December 29, 2015
If you run your own business, no doubt you perpetually have a to-do list that’s multiple pages long. And while all those to-dos might be important, it’s equally critical to make a “to don’t” list—i.e., a list of mistakes to avoid because they keep you and your business from functioning at max capacity. Here are five bad habits that should be at the top of that list—along with suggestions for more productive alternatives.
Not Keeping Records
This applies to virtually every aspect of your business that will evolve over time, from your marketing strategy, to procedure for onboarding new hires, website analytics, pitches to investors, and financial statements. Especially in the early stages of a business, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and decide that you’ll get to it all later—but postponing record-keeping means that you stay perpetually behind your game.
That’s because establishing a baseline set of metrics allows you to develop year-over-year comparisons that reveal what’s working and what needs to be improved. Without that data, you’re basically stuck running on a treadmill instead of actually getting somewhere.
Hiring People Who Are Just Like You
If everyone on your team thinks in the same way, then innovation will gradually grind to a halt. Research consistently finds that soliciting diverse opinions is critical to maintaining workplace creativity and avoiding business-wide stagnation. In contrast, hiring for diversity (in terms of race, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, areas of expertise, and so on) will help ensure that your team is constantly challenged to think up new ideas and address the full range of your clients’ needs.
In addition to hiring diversely, it’s important to hire people whom you trust to run (parts of) the business without your constant input—and then actually let them do it. If you try to take the lead for every segment of your company (from marketing and sales to software development, accounting, and/or human resources), you’ll simultaneously wear yourself thin and create bottlenecks that frustrate employees and stifle forward momentum. In contrast, delegating tasks and empowering employees to call (at least some of) the shots will free up energy for everyone and help ensure that morale stays high and business continues to grow.
This can take several forms. Perhaps you’re keeping careful records (as per #1), but you’re not actually acting on what those records tell you—for example, maybe the data shows that having a Pinterest account isn’t actually boosting web traffic or conversions, but a staffer is still pinning things for four hours a day. Or maybe clients repeatedly complain about the bathroom facilities in your storefront, but you still haven’t gotten around to calling a plumber. Or perhaps you’ve made yourself unavailable to employees by being busy all the time or responding with eye rolls or flippant remarks when team members share comments or concerns.
In any of these cases, a failure to ignore feedback can result in wasted resources, negative relationships with clients or customers, an unhealthy work culture, and other undesirable outcomes. The solution is simple—pay attention to the feedback that’s given to you and act swiftly to address issues as they arise. Doing so will improve your company’s brand by communicating to customers, clients, and employees that the business cares about their well-being.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
As I’ve written before, self-care is critical for any entrepreneur who wants to stay on top of their game for the long haul. No matter how busy you are, make a point of getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, socializing outside of work, and getting at least some down time every week. Doing so will ensure that your mind, body, and brain stay sharp—so you can continue to avoid making any of the mistakes on this list.
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