Podcast Q&A: The Top 5 Mistakes That Businesses Make That Can Cripple Their Growth & Success

Business MistakesBusiness owners often make similar mistakes that impact their growth and success. As a business coach and strategist, I find that many of the businesses I interact with struggle with some of the same problems.

I approached Kim Brandley, CPA, a partner at the accounting and consulting firm J.H. Cohn, and asked her to share her expertise to help business owners overcome some hurdles in growing their businesses. My Q&A with her provides insights for businesses that may be making these mistakes and how to avoid them.

At the end of the blog post there is also an audio podcast of our interview where Kim gives more detailed responses to the questions.

Q1 – What are the top 5 mistakes that businesses make that can cripple their growth and success?
  1. Not having a strategic/business plan
  2. Not understanding cash flow
  3. Not understanding your competition
  4. Losing focus of core business
  5. Not asking for professional help
Q2 – Why is “not having a strategic/business plan” important and how does it hurt the business not to have one?

The business plan is like a roadmap. It’s not much different than when you’re driving down the road and you follow a map and you know where you’re trying to get to. Have a realistic business plan in place and goals that you know you can accomplish and things that you know you can get done.

Q3 – The second mistake is “not understanding cash flow. “Tell us why cash flow is king.

Cash does not equal net income and there are other metrics within the business that affect cash. There are times when you’ll have a good year in a business and you should probably either reinvest that in capital assets or things of that nature or try to put some money away, because inevitably there’s probably going to be a year that’s not a very good year compared to that one. Some questions I would ask are “do you measure your metrics on a weekly basis?  What are your average days to collect for accounts receivable?

Some areas which impact cash flow are depreciation, taxes, people not paying you on time, taking out a loan, and how quickly you pay your own payables.  Business owners need to have up to date financial information because it’s hard to base decisions on stale information.

Q4 – Why is “not understanding your competition” a key mistake?

Underestimating your competition is a mistake that business owners make often. It starts with a thorough understanding of target market and recognizing who the business leaders are, where they are located and what their needs are.  Business owners need to know who else is capable and qualified to provide those clients with the products and services they are looking for.  It is easy to track your competition’s activity through websites, social media, Google alerts, industry publications and associations.

Q5 – You mention the 4th mistake as “losing focus of the core business.” Why is that important?

It’s important to have a focused vision to remind you what you do best and why you’re in business. I think you have to be very careful not to take resources away from the core business or at least understand what resources you are draining from the core business and what impact that could have. If you’re going to take a risk and do something a little bit different, you need to manage very proactively rather than managing by crisis.

Q6 – The 5th mistake is “not asking for professional help.” Business owners think they can do it all themselves! Why is this a mistake?

In many cases businesses, particularly in this economy, don’t want to spend money, but sometimes spending money with the right professionals is clearly going to save you money in the long run.

You need to surround yourself with a group of professionals, whether that’s legal, accounting, consulting, and be willing to at least hear what they have to say and listen. Do what you do well and bring in professionals to do what they do well. Trying to do everything yourself as a business owner is most likely going to lead to many sleepless nights and probably a very exhausted business owner.

You need to have an open mind and be willing to listen to what the professionals are telling you. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to take every piece of advice, but you at least have to be open-minded that you’ll listen to some of the ideas. And be willing to take a step back and realize that you’ve probably made some mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

On an internal basis, are your people giving you what you need? Be willing and brave enough to make hard decisions to let someone go.

All these things tie together and are often not mutually exclusive. Often times these mistakes happen together.

Q7 – So what are some steps a business owner can take to grow their business?
  1. Have to have an open mind and be willing to listen to those people around you, whether it’s a formal board of directors or a personal set of board of directors where you have set up an advisory group.
  2. Be willing to think differently so that you can look at what you do well and try to turn that into additional revenue streams in some way. Look at the things with respect to the business that you know are going well.
  3. Make sure you provide excellent customer service.
  4. Ask for referrals.
  5. Get proper sales training.
  6. Focus on what you do best.

