Top 7 Assumptions That Keep Small Businesses From Success

Each and every day, small business owners to Fortune 1000 executives bring assumptions about their market place, their business, their employees and their customers into every decision that they consider and eventually make. These assumptions have a significant impact within the operations of the business. If you are seeking small business help, maybe it is time to check your own business assumptions.

Assumption #1 – Everyone needs my product or service.

During a recent workshop on business building for local business owners in Northwest Indiana, one of the participants said with great conviction that “Everyone needs a health store.” I respectfully challenged that assumption by providing some examples from my own family including a 102-year-old grandmother and an 85-year-old uncle who had never been in a health food store. Her assumption potentially kept her from identifying her true customers.

Assumption #2 – I can’t spend time working ON my business.

Having worked with a variety of small business owners to help them create executable strategic plans, this assumption is disastrous. When business owners assume that they must focus 99% of their time working IN the business instead of ON the business, the chances that the business will falter in the future have been greatly increased. This assumption is verified in the book It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small…It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow, by authors Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton who expose how much time business owners spend on yesterday and today’s issues without looking to the future the source for tomorrow’s business.

Assumption #3 – I can’t afford to spend money to grow my business.

What is so consistent is that many business owners will drive expensive vehicles because of the perceived benefit as an investment due to the tax write off, but will not invest any money into developing their own business. Yet, these same business owners will complain how bad business is. As an executive coach, one of my most frequent complaints is that I cannot afford you. This statement is issued before any discussion about the extent of their issues. An assumption already exists that they cannot afford me or anyone else to help them grow their business. Unfortunately, their belief system confuses spending money with investing money.

Assumption #4 – I can’t afford to spend money training or developing my employees

Even though the greatest resource to any business is the employees, business owners in many cases will “invest” money in everything but their employees. New vehicles, new equipment, new computers and the list goes on are considered a priority investment, but training the employees is considered an expense. History shows this to be true because when there is an economic downturn, the first cuts are usually to Human Resources especially within training and development and not to Capital Investments or Improvements.

Assumption #5 – My business is unique and therefore my challenges are unique.

Each business owners believes her or his business is unique. Whether the business is in health care, education, manufacturing, not for profits or professional services, the basic challenges are the same – getting sales, growing sales, increasing profits reducing costs and leveraging resources.

Assumption #6 – I don’t need a plan of action.

In November of 2001 two months after 9/11, I spoke to a group of over 100 business owners and asked them: “How many of your businesses have been negatively affected because of 9/11?” Over 90 business owners raised their hands. I then asked another question: “How many of you have experienced significant reductions in revenue that will affect your overall annual performance?” Again, well over 70 hands were raised. Finally, I asked everyone: “How many of you have revisited your strategic plan or your business plan to make the necessary course corrections to this unforseen event?” Only 5 business owners raised their hands. By assuming a plan of action was not necessary, 90 business owners allowed a significant unplanned event to guide their business destiny.

Assumption #7 – Motion is progress and activity is results.

Within the marketing and selling processes, there is a lot of motion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean progress. Also there exists a lot of activity that usually doesn’t translate into specific results. For example, in selling something to a potential client, a lot of motion is spent from meetings to appointments to closing the deal, but the deal does not close because the true decision maker is not in the current motion. Hence no real progress is being made. Or in marketing, a lot of activity is being generated from mail campaigns, email newsletters, networking events, etc. and the results are not happening. Confusing motion with progress and activity with results is a very dangerous assumption.

The source for all of these assumptions are the belief systems (foundational thought processes that evolve from our collective experiences). Until we continually check the assumptions that we bring with us every day as we open our doors for business, we will potentially lose opportunities for business success.

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