One of the most rewarding aspects of being a business coach is being able to help my clients get their businesses started more quickly or running more efficiently and effectively as a result of all that I have learned from my mistakes.
And there have been plenty!
I thought it would be useful to give you a heads up about the key mistakes to avoid as you contemplate your own new or existing business.
Here are the 10 ways in which I executed poorly and what I have learned:
- Lacking a clear business model:
As a physician in practice, and again as a new coach, I had no insight that what I was calling my “practice” was really a business. I suppose I conceived of it as a business in an abstract way, but I certainly didn’t understand the implications. I was two years into coaching and struggling with getting clients when I attended a seminar and had my big “aha”. I needed to be crystal clear about the different ways in which I planned to bring in money, understand my costs, and make wise investments, even if they seemed costly in order to grow my business. I needed to think like a business person!
Big hint: get over your resistance or aversion to business and begin acting like a business owner
- Not having a Big Goal for my business:
Not only did I need to think beyond the concept of a “practice”, but I had to develop a much bigger goal for my business. This also meant deciding on an exit strategy. Did I just want to trade time for money with one-on-one coaching? Did I want to develop streams of passive income? What did I want to have happen to my business once I was ready to quit? Let it go? Build something to sell?
Big hint: get clear about your long-term vision for your business or practice.
- Not focusing on a niche:
While it is both conceivable and possible that I could coach anybody, it’s next to impossible to try and market to everyone. I resisted settling on a niche because I was worried about all the people I might scare away. Hah! Big mistake. Once I became really clear about who I loved working with and who I was (an entrepreneurial physician), my marketing message got much clearer, and my business took off.
Big hint: look at what you do and identify those parts of your work when you have the most fun. Is this fertile ground for an area of specialization – your niche?
- Not having a good understanding of marketing:
I speak in this topic to death recently and previously in my blog so it’ll have to be enough for me to say that if you’re in business for yourself, you are in two businesses – first and foremost, the business of marketing, and only once you succeed at this first business can you be in your actual business!
This was one of the toughest lessons to learn.
Big hint: make a huge effort to study marketing and learn how to attract your best clients or patients.
- Not putting enough time and energy into understanding search engine optimization:
My first website was pretty, expensive to put up and totally ineffective in attracting business. Once I understood the power of Google and the other search engines, and how to create a website that Google would like (or love!), I was thrilled to discover that my web site had became my best marketing buddy. There is nothing like seeing yourself on page 1 of Google for just about all of your key search terms!
Big hint: Invest in some off-line or online training in understanding how websites work and how to make yours better (even bigger hint: sign up now (hyperlink to registration link for class) for our May tele-class on the topic!)
- Not hiring a top-notch assistant sooner:
I made one of the commonest new entrepreneur mistakes – thinking I could do it all. That I had to do it all. Believing I couldn’t afford to get help. My turning point came when I realized that doing many of the menial tasks in my business meant that I was an extraordinarily overpaid employee.
Big hint: get help as soon as possible and free yourself to do the real work of an entrepreneur – that of marketing, inventing, creating new products and services, and wherever necessary delivering the service.
- Not delegating or automating enough:
This is still a struggle for me as I grapple with the idea that no one can do it quite like me. Big ego stuff – hey? So I’ve set the goal of stripping away all the tasks that my assistant or outsourced help can do for me by the end of 2009. Please hold me accountable!
Big hint: there are many ways to help with delegation and automation and as I continue to learn about them, I will share them with you.
- Not having systems in place:
It took me a couple of years before I was able to establish the various systems I need to run my business and my marketing. The biggest lesson I learned about operating a business was that just about everything can be systematized. Even coaching!
Big hint: take a methodical and hard look at everything you do in your business or practice and figure out how to turn it into a routine task that can be easily documented and then taught to others.
- Taking on too many projects at once:
Yet another big mistake most entrepreneurs make, simply because they’re entrepreneurs, is to get sidetracked by all the great ideas that hit them in the shower or on the treadmill. This experience derailed many of my projects simply because I was trying to do too much at once.
Big hint: stay focused; do not start a new project until you finish the one you are working on.
- Not investing in getting the right advice:
Asking for help isn’t easy for most self-made professionals. And I was guilty of this — to some extent! Ever since I began my coaching business, I’ve always had my own coach, and I have worked with my own mentality to justify that expense. But it’s been much harder deciding when to get legal or accounting or general business advice. I feel sure that my delay could have been costly. And certainly foolish!
Big hint: successful business people surround themselves with access to top-notch advice, wisdom and resources. Do the same for yourself!