Running a company that exclusively serves the small business market has provided me with countless opportunities to get inside the head of small-business owners.
Many of these small-business owners are essentially in the process of launching a startup. They're bootstrapped, hustling for every dime of revenue and trying to unlock the secrets to consistent growth.
The harsh reality is that a lot of startups launch, have a little success early on, but then simply stop growing. I've come across countless business owners who seem to make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to growth. Here are four to avoid.
1. Deciding not to grow in the first place
This is a problem with small-business owners who feel like they've "made it." From the outside looking in, they appear stable. And internally, they figure they have enough customers to stay busy and pay the bills.
This is the kind of attitude that gets a lot of startups in trouble. I don't think there's any difference between this line of thinking and an ostrich burying its head in the sand to avoid danger. You may think it's a good idea in the short term, but it sure isn't in the long term.
You'll be in big trouble if you lose sight of the fact that there are competitors around every corner working hard to steal your business away. If you're not working just as hard as them--or even harder--you're putting your business up for grabs. Never rest on your laurels.
2. Relying too much on referrals
You can't deny how great referrals are for a startup. As you're working to get established and make a name for yourself, referrals can act as a way to legitimize you and your business to others. They bring in new revenue and create goodwill with existing customers.
But referrals are like a pleasantly warm winter day. They're great when they happen, but you'll be highly disappointed if you start wearing shorts every day in January. One thing that many entrepreneurs and startups overlook is that even if people really like you and your business, they are under no obligation to pass on your information. People are busy and they have a ton on their minds. Odds are, they're just not thinking about you.
With this in mind, realize that while referrals are great and you should be asking for them, the responsibility to grow is ultimately on your shoulders. No one's going to do it for you.
3. Believing you'll just "figure it out"
Entrepreneurs launching startups are so used to doing everything themselves, they can easily overlook opportunities to get help when they really need it.
Business owners who get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the company aren't taking the time to learn from other people, and that's a mistake. If they have the attitude that they will eventually just "figure it out," there's likely a lot of time and effort being wasted in the interim.
More than ever before, there is a lot of help out there if you're just willing to ask. Don't be shy about by relying on the experiences of those who have gone before you. More times than not they are happy to help, and your business will reap the benefits.
4. Doing everything yourself
This is the classic pitfall of entrepreneurs, and I've seen it countless times; they just can't let go. I even struggled with this myself as Infusionsoft was trying to get off the ground.
The solution to this problem comes down to trust. Entrepreneurs and startups have to be able to put their trust in others to help grow the business. Having one person try to do everything for him or herself holds everyone back and stunts growth.
It's only once entrepreneurs start giving up responsibility do they realize how much more they can accomplish. It's not easy to do, but it almost always pays off.
If you're serious about growing your business, take some time to think through these four growth-blockers and see how you can do a better job and eliminating them from your day-to-day. It will be well worth the effort and time.