5 Fatal Mistakes That Hold Back Start-up Business Owners

5 Fatal Mistakes That Hold Back Start-up Business OwnersThe definition of a sale is when preparation and opportunity meet on the same day. In business, it helps to understand that customers are working to minimize risk when they enter into contracts with small businesses.  Some small business owners often loose opportunities because of bad habits and not recognizing that certain things must be in place before they start marketing their products and services.  These issues speak directly to trust and credibility for a business owner.

Here are the top five mistakes that hold back start-up entrepreneurs:

1) Not Appreciating Social Intelligence

This is the mistake that small business owners make the most.  Having proper social skills and being in tune with your surroundings will take you a long way in business.

Here are some examples of poor social intelligence:

  • Do you have a tendency to talk too much at networking events, or worse, share too much personal information? No one except the banquet manager cares about how hard it was to find a parking space. Keep your networking chat smart.
  • Are you dressed like someone that has an executive presence? Or, like you should be serving the meal at the event. Everyone should have signature colors and at least three killer outfits. Men, the tie color and the shoes are very important.
  • Do you have a strong elevator pitch or do people need to ask you questions to help you define what you do? Great elevator pitches hit on three key things: explain the type of business, explain the target customer and close with a question.
  • Do you appropriately follow-up new leads and contacts or are you a stalker?  Be smart with follow-up. You can send an email, personal note and make a phone call within three months of meeting a contact unless instructed otherwise. Calling every week will not bring opportunity to your business.

2) Have a Professional Business Website

It’s surprising to me how many business owners still do not have a website.  I can’t remember the last time I used a paper directory or phone book to find a vendor. Many people will perform an internet search before they ever call you, so if your customers can’t find you online, you are missing out on opportunities. Nowadays, pulling together a business website is much easier.  Have an idea of what you want, and if you plan on incorporating a blog I strongly suggest you start writing blog posts at least three months prior to the launch of your website, so that you do not get backed-up trying to develop content once your business starts rolling.

3) Make Sure Your Email Address is Branded With Your Company Name and That the Email Address Works

I love my gmail account too, but that’s not the one I use for customer contact. Your emails should come from a branded account that promotes your business.

4) Not Investing in Your Brand

Yes, all of you out there using business cards that you can get for free online are really hurting your business brand.  Invest in a professional logo and a two color business card. Do not hand out business cards that have it printed on the back that they were free.  That tells a prospective customer that you are not serious about your business.

5) Have a Real Phone Number for Your Business

Your small business should have a dedicated phone line with voicemail.  Do not use your cell phone as your main business line.  You’ll never to do business with a major corporation with that as your brand image.  Also, please do not use those answering machines that come with the phone. No matter what you do, the message will never sound professional.

Are there any other common mistakes that you think some small business owners make when starting out in business?


Melinda Emerson Melinda Emerson, known to many as "SmallBizLady," is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter. She is also the author of, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

22 Reactions
  1. Rod Cook: This is awesome! I want you on the front page of Google out ranking the Anti MLM jerks that lie.

    Thanks so much for sharing! I will put up links to your blog.
    Rod Cook MLM Watchdog – MLM is good http://www.mlmwatchdog.com

  2. Melinda,

    Thank you!

    #4 is my favorite;

    “Not Investing in Your Brand.” If someone thinks that they’re going to be able to get a business up and running, without spending money on branding, they’re in for a rude awakening.

    The internet has made it even more important to position your small business to stand out!

    The Franchise King

  3. Martin Lindeskog


    Great tips. I have to disagree with you regarding the phone number. I have two mobile phone numbers, an e-fax number in USA, Skype id, but I would not pay an arm and a leg for a land line at this moment. The regular phone market has been dominated by the former telecommunication monopoly so it very hard to get a valuable service at a decent price. We had a dedicated line with a VoIP service at our physical meeting place Blue Chip Café / Business Center, so I know how to get a “land line” experience, but it is applicable for me as sole trader (sole proprietorship). I would like to have Google’s phone call service, but they have introduced it to Scandinavia yet.

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    Sorry, I missed the word “not” in the sentence:

    “but it is NOT applicable for me as sole trader (sole proprietorship). I would like to have Google’s phone call service, but they have NOT introduced it to Scandinavia yet.”

