There’s an old Romanian tale that goes like this: two women – the mom of a newborn and her mother – had placed the baby near a stove, to keep him warm. The problem was, on the stove there was a big chunk of salt that could’ve fell off, killing the baby. Now, instead of removing the danger, the two women started crying and agonising over the fact that the baby might die.
We see this kind of approach in our every-day lives. We hear people complaining about not making enough money or not being happy about their jobs, or their marriages, or their lives in general, but no one is actually willing to make the tiniest effort to change that.
The same goes for companies. There are hundreds of business owners out there who whine about their business being unprofitable and who would rather blame it on everyone (and everything) else, instead of wondering what is it about them, their decisions, their teams or their processes that asphyxiate the business.
It could be a huge number of reasons why companies fail to grow, but here’s the main mistakes that lead to that result.
1. Not admitting you’ve hit the bottom
This is not top of the list by accident. It’s the #1 reason why businesses don’t grow: because the big chairs are either too proud, too busy, too stubborn or just too stupid (yes, we just said that) to admit they’ve reached a breaking point. But why won’t they ask for help?
For example, a few (not too many) years ago, it would have been a disaster to admit to your friends and family that you’re in therapy. You would be asked if you’re crazy or you’re on drugs and your social and moral statuses would automatically become subjects of doubt. Luckily, humanity has evolved greatly and now psychological therapy is finally being associated with the desire for personal development and an overall care for your well-being.
So there, our busy, ignorant, stubborn friends. Admitting you need help in setting your business back on the right track does not imply you kneeling before anyone. There are specialists – that is, people who know better than you – who are qualified to offer proper advising and to show you the multitude of ways in which you can grow your business.
Our advice: turn to them. No one will suspect you of being on drugs for that.
2. Failing to see the big picture
This is commonly spread among decision-makers, especially from the big companies. First there’s the initial setup of the entire business and, if everything is set correctly, all departments work as expected. After some time, however, the focus is restrained and all the attention, efforts and money go on 2-3 areas, tops.
You might function like that for a while, but sooner or later the company will start bleeding. All divisions that have been ignored until then are going to go tumbling down, eventually putting the lock on your business.
Our advice: have the wisdom to analyse your business as a whole, periodically. Gather the key people, ask for reports, review your budget, go through all the processes again and again, encourage improvement suggestions, monitor your critical KPIs.
Don’t let anything catch you by surprise and don’t let any solution come a second too late.
3. Making uninspired investments, or no investments at all
It’s easy to tell when you’ve spent your cash on the wrong thing: there are no immediate results and there’s a hole in your budget that nothing can cover. We all know how that goes: you see a shiny thing. It looks nice, it has a sexy price on it, it’s backed up with a lot of advertising and you can even recall hearing some second-hand “influencer” swear to God it completely revolutionised their business.
OK, so you obviously got tricked into investing in something completely worthless. It’s part of the business risk and, if you were smart enough, there’s a line in your budget for that. What’s important now is that you manage to recover that loss fast, and what’s even more important is that you don’t repeat that mistake.
And then there’s the type that just won’t throw in a dime. We call them “the suicide bombers”. You know that if you don’t pump any money in your business you’re practically signing its death sentence, and yet you won’t do it anyway. There’s only two reasons for that: you either don’t have a clue on how to run a business, or you don’t give a shit about it.
Our advice: keep investing in your business in a controlled, educated manner. You know that famous saying “you need to spend money to make money”? It’s famous because it’s true. There’s a time to invest and a time to grow. With no investment, there will be no growth. End of story.
4. Treating technology as a “nice-to-have”
In other words, show me what technologies you use and I’ll predict the trajectory of your business in the foreseeable future.
Technology nowadays is absolutely fundamental for your business, there’s no question about that. You need it to create, manage, develop, communicate, secure, monitor and sell.
When it comes to the amount of technology required from one business to another, the mistake can lay at the end of one of two extremes: there are the ones who don’t use any, because they either don’t want to invest (sounds familiar?) or they fail to see its utility (the “old-fashioned accountant” model), and then there are the ones who overuse it, chasing every new feature on the market regardless if it really brings any added value to their business or not.
Our advice: “balance is key”. Too much or too little technology is bad for your business. Unless you are a tech expert, don’t pick your technologies on your own.
5. Not running a vision/ direction cross-check
It’s really important to run this analysis every now and again. You need to remember why you first started your business, what were your beliefs back then, how did you think your products or services were going to change the world, and then compare it to where you’re standing right now.
Is the scope still met? Do you still deliver what you first promised you would? Does your team share your values? Did you manage to make the impact you thought you’d make?
And what’s most important, is your current direction the one you have envisioned for your business?
Our advice: turn this cross-check into a habit. It might seem unimportant at first, but the more you get into detail, the more likely it is that you’ll find some severe irregularities that keep your business from growing.
6. Falling for the bad examples in the industry
This is what we call “the herd effect”. The line that best describes it is: “I have to do it because everyone does it, and if everyone does it then it’s the right thing to do, no?”
What’s good for one business can prove to be disastrous for the other. Also, you really need to keep this in mind: most of your competitors have no idea what they’re doing. They follow the trends thinking that attracting the masses will bring them the best results, or they collaborate with agencies who have limited capabilities and knowledge about business as a whole.
Our advice: learn how to process all information through your own filters and only make the decisions that are right for your company. Don’t get yourself fooled by certain practices or features just because everyone in your industry does them or has them.
Guys, we’re gonna’ repeat until everyone hears us out: it’s crucial that you understand you can’t (and shouldn’t) handle everything all by yourselves. Successful businesses aren’t only about a healthy vision and a good strategy. They are also about strong, reliable and efficient partnerships and collaborations. No one can be an expert in everything, so back your business up with specialists who understand your vision and who can contribute actively to the growth of your business. Good luck! 🙂