5 Fundamental errors that will batter your brand
Living and breathing your business based on a burning desire to see it succeed is wonderful, but sometimes it’s possible to try too hard. Solo Expenses highlights common mistakes people make – without realising it –that can stifle success. But knowledge is power, and learning these five pitfalls will help you steer around them.
Suffering heavily from the 21st-century boom crime of metal theft, a company put considerable effort into finding a security expert. They wanted someone who could teach them strategies that would reduce the financial loss, spiralling costs and reputation damage they were suffering.
They found the ideal candidate; a recently-retired senior police officer with years of proven experience in crime prevention. He was a perfect fit, and they hired him. And then the strategy collapsed. Rather than use his expertise to deliver fresh thinking, the ex-copper was expected to become an administrator, applying the same methods that had been in place whilst the thefts were taking place. Result: no cessation of theft, and the officer resigned before there was time for him to become a scapegoat.
That sounds like the weak plot of a mediocre TV drama, but it’s a true story. No doubt this tale of institutional self-harm is similar to many being played out up and down the country as you read this post. We list it as one of the five most important failings that can harm your brand and stifle business growth. In the good times they can all play a part in reducing profitability. In the bad times, they could see companies go to the wall. Are you guilty of any of these five ‘business crimes’? If you can see yourself in any of them – especially if you’re a start-up business – we’d say now is a good time to change.
Five things that harm your business brand
1. Institutional deafness: This one has been amply illustrated at the top of this post, but a further example, if one were needed, is the tendency of large institutions to employ consultants, who submit eye-wateringly large invoices, to tell them what employees have been saying for years. There is some kind of misguided perception that if the advice comes at great expense from a third party it is somehow better than something you could have come up with yourself. Institutional deafness is a close cousin of micromanagement, and the same foundation lurks beneath both: an inability to let people do the jobs they were hired to do in the first place.
2. Reputational damage: Success in business is always going to be a team game, even for sole traders. Their team includes suppliers and customers. Always do the best job you can for a customer. If there are shortcomings, be sure they’ll tell someone else, and you’ll never know how much business you’ll lose as a result. And don’t be slow to pay suppliers; that just erodes goodwill, and when you need a favour you may well find it’s not forthcoming.
3. Procrastination: Failure to take a decision about any business issue is, in itself, a decision. By all means gather the right information to make an informed choice, and sleep on it too, but don’t make excuses for repeatedly putting it off. If you wait for the right time, you’ll wait forever. Looking busy by ‘sweating the small stuff’, and justifying delays to yourself are no doubt masking some fear or other. (The phrase ‘re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic’ might be extreme, but you get the picture). Be bold and get on with it!
4. Technophobia: There are enough hours in the day, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. If time is slipping through your fingers like dry sand, you need to turn to technology to do the non-mainstream chores you’re spending time on. What’s a non-mainstream chore? Anything that’s not what you set up your business to do. It’s no use saying you can’t get on with technology; if that were true, you’d be writing letters with a quill. Embrace technologies like the free-to-download Solo Expenses app. Not only will it help you record everything you spend faster than it takes to explain, but that means you’ll have more time to doing business. (You’ll also find that the accurate financial records it keeps for you mean you’re able to make more informed business decisions, and be more profitable as a result. What’s not to like about that?)
5. Inconsistency: You don’t have a brand if you’re not consistent. And without a brand, you don’t have a business. It’s about everything you do. It’s about the way you behave, the way customer-facing people dress, the systems you use, the quality of the product or service, and what the company looks like, in terms of its logo, the colours and typefaces you choose. If the product or service is inconsistent, customers won’t trust it, and will go elsewhere. Start-up entrepreneurs are perfectly placed to get this right. Having a strong logo and consistent colours show how proud you are of your company, and people recognise those design elements – even if they don’t realise it. And have those colours and logos replicated on a web site that works and brims with good, regularly-refreshed content. These days your web site is your shop window, and no-one’s going to buy something from a shop with a window full of cobwebs –unless it’s hallowe’en.
Picture: Chimeandsense via Dreamstime