Kimberly Brandley, CPAKimberly Brandley, CPA is a partner with the accounting and consulting firm J.H. Cohn LLP. Kim has extensive experience providing audit, accounting and consulting services to privately held businesses and their owners. Kim can be reached at kbrandley@jhcohn.com or 732-380-8618.

Generate Buzz for Your Business By Becoming Semi Famous

Burke AllenIn a crowded marketplace, we are all looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and generate publicity for our product or service. Burke Allen, CEO and President of Allen Media Strategies, joined 30 Minute Business Dig on Blog Talk Radio to share his tips on getting free media exposure in print, radio, television and online through what he calls “Becoming Semi Famous,”  which is also the title of his book. Allen brings three decades of entertainment business experience as a radio and TV host, writer, top-rated morning show personality, radio station owner, national booking agent, broadcast consultant and educator.

Allen shares some incredible stories of how his clients have used this technique to generate sales and create buzz for their businesses. He gives examples of how becoming semi famous works; who can benefit from this strategy; how to become a media darling so you continue to get calls for interviews; and some basic interview do’s and don’ts.

Listen to this entertaining and lively discussion – and implement some of these great ideas to help you and your business get free publicity and sales for your product or service.

An Edgy Conversation with Dan Waldschmidt

Edgy conversations are the backbone of Dan Waldschmidt’s approach to making a difference.  According to Dan, most of our conversations are lame and we’ve forgotten how to be intimate and real in our dialogue. His blog, the Edge of Explosion, was rated by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top seven sales blogs anywhere on the Internet. Dan doesn’t settle for corporate speak and instead challenges us to have intimate conversations that truly make us pause. Can you even remember the last conversation that did that for you?

Dan joined 30 Minute Business Dig on Blog Talk Radio to share his story and insights to getting “edgy.” He states, “It’s not what we do, it’s who we are.”

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The End of the World as We Know It – Really?

Will the world end tomorrow?  If you haven’t heard, “judgment day” is May 21, 2011. Harold Camping, an 89-year-old California multimillionaire who runs one of the largest Christian radio networks in the world, believes the world will end at 6:00 p.m. with a massive earthquake. Did R.E.M. know something when they wrote their song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It?”

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According to the Huffington Post article, Harold Camping: The Man Behind ‘Judgment Day,’ May 21, 2011, in the last week, variations of “End of the World May 21st” and “Harold Camping” have remained among the top search terms on Google. On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control released a mock guide to the “Zombie Apocalypse” on its web site that quickly went viral.

While we can allow ourselves to get caught up in such silliness, (sorry to anyone who actually thinks the world will end this way – but it is silly), when I hear of such proclamations, it does make me pause to consider the “what if” and have I lived my life in such a way that has made a difference.

Do I live my life with purpose, passion and values? How do I want to be remembered? Have you ever written your own obituary? When I was in college, one of my professor’s had us write our obituaries. Granted, this was used as a writing exercise, but I have remembered how powerful it was to write down the things that I hoped would be a part of my legacy.

So while we can ponder if the world will really end tomorrow, I challenge you to think about how you are living your life, and if the world were to end for you, have you really lived your life’s purpose?

Answer these questions –

If you could have anything you wanted in life, what would that be?

What could you do to improve the quality of your life?

What could you change to improve the quality of your life?

What are your strengths, talents and gifts?

What is your purpose in life?

You exist for a purpose. What will your obituary say? Write yours today – and if you don’t like what you see, you still have time to change it. The world is not ending tomorrow, but there is one thing we all know, it will end for all of us at some time.

I invite you to share your purpose or obituary in the comments.

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Coloring Outside the Lines Without Falling Off the Page

Jeff Tobe, author and speaker, joined 30 Minute Business Dig to inspire businesses to think more creatively when interacting with their customers. In today’s economy, we can no longer continue to do what we’ve always done and expect different results. We need to be innovative and step out of our comfort zones to gain the competitive edge.

Jeff shares stories to illustrate his point throughout the interview. It’s entertaining and informative at the same time! After you listen, please comment with how you are creating unforgettable customer experiences!