Avoiding the ‘seven deadly sins’

There are many bad practices and habits that business owners can fall into without realising; Here are seven to avoid...

By Neil Pattermore |

Published:  15 January, 2020

We have all witnessed the ‘buggers muddle’ that has seen the UK Parliament struggling to find a solution to the challenge of Brexit. By the time you are reading this in December, the general election will be upon us. However, this also showed how difficult it is to align different stakeholder views and there were many instances where some cardinal sins were evident in trying to find solutions. What happened in Parliament would never work in a business environment. So, what are the ‘deadly sins’ to avoid in the management of a day to day business.
    
Each of these ‘seven deadly sins’ probably deserve an article in their own right, but I hope to provide some form of thought provoking ‘sins’ that you need to consider directly in relation to you and your business.
    
Firstly, and most importantly, be really honest with yourself and see how these seven key areas apply to you.

1. Don’t be a busy fool!
How easy it is to fall into this trap. Often, in a futile attempt to keep business costs to a minimum, it leads to you getting bogged down in the day-to-day issues and fire-fighting. There's less and less time to step back, plan for the future, anticipate problems and manage the business, which then hit as the cycle starts again. You must make time to manage the business, not just run it.
    
In addition, guilt about the lack of ‘quality’ time spent with friends and family can compound the issue and in extreme cases can lead to exhaustion and collapse.
    
Many business owners kid themselves that everything is OK and only start to hire staff or outsource when the cracks are beginning to show. By then it can already be too late. So, get additional help early on.

2. How do you know what you don't know?
You know what you are good at and that has allowed your business to start and develop. To really drive the business forward will also involve finding clients, marketing, recruiting and motivating staff and managing cash flow and developing systems and procedures, plus a whole lot more.
    
It is unlikely that any one business owner knows everything he needs to know.
    
Learn to recognise where your skills and knowledge fall short and take action to remedy this gap in your business. Be clear about what precise help you need, what objective it will lead to being fulfilled and the relevant expertise you need to hire in.

3. Trying to grow too fast and too soon
You will obviously have a great passion and belief in your business. So, you gear up by expanding staff and premises - only to have to cut back as the anticipated increase in business turned out to be a false projection.
    
Every business needs working capital and as the business increases so does the working capital requirement. If cash is tied up in stock or in covering debtors that owe money, then the company runs the risk of running out of cash. This is a well recognised phenomenon and you need to plan accordingly – especially with your bank and accountant.
    
Make sure you plan for any expansion – don’t celebrate the increase in business and then blame the banks for pulling the plug just when things are picking up. The reality is you need to sit down with your accountant and  bank and discuss the need for funding several months in advance to avoid any panic requests.
    
Additionally, as the business grows, it is critical that you allow for the introduction of the appropriate systems and procedures, so you don't end up being sucked into fire fighting as the business grows, meaning you spend more time working in the business and less time working on it.

4. Who can you talk to?
Many garages are too small to have a proper Board or even a Non-Executive Director. It would be inappropriate to talk to staff about some issues and often partners and friends just don't ‘get it’. External advisors may have only a narrow focus or worse still have their own agenda, so business owners end up marooned on their own little island.

This can be very damaging. Talking things through with others is important as it often provides new ideas and perspectives or can simply endorse your view reassuring you that you are heading the right way. Business breakfast clubs can work well or develop a small network of people you can trust and use them to talk things through and get their input.

5. Don’t employ another you!
Many business owners employ people who are similar to themselves - so the skills gaps are not actually filled. It's also common for recruitment to be left until the last minute and so a decision is made in haste, to be regretted at leisure!
    
This leads to problems being overlooked, references are not checked, or business partners are not consulted. Also remember, no matter how good someone is, if there is a difference in their work ethics and values, then the only questions will be "When will the row happen?" and "On what subject will it be?" before they leave or you have to fire them.

6. Who are you?
Many business owners refuse to face their fears and insecurities, often because they don't want to appear stupid or expose a lack of knowledge. They don't trust other people and want to hold on to everything themselves because they believe no one can do it as well as they can. Ultimately this means they are less able to build an appropriate team around them.

Be brutally honest with yourself, about your strengths and weaknesses and their impact on others.
    
Ensure that you know how to be a great delegator. Learn how to delegate, motivate and communicate with your staff – it is a key man management skill and avoid just dumping or micro-managing.


7. Make a new circle around you
Who's challenging you and testing your business development strategy? Get out of your comfort zone. Very often business owners surround themselves with people from the same sector. The thinking goes something like; ‘unless you've been man and boy in my sector for 50 years – you couldn't possibly have anything to contribute.’ This may apply in some situations, but innovation comes from picking up ideas from outside ‘conventional thinking’. Mixing with others will increase your chances of doing this.
       
By avoiding these ‘seven deadly sins’, your business has a far greater chance of not just surviving, but thriving.
      
Take a look at each of these areas and ask yourself some tough questions - and be honest with yourself! Your answers and the resulting actions you take could make all the difference to your future wealth, health and happiness.



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