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Starting / Business startup

The seven deadly small business start-up sins and how to avoid them

Starting a new business is a daunting step. Here are the seven expensive mistakes that every small business start-up needs to avoid.

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1. Failing to manage your cash

It’s a well known fact that many new businesses fail due to lack of cash even when their profit and loss statements look healthy. As a start-up it will be a while before your revenue outstrips your costs. It’s essential to work through a financial plan to ensure you have enough reserves to take you to profitability. Once you have worked out how long it will take make sure you account for a buffer period in case it takes longer than you originally anticipate – plan for the unexpected.

Even as your business grows and becomes profitable never take your eye off your cash. Make sure you chase up revenue as it’s due and resist the temptation to pay suppliers before the due date, just to “get it out of the way”. Almost all banks will allow you to schedule payments so you can still clear your to-do list without paying early.  

2. Thinking you’ll be an overnight success

It will take you longer than you think to become profitable. It’s essential to make sure you have the finances and the fortitude to tide you through those early weeks and months.

3. Failing to get feedback

Your business idea is no good without customers who are willing and able to buy what you offer, and to ensure you get those customers you need to get honest, useful feedback. There are many reasons why you might be reluctant to get feedback – worried someone is going to steal your idea, you think your idea is perfect just the way it is or just a nagging insecurity about your product. None of these are good reasons not to get feedback! Your business will succeed because you execute it really well, not because no one has thought of it before (there really aren’t many truly original ideas any more just more innovative ways to meet a need). Your idea needs air to make sure you are addressing a genuine need and you are delivering it in a compelling way to your customers. Don’t waste money by going down a dead end and discovering you need to start again.

"Your idea needs air to make sure you are addressing a genuine need and you are delivering it in a compelling way to your customers."

Want more articles like this? Check out the business startup section.

4. Not maintaining an updated contact database

As you get started you will meet a lot of people; people who you will ask for advice, people who may become customers and people who may even become partners later down the line. Some of these people will provide you with vital introductions that will help your business take its next leap. Make sure you keep a complete and updated database of who you’ve met and make sure you keep in contact. Make sure you follow up on all those early meetings no matter how tenuous they may initially seem. I’ve met a number of clients through introductions from people I really wasn’t expecting to be able to help me.

5. Spending money on things you don’t need

I know that nice, shiny MacBook Air looks tempting and it would be great to kit your home office out with a whole new set of furniture, but do you really need to? There will be plenty of things you need to spend money on as you start up so spend smart and bootstrap your business.

6. Skimping on professional advice

The key areas not to skimp are business tax, legal advice and financial advice. They can be the most expensive mistakes to unravel. Not spending up front only means you’ll pay for it later.

7. Not having a clear sense of where you are going

Make sure you set goals for your business at the start. You need to have a roadmap so that you can make the most effective use of your resources (time and money) and ensure you stay on the path to business success.

Have you committed any of the seven deadly small business start-up sins? How did you recover?

Michelle Kvello

is a finance and business strategy expert and founder of Lantern Partners. She works with businesses to clarify their options allowing them to grow with confidence. It’s more than just the finance; it’s about achieving what you want.

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