7 Signs You're a Bad Business Owner

Last Updated Mar 8, 2011 8:48 PM EST

7 Signs Youre a Bad Business OwnerIf you think you're a smart and savvy business person, then you're probably not. Three reasons why:
  • Smart and savvy business people realize they always have more to learn than they know, i.e. they don't think of themselves that way.
  • Smart and savvy business people have more humility than hubris.
  • Most businesses stumble or fail - not for competitive reasons - but because their owners don't know what they're doing.
Case in point: There used to be a great barbecue restaurant in the town where I live. It was small, but always packed because the food was great and it was in a highly visible location. Then, they made the mother of all dumb moves. In the midst of this crazy recession they expanded into a huge place in a terrible location. Even great restaurants fail there.

Still, I checked it out and, sure enough, the place was empty. The service, food, portions, everything had gone downhill - probably to pay for the expansion, increased rent, etc. Even worse, the competition is, of course, doing the opposite. What a disaster. I bet they're out of business before long.

So, even if you're convinced that you're the greatest business person on planet Earth and your ability to be introspective knows no bounds, you'd still be wise to check these ...

7 Signs You're a Bad Business Owner
  1. Small and scrappy has become big and bloated. All-too-often, success has a strange effect on business people. They start out with that contagious can-do attitude and fast-on-their-feet nimbleness. Next thing you know, they're big, bloated, slow moving, and bureaucratic. Once that happens, things tend to slide downhill and end badly.
  2. You're channeling Charlie Sheen's ego. Customers aren't flocking to your business but that's okay; you're special. You're "a total fricking rock star from Mars" with "tiger's blood and Adonis DNA." You're "winning!" even when you're not, so it's all good, whatever, no worries, and every euphemism to hide the fact that you've got nothing going on except a grandiose-sized delusional manic phase.
  3. You know better than everyone else. No man is an island. Even great CEOs who've run big corporations for decades will tell you they don't know better than everyone else. They listen to their management team, advisers, and customers. They'll make their own decisions, but they listen first. Business isn't easy or everybody would be great at it. It isn't ... and they're not.
  4. Your business seems to defy the laws of finance and economics. I see it all the time: the market's down, capital is tight, customers are hard to find, competition is tough, but your business is doing great. Sorry, but something just doesn't smell right. Because it isn't. Something stinks, but you're not telling. And nobody knows until you go down for the count ... dragging a long list of creditors with you.
  5. It's all in the family. For every Donald Trump there are hundreds of family businesses where the good business-sense gene skipped a generation, being born with a silver spoon in your mouth didn't work out so well, or the biz was a one-hit-wonder to begin with. Just because you're playing with daddy's money doesn't make it a slam dunk. Far from it.
  6. You ignore conventional wisdom. With some industries and businesses I say forget the status quo; Think Different, like Apple. But in many types of small businesses - restaurants, retail, professional companies, for example - conventional wisdom like "location, location, location," and "don't expand in a recession" is perilous to ignore.
  7. You're scattered all over the map. Just because Richard Branson started Virgin Records at 22 and now has a business empire in dozens of industries from air travel to soft drinks with revenues of $18 billion doesn't mean you can do that or it happened all at once. The key to success as a small business owner is focus and discipline and most people simply don't have it.
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