Most contracting firms with less than 100 employees are defined as small businesses. Perhaps your business started out with just one employee, you, and you subcontracted or outsourced tasks you didn’t have time for such as accounting, marketing, and reception. Most of us have been through that phase where there is too much to do and very little time to do it. That being said, however, the goal is to build a sustainable business at some point and it will be necessary to start putting into place systems and a plan to fulfill your goals of a viable, growing business.
Here are six common mistakes that small businesses make that we see every day that will directly impact future business goals.
No website. It is 2014. Your business must have a website. People have a phone in their hand and will want to check out your qualifications before they call you. This is not an option. There are plenty of online services that you can hire that can get you a simple website for less than $250.
Lack of a plan. They used to call it “just hang out a shingle and see what happens”. Launching a new business, any size business, without a plan for success is a recipe for failure. You need to have an outline of processes and procedures that are going to drive revenue and you need to know how you are going to deliver value to your customers. You also need to have a strategy that will ensure a profit. No profit, no business.
Shotgun approach. Focus on one or two things you do well and forget all the other “shiny objects” that will distract you from your core competencies and most profitable services. It is okay to test something new, but your brand needs to focus on developing a reputation for excellence in one area first.
No USP. It is surprising how many business owners don’t know what a USP is, and yet it is one of the secrets to business success. A USP is a unique selling proposition. What does your company have that others cannot duplicate? If you don’t want to constantly be competing on price to win bids, then you must deliver something else that your potential customer will value. Do you have 24/7 service? Do you have a free follow-up service call after 3 months? Your USP should reflect your core values as a company and that will be easily communicated to potential buyers.
Carelessness. Money is always tight because there are infinite ways a company can use it. But there is no excuse for carelessness when it comes to what the customer sees. Your marketing materials should be free from errors. Your trucks should be clean and well-maintained. A job site should be left in a tidy state after each day’s work. These are small things that don’t cost a lot but they do impact your reputation.
Customer appreciation. Taking the time to thank customers for their business is a small gesture that pays big dividends. We have one client that hand-writes a thank you note after each job. The cost is minimal, but the effect is monumental because no one else does it. People work hard for the money they pay you for your talent and labor. Let them know that you appreciate their trust in you.