Whenever you hear or read the news and you find a company doing something really dumb – getting caught by the IRS for not paying taxes, throwing outrageous parties, building an illegal pyramid scheme, paying bonuses with money they don’t have, or selling really lousy products as fast as possible to make money and get out before they are caught, it makes you wonder. Why would they do it? Isn’t it just as easy making money in a great way as it is making it in a dumb way?
Probably the best way to answer those questions is to say every one of those companies is being run by a smart person. Yet every single day, smart people do dumb things. Its easy to get caught up in it all, and before you know it, you’re caught in a trap that can literally shut your business down, no matter how big or small it was at the time.
No matter what stage of business you are at, here is a way to minimize doing dumb things.
1. Always look for someone employees, advisers or consultants that are ready, willing and able to make you think about the other side. As a small business owner – a solo business owner – its easy to get completely caught up in your own ideas. Even if they are bad and don’t stand a chance of helping you build your business. Look for someone that can argue other points with you and make sure you are proceeding in the right direction.
2. Don’t jump at another’s ideas. Just because someone sees things a different way and has a strong support for his or her idea doesn’t make them right – anymore than it makes you right. Stop, take a step back, and look at the situation logically. If you need to, talk with others about the idea before you make a rash decision. Focus groups work great and can help you look at your ideas through the eyes of your clients.
3. Spell things out. If you tell your accountant you want to pay as little tax as possible, don’t assume he will do it in a legal way. Research the people around you and watch what they do. In some cases, it may be best to tell them “I want to pay as little tax as possible in a legal way.” Don’t assume; assuming can get you into trouble.
4. Never rely on one expert to run your whole business. If experts create your roadmap, its no longer your business. Instead, use them to supplement your ideas and help you understand how to put your own actions into play as fast and as effectively as possible.
5. Look for the bad news. If you keep running your company as you always have, you’re likely to get broadsided by the future. Things are always changing. The economy changes. Competition changes. And if you don’t watch what others are doing, you’ll lose every time.
6. Always watch out for your customers. Its easy to start playing the “how can I make more profit” game. So you begin to focus on what’s right for you instead of what’s right for the customer. The only way to succeed long term is to make sure your customer always is king/queen, and you are always giving them more than they really want.
7. Have a budget in place. For many people, creating a budget is difficult at best. Its easier to get what you want and pay the price later. Yet to stay on track and make sure your business grows, understanding what that will take is important. Plan out your budget and make sure you have the funding to support it.
8. With your budget in hand, its easy to turn down great things because they don’t fit with your plans. Evaluate every opportunity carefully. If something is too good to turn down, don’t. Instead find a way to build it into your plan by decreasing other areas. It may mean cancelling out on a few networking functions, or putting off new brochures until next year, yet if it makes you more successful in the long run, its all worth it.
9. Avoid greed. Greed will outdo intelligence every time. When you see what other photographers are doing and what they have, its easy to want it too. So you don’t let anything stand in your way – budget, rules, or even common sense. This may be one of the most difficult things to watch for in your own life; keep it in mind anyway and watch out for greed to surface.
10. Never give up on your dreams. Its easy to get caught up in “life”. You want a new car, need a vacation, or your child wants the super-expensive summer camp. And because you want it all too, you say yes. And you end up taking money from your business it may not currently have. So you get sucked into not having the money you need to finance your business, and you wind up getting a part time job. You get frustrated, and give it all up. Stop. It doesn’t have to be like this. Focus on what is truly important to you and make sure you keep it separate from everything else in your life.