Last Updated Apr 6, 2011 8:19 PM EDT
By Elaine Pofeldt
If you're not making your sales and profit goals, it's easy to blame it on the economy. But sometimes, the culprit could be your mindset. I've interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs in my career as a journalist and found that the most successful ones have found ways to avoid these seven money-losing ways of thinking. Ditch these misguided beliefs and you just might achieve better sales and profits.
1. Running a business is, above all else, about the money.
Not so. "I think it's first about people," says Robert Schwartz, CEO of Eneslow, The Foot Comfort Center, a more than 100-year-old shoe store in New York City with 45 employees. Ignore the fast-buck mindset if you want to build a growth company, he says. Instead, focus on creating an empowering workplace where your team can thrive and help the business prosper, says Schwartz, who has run the company for 37 years.
2. Pay yourself first.
Big mistake. Great employees won't want to stick with you if you don't provide a rewarding and secure working environment. In tough times, Schwartz takes his salary last. "I only take enough to live," he says. That doesn't mean he's in business to lose money. In good times, he says, "I take the most."
3. It's not supposed to be this hard.
Who says? We've all read articles about the obstacles that famous entrepreneurs have overcome in order to build businesses that are now household names. But when you're in business for yourself and dealing with, say, a stinging rejection by a potential customer or a stomach-churning cash-flow crisis, it's easy to forget that you're not the first to deal with such challenges. Keep a few of these articles bookmarked for times when you're feeling low to keep disappointments from derailing you.
4. Being your own boss is about setting your own hours.
That's sometimes true. But there's a limit. You're not going to maximize your sales if you're unavailable when customers need you. If you want to follow a very unconventional work schedule, find a way to remain accessible during normal business hours for your industry, whether by BlackBerry or through an answering service.
5. It doesn't really matter if I finish this job late.
It may not bother you to miss your deadline, but whether you're a building contractor or a marketing writer, missing deadlines erodes customers' trust in you. That's not the only result. If you shift this week's work into next week, you'll earn less this week. Do this habitually and your annual sales will take a hit. Do you find yourself routinely asking for extensions? Take a hard look at how you're managing your time and your team's projects, so you can find solutions. If, say, you have more work than you can handle, bring in some temporary help to get it done-this week.
6. Do what you love. The money will follow.
Sure it's important to do work that stirs your passions. However, most successful business owners I've encountered don't expect to spend every hour of their working life blissfully doing the things they love the most. To grow your business, you've got to take care of tasks that you may not like very much. The trick is minimizing how much time you spend on them, so you can do what you enjoy most of the time. If making sales calls fills you with dread, look for an alternate way to do the job that is less painful for you, such as selling online. Or, if there's no way around doing a task a certain way, hire someone who is good at it.
7. I can't grasp that. I'm not a techie.
Failing to keep up with technological change in your industry puts your business at a serious disadvantage. Don't have the time or inclination to stay on top of software and mobile technology, like smart phones, that could make your team more efficient? Ask your network to recommend a good consultant who can help you. It's also important to pay attention to the technology your customers like to use. If, say, they're all carrying the iPad, maybe you should be thinking of how to reach them through that device. Otherwise, you could be missing out on a vital sales channel.
This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, an online community that provides small business owners with expert insights and connections that can help them run their businesses.
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