When there are too many competitors and not enough work orders to go around, company owners can lose their focus and make business-busting decisions.

Everything is changing in the business world today. The new reality of too much competition and too little profit has become an ongoing challenge. As you get tossed around on this sea of constant change, basic business fundamentals never change. Here are seven sure-fire ways to fail in business if you don’t make the right moves fast.

1. Stay busy. (No written plan!)
Trying to stay busy or keep your crews working is not a plan for success. Neither is jumping from one strategy to another. During rollercoaster times, moving forward without a written plan is like building a house without blueprints. What’s your plan to stay in business and make a profit over the next three years if your workload shrinks by 25 or 50 percent or more? No plans? You might as well burn your cash to keep warm. 

2. Compete on price. (Nothing differentiates us!)
Companies that try to do anything and everything for every available customer spread themselves too thin and can’t make any money. They are in the “yes” business, as in: “Yes, we can do that!” Would you go to any doctor for heart surgery? When you claim to be good at everything, you’ll only win jobs by being the lowest bidder by a large margin. Customers pay more for expertise or specialists. What is your company known for? Why should customers pay more for your product or service?

Related: On the Money: Paying it Forward

3. Hire cheap. (We can’t find any good people!)
It is tempting to hire cheap labor. But when you hire less-experienced, less-qualified and low-paid employees, you’re kidding yourself. Cheap people make more mistakes