There are many things successful business owners consciously steer clear of while going about running and growing their business. We asked 13 TAB members what they believe entrepreneurs should assiduously avoid doing at any cost. Learn from their hard-won lessons about what NOT to do in your business.
#1 Don't do the things you don't want your employees to do.
In other words, lead by example. Your employees form their habits based on what they see you do as the leader. Your employees will emulate the way you speak to customers and employees and the work habits you display. If you see any of your habits you would not like exhibited by your employees, correct them quickly.
#2 Don't take on things that are not a good use of your skill, talent, and time.
It is all too easy to work below your pay grade, and it is essential to be ruthlessly selective about what you allow into your day. For this selectivity to become a habit, it has to become ingrained into the way you think about everything you take on, and to make this happen; you need to develop a return on investment criteria you apply without exception to all your activities. When this process becomes part of how you think, when you instinctively use it in everything you do, it will become a habit!
#3 Don't go it alone.
Hire a Business Coach or a mentor. We all know what we know, and we don't know what we don't know. If you don't seek out business coaching or accept mentorship, you are doing yourself a disservice. You may miss a blind spot or insight that could have been transformative for your business.
#4 Don't stop learning and meeting new people.
Highly successful business owners allow time to learn new things and meet new people. When learning stops, a company stops improving its performance. You have to accept new and different ways of doing things. Meeting new people brings fresh ideas to a leader and his/her company. Make sure you, as a leader, are open-minded enough to spend the time to keep up with new trends in business and utilize new and improved ways of solving problems.
#5 Don't work from your inbox.
"If you are working from your inbox, you are working on other people's priorities," said Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense. Business owners, like everyone else, should unlearn the desire to check emails around every corner. It robs you of focus, and it enslaves you to other people's timelines and priorities. Set a time in the day for emails, a time that falls outside your most productive hours, and a time that does not detract from when you need to focus on the important (not the urgent) aspects of your business.
#6 Don't be scared to ask for help.
In her book, "Reinforcements," social physiologist Heidi Grant says research proves that people are twice as likely to help us than we think they are.
"People want to be helpful. Admittedly, not all people, but far more of us than you would imagine. And if you ask for the help you need, the chances are good that you will get it, and then some. Steve Jobs certainly thought so. In 1994, a few years before he returned to Apple, one of the most successful men in recent history spoke to an interviewer about why it's so important to ask for what you need.
Now, I've actually always found something to be very true, which is that most people don't get those experiences because they never ask. I've never found anybody who didn't want to help me when I've asked them for help. I've never found anyone who's said no or hung up the phone when I called—I just asked. And when people ask me, I try to be as responsive, to pay that debt of gratitude back. Most people never pick up the phone and call; most people never ask. And that's what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them."
Excerpt From: Heidi Grant. "Reinforcements." Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/reinforcements/id1259341146
#7 Never stop evolving.
The basic mantra for successful business owners is to write down their vision so it becomes more concrete than a dream. Your vision becomes the guide to follow as it maps out a path forward to your success, puts you in the driver's seat, and avoids losing control.
A key factor is the need to evolve your thinking, your plan, and your business as new situations arise. Being open to change and willing to make adjustments creates the opportunity to capitalize on the nuances that can make or break your plans.
At my mastermind groups, we focus on shared wisdom to help you find a clear way forward. As in any learning situation, your perspective evolves. You will need to make calculated moves and alter your path to drive and control your business. Your vision will guide the decisions you make in your business.
These tweaks and sometimes more extensive changes to well-defined plans and strategies are what brings growth and profit. It keeps you in control. That is how you evolve. The shared wisdom of our groups offers you the benefit of others' evolution or the lack thereof, which they may regret.
When you allow your mindset to evolve as an owner or entrepreneur, it drives your business forward.
#8 Don't keep employees that don't fit into your culture.
We can easily fall into a mindset of thinking that one of our employees is so valuable to the business that they can't be replaced, even though they are toxic to the team. While it may be challenging, you can replace even the most technically valuable employee with someone better. It is not worth it to keep an employee that doesn't fit the company's values, and that causes internal strife. It undermines your credibility and invites behaviors from others that don't fit into your culture either.
#9 My three to-don't behaviors relate to competition, marketing, and self-evaluation.
The three prevalent mistakes I've observed from small business owners are:
- Underestimating (even dismissing) their competition,
- Not understanding the critical role of marketing to a defined target demographic, and
- Not taking the time to evaluate the owner's strengths and weaknesses clear-headedly.
#10 Don't keep doing the same thing!
We all know the quote is redefining insanity as "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." However, many business owners continue doing the same thing, repeatedly expecting the same results, yet they don't get them! Business owners are often perplexed about how their product and processes resulted in significant sales and growth earlier for the business, but no longer do.
Why is that?
Change is essential. In this scenario, while what these business owners are doing remains unchanged, the business environment it's being done in has dramatically changed.
What might change in the business environment? Well, we can start with a small list, but there are many other factors, like:
- The customers
- Generational differences in wants, needs, values, or consumer behavior
- Economics —micro and macro
- Your employees
- Your company culture
This list can continue for several pages. What's important is to recognize the "Business Owner's Definition of Insanity — Doing the same things over and over and expecting the same results." Don't fall into this trap. You, your company, your product must all change with the times. Much like the frog in the boiling water, the times can change around you so slowly you don't even notice. An outside trusted advisor can help you see the forest through the trees. The trees grow, change colors, lose their leaves, and eventually die if they don't get enough care. Don't get caught simply sitting under the shade!
#11 Here's what my "business owners to-don't list looks like:
- Don't give personal guarantees unless your entire future depends upon it. My first banking deal required a personal guarantee. I responded, "Since I am careful with my money, I will be careful with yours." So no guarantee was given.
- Never accept "less" when hiring because you believe the person in front of you is the best of a bad bunch. It is not fair on either of you, and it is your responsibility. It will end badly sooner or later.
- Never set a KPI that can be manipulated to look good by your staff—for example, using the number of thieves caught in a retail store while measuring stock loss. This only encourages methods to attract more thieves.
- Never accept invisible monkeys left on your shoulder when you have a one-on-one with your staff. Make sure the monkey stays on their shoulder.
- Never enter negotiations without a plan B as a viable alternative. Your mindset will be compromised.
- Never think that your brand is your logo and supporting design work. As Jeff Bezos puts it, "Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
#12 Don't manage everyone on your team the same, exact way.
We should all do a few core things for our employees, and those should be consistent. However, when you approach everything you say and do for every employee the same way, you will miss the boat on a large percentage of them. For example:
- Every single person is motivated differently. Finding what inspires both intrinsic and extrinsic factors is a powerful approach.
- Knowing their personality style and life experiences are different from you and everyone else.
#13 Don't underestimate your employees.
They will contribute immensely to your level of success. If developed, nurtured, and rewarded, each member of the team has something to add.
All employees are part of the team, and as participants in your business, you need to understand how they fit into the company's success. You should provide them with individual and team goals and communicate KPI's regularly to keep them engaged.