful, redundant or simply not relevant. The same is true of guidance. Pro tip: speak to as many people as possible about your challenges around your industry, your business and even your products and/or services. Be interested but more importantly, be discerning. Not all of what you get will be useful or right or relevant. You’ll need the wisdom of experience to tell which is which. But yes, if you have the option of “playing your cards close to your chest” and speaking to only one or two trusted advisors or getting a broad range of opinions from a large and diverse group, choose the latter. Remember, you can learn as much from a wrong answer as a correct one – wisdom and experience are the keys.
Try this today – Every time you seek or receive guidance, feedback, opinions or reviews, identify at least one useful takeaway that you can use to improve your business. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Thick skin – not everything you hear is going to be positive. That’s life and that’s the truth. Use the useful stuff, discard the rest but stay resilient and realistically optimistic.
- Open ears – if you are closed to feedback it will show in everything from your attitude, your inaction and reactions. Listen to everything, hear the relevant pieces and action the important items.
- An “actionable item radar” – there will always be something positive you can apply from every interaction. Seek and you will find.
Adaptability makes all the difference when change occurs – and it will!
We’ve already agreed that misusing or ignoring guidance is every bit as fatal to a business as failing to adapt to change.
So, let me just jump in with a Pro Tip spoiler alert: if you do not recognise and respond to the waves and winds of change that are constantly reshaping the business landscape (proactively or at the very least, immediately) your business will not survive. Harsh but true!
But what kind of change are we talking about?
The 3 changes that can kill your business – if you let them
Okay, we know that there are many changes that can shape the environment in which we all operate but it’s how you manage those changes and how we plan for those changes that determines your fate. Going back to the early 2000’s I’ve seen three clearly-defined categories of change that affect businesses:
- Customer influence and opinion
At no time has the balance of power been more skewed in your customers’ favour. With the advent of an ever-increasing range of social media platforms and the ability to post, publicise and share opinions through ratings, customers can remotely cement a business’s reputation – for better or for worse.
Pro-tip: lean into this. Listen to what your customers are saying. Engage with them and if by chance you get a bad review, work as hard you can to ensure the next five are brilliant. This tells people that you are listening and that you have their best interests and satisfaction in mind.
- Customer expectations of products
Recognising that customers consume product differently today than the way they 5 years ago is another important step in “change-proofing” your business. People like rapid service but they love convenience. There was a time when people would purchase a pie, circle back for a drink and then maybe a bit later, grab a dessert – something like that. In today’s market, if you can offer an all-in-one tradies lunch (pie, drink and cake) with some sort of loyalty token thrown in, you’re actually matching and maybe exceeding customer expectations. Cue a 5-star rating, a like, a comment and maybe a share. Again, the world has changed and the rules are adapt or disappear!
- Customer expectations of user experience/customer service
Once upon a time, most shops, vendors and service counters could get away with asking for cash payments and today, believe it or not, there are still some businesses out there that won’t take on EFTPOS payments. They refuse to adapt for whatever reason and it’s costing them – daily, hourly, every minute.
Consumers want flexibility and options, what options are you offering them? Are presenting quotes, do you offer finance, product bundles?
Pro tip: take a step back from your business and ask, how am I meeting modern customer expectations?
If you fail to adapt, then this and the next generation of your customers/clients, which is only ever 5 years away, will choose to go where their preferences and needs are accommodated. Letting all this slip – along with your business is all too easy and there’s a price to pay. BUT getting on top of things by learning these lessons around guidance and adaptability will set you up for future success.
Janty and Kynan are important resources within our brains trust and are on hand to help set your business up for ongoing success with the right type of guidance during these everchanging times.
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