I’ve spent 2 decades in the professional world and I’ve seen a lot of great things and a lot of not so great things. I’d love to share some of those with other founders and leaders to help them avoid mistakes I’ve seen over the last 20 years. Here are 5 Things NOT to Do in Business.
Not realizing people are your biggest asset
Every great business typically has great people behind it. Realizing that is your greatest asset is key to your business. When I was at Dell, Inc. in the early 2000s, there were some of smartest and passionate people I’ve met. But at large companies, it’s sometimes hard to connect. I had the same job for 18 months but 6 different bosses. I went from loving my job to hating my job depending who the boss was at the time. Realizing that your leaders and managers need to live your values and share those with their team and get them excited. By far, the worst people I’ve worked for were more concerned about how they looked vs. giving your people credit. Just don’t do it. Keep those people that climb over others and smash them along the way out of your organization or your best people will leave.
This seems so basic but unless you’re in a situation where a big customer is on the rails or thinking of leaving, let your team do their job. You hired them for a reason so don’t stand over them. We used to have a saying at Dell, Inc. If you can measure it, you can manage it. We have a scorecard for all employees and they have a weekly metric. There is no hiding. If you have accountability, then you don’t need to micro manage. I’ve found that the people who have been micromanaged hadn’t been doing their job in the first place. Then, it’s time for them to go.
Keeping people on for longer than you should
We’ve all been in organizations with toxic people or people that don’t pull their weight. The longer you leave them on, the worse your culture is. The other team members are wondering why that person is still there! I’ve had to do it and the night leading up to it is always awful but the day after the person is gone, you will see a noticeable change in the company culture and your own happiness. You’ll no longer be wasting headspace on unproductive or wrong skill set people. Go with the old saying, Hire Slow, Fire Fast! Rip off that bandage, no matter how painful.
Not knowing your numbers
I can’t even count the number of CEOs, CMOs and founders I’ve talked to over the years. At ROI Swift, the company I founded in 2015, our goal is to help 1000 emerging brands grow profitably through their digital advertising and marketplace sales. So far, we’ve helped 170 brands and I’ve have a lot more introductory calls than the 170 we’ve helped. I typically ask them a few questions and here they are. If they can’t answer these, I tell them to go back and figure it out. The questions below are specific to consumer brands selling online.
- Tell me who your brand is and your differentiator in 11 words or less.
- What is your average order value?
- What is your LTV, Customer Lifetime Value?
- What is your repeat purchase rate?
- What are your gross margins by product?
- What are your growth plans?
- What has been successful to date?
- What is your ecommerce conversion rate?
- What is your TAM, Total Addressable Market?
- Do you have a repeatable customer acquisition strategy?
You can’t be successful financially until you know all of those things. Take some time. Get with you finance person. Make sure you can answer all those questions so you know what your target KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) should be. Can you spend $30 to acquire a customer? Can you spend $50? Where is your breakeven point?
You should be able to rattle those all off.
Not networking and seeking help
Whether you’re just starting out with your first job after college or in your 4th decade in the workforce, the power of networking is critically important. I have been lucky and fortunate over the last 20 years to have met and connected with some amazing people from Dell, Inc. to start up founders to Venture Capitalist Groups. Always take that meeting or that coffee. Always give to others your time and experience without expecting anything in return. Always, be genuine. I’ve been fortunate that a woman in my network had coffee with me and invited her successful CEO friend. Without them, I never would have founded my first company in my late 40s. I credit it to asking for help or experience from mentors, coaches, teachers, bosses and anyone that you respect to give you great direction or introductions.
There are hundreds more things NOT to do in business but if you avoid these five, you’ll be well on your way to working in or running a great and healthy business.