Seven Ways Entrepreneurs Can Sabotage Their Own Business

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Some people launch a home-based business out of necessity, while others take the plunge to fulfill a longstanding dream. There are also accidental entrepreneurs who stumble across a great product or idea that they realize could be financially rewarding, and there are people who start a home-based business to adapt to changes in their family commitments, their own health, or their finances. Regardless of their reasons for starting a business, however, many entrepreneurs prove to be their own worst enemies. There are several common mistakes that can severely hamper the success of your business, but there are also ways that you could unknowingly be sabotaging yourself.

1. Your goals are more akin to wishes. You have a long list of what you want to achieve, but you do not have a realistic action plan for any of the items on your list. Perhaps your goal is to have your business generate $100,000 in revenue annually, but your entire marketing plan is a Facebook post to announce your new business to your friends and relatives. Maybe one of your goals is to quit your regular job and devote yourself to your business, but you have never run the numbers to see how much money you need to earn from your business, or how much you need to save to provide a safety cushion.

Suggestion: Every goal needs a workable plan. Carefully analyze each of your goals to identify any that are unrealistic, then redefine them or discard them. Next, list the steps that you need to take to reach the goal. During this process, you will probably find that certain steps can help you achieve more than one goal, making your planning easier.

2. You have an all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to your business. You have an image of what complete success would look like, and you feel that you are an utter failure unless you can reach that idealized destination. You feel no sense of accomplishment from increasing your revenue by 25%, doubling your client base, or expanding your menu of available products or services. Your gaze is fixed on the destination, so you take no pleasure in the journey. The journey turns into an ordeal that deprives you of the ability to recognize how small steps can carry you all the way to your destination.

Suggestion: Break your long-term goals into small increments that you can realistically complete relatively quickly. For example, you can set goals to be completed in three months, six months, one year, or two years. When you meet each goal, celebrate your success, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, and then analyze what you did right or wrong so that you can apply your insights to future goals.

3. You are not great at assigning priorities. For some people, everything related to the business has an equal priority, or every business-related activity has a higher priority than their personal life. This can lead them to not prioritize critical things that can have an indirect effect on their business success.

Suggestion: Learn how to prioritize tasks based on their impact to your business. For example, you probably know that you want to assign a higher priority to responding to a customer’s complaint than to reading reviews about a new desk chair that you are considering. However, you might not realize that you need to prioritize things that are not directly related to your business. For example, if you want your home-based business to succeed, you would be wise to take care of yourself by making time for exercise, eating right, keeping your routine health care appointments, and finding ways to alleviate stress. If you have children, a significant other, or close relatives, you also need to ensure that you spend time with them, recognize what they need from you, and strike a proper balance between your work and personal priorities.

4. You worry too much about whether people like you. Naturally, you want your customers to think that you are as likeable and pleasant as you are knowledgeable and professional. You do not want your employees or your vendors to think that you are too demanding, unfeeling, selfish, or rude. However, your desire to be liked could be used against you by a manipulative employee, unscrupulous vendor, or dishonest customer.

Suggestion: Realize that you cannot please everyone in every situation. There will be times when you need to draw a line that you refuse to cross. In some cases, you may need to communicate precisely where the line lies; you might want to warn a perennially late employee, for example, of the consequences if they continue to disregard their work schedule. However, in other circumstances, you will need to make a decision in the moment, so you should have an idea of where you want to draw your line. In short, do not allow yourself to be used as a doormat just because you want people to like you.

5. You tend to procrastinate, preferring to put off until tomorrow what you could do today, especially if you consider the task unpleasant or uninteresting. For example, you know that you need to coach an underperforming employee, but you suspect your actions will be met with anger, so you just let things slide. You are relatively certain that you can find a cheaper solution for your business insurance, but soliciting quotes seems like a time-consuming, boring activity.

Suggestion: Recognize the ways that your procrastination can negatively impact your business. Next, instead of trying to make sweeping changes, start with small steps. For example, if you need to collect insurance quotes, commit to requesting one or two quotes each day until you have accumulated responses from six or eight different companies. Remind yourself that even small steps can generate significant rewards if you keep taking them.

6. You do not learn from your mistakes. Thomas Edison allegedly said that you eliminate another wrong option every time you fail, and he also is reported to have stated that you only truly fail if you learn nothing from the experience. If you are human, you will make mistakes, and some of them may cost your business money, customers, or both.

Suggestion: When something goes wrong, analyze the actions that you took or did not take to see how your decisions contributed to the negative outcome. Did you fail to conduct your marketing research before launching a campaign? Did you forget to order an essential raw material? Did you choose the wrong employee to handle a critical task? Once you understand why a mistake happened, you can create safeguards to ensure that it never happens again.

7. You are too committed to playing it safe. Naturally, you do not want to take unnecessary risks that could jeopardize your entire business, but it is also possible to play things too safe. You decide against hiring a highly qualified candidate, for example, because he was fired nine years ago for failing to show up without calling. You worry about whether you have a sufficient variety of products for an upcoming holiday, but you refuse to add even one new product because you are not certain that it will sell. You are so concerned about making a mistake that you overcomplicate matters, wasting your valuable time by running endless scenarios through your mind, conducting days of research to determine whether an item that will cost you $2 is better than a similar item costing $1.50, or analyzing 100 different possible solutions in an attempt to find one that is ideal.

Suggestion: Do not allow fear to control you. Be realistic about how much of an impact the action you are considering will have on your business if you make the wrong decision. If you expand your product line, could your business survive even if you do not sell the merchandise you ordered? Place your order. If the candidate is otherwise ideal, extend an offer. Spend $3.50 to order both items so that you can quickly compare them for yourself. Understand that there is seldom an ideal solution, so pick the best imperfect solution.