  5. Great article, Melinda.

    You make a great point about having a professional website. My company, Pear Analytics, has developed a free tool to optimize people’s websites, but it does no use if the site can not retain the customer. In fact, our site was very professional, but also very complicated to navigate, which is another potential hazard to look out for. Fortunately, we have revamped our site and designed a whole new tool that is much more effective and efficient at web page analysis.

    I invite your readers to sign up for our beta release of our re-enginnered free SEO analysis tool and look forward to any feedback.

  6. I would replace #4 with – not having your accounting system professionally set up.

    Over the years, I have seen far too many financial disasters that resulted from small business owners buying into the “if I can write a check, I can use the software” marketing pitch.

    Bad data = bad decisions.

    Really bad data = Really bad decisions. As found in most small business accounting systems where they have no idea what a profit and loss or balance sheet are or what they mean.

    Scott Gregory

  7. WOW Melinda, EXCELLENT article!

    Everyone should check out Melinda’s SmallBizChat every Wednesday night from 8pm to 9pm EDT!!!

    If you have a small business, SmallBizChat will change your business life forever!! You will never be the same again!

    AWESOME ARTICLE!!! I just might have to post this on my Del.icio.us page!

  8. Good overview, Melinda. It’s definitely important to project a professional image when managing a startup. The biggest thing for startups is that you really have to be invested in what you’re promoting and doing. Luckily, there are a lot of tools out there that are making it easier and easier for entrepreneurs to suceed.

  9. what about targeted leads

    I know right, it is awesome!

  10. Christine Morris

    Great post! You have touched on the points that I often try to get across to my clients. I find these topics important for established entrepreneurs to understand and apply in this market. I will definitely be sharing this with my clients.

  11. I completely agree! Especially I can’t believe that there are so many companies that don’t have a website. I have heard that 44% of small businesses in US don’t have a website and I think it’s just too much!

    I’m so passionate about the topic that I started a group on Facebook “Website for every company” :-). If you believe the same, you’re welcome to join: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=134896863199469

  12. Nice tips to consider by start up.

  13. Adding onto point #2, don’t forget the basics. Claim your Google, Yahoo, Bing and Facebook places pages. Consumers & Businesses search for resources online. The places pages are increasingly playing a roll in search discovery. Claiming your page and completing the profiles consistently on all online properties will assist you in improved placement. The point – don’t be invisible online.

  14. I agree all of your points, especially #4, except the last point in regards to not using your cell phone. As a mompreneur I am on the go a lot and if it weren’t for my cell phone I wouldn’t have a business. And now there are so many tools like Skype and Ring Central that make it possible to use your cell phone but still sound professional and established.

  15. This is all smoke and mirrors. There are only 3 mistakes business owners make:

    1. Not having a good product
    2. Not having a good product
    3. Not having a good product

    If you’ve created something unique and desirable that delivers real value, people will want it. If you need to, hire a professional salesman to shop it around. No one will care what color your tie is and what type of voice mail you use. Those things won’t even cross their mind if indeed they want to do business with you.

  16. I would not start any project without the end in mind. Have a realistic exit strategy. Things may go really well or they may go the other way. Sooner or later you will want a way out.

  17. Great Article. Great list of points I’m going to post a link to this one too. I would add failing to learn from feedback. When things are going wrong if you keep doing what you are doing they will continue to go wrong. As a small business owner you are able to be close to the ground so to speak and therefore you’re party to the sort of feedback that takes a longer to get to decision makers in larger organisations. This is a real bonus for the small business but many new entrepreneurs fail to really benefit from its potential.

  18. “Everyone should have signature colors and at least three killer outfits.” I LOVE this point! I am a big fan of networking events and I sometimes think people get networking confused with backyard BBQ. You should always put your best foot forward at these events. I like the signature color idea too. Look how well that works for Mari Smith from Social Media Examiner!

  19. I agree with what Martin Lindeskog and Denisse Marie said about not using your cell phone as your business phone number, because I am also in a field where, well, I’m usually in the field. If I had a land line I would miss most of my calls.

    What Scott Gregory said about having a firm accounting system in place is absolutely true. A small business owner really needs to have a grasp of the accounting procedure, budgeting, and repayment plans for any debt he/she is likely to accrue long before opening the doors, even if the plan is to hire an accountant. Not only is it crucial to know enough to be able to catch accounting mistakes, but it will save a lot of money if the owner can see that the information is given to the accountant in an efficient way, rather than just handing over a shoebox full of receipts.

    Thank you for an excellent article.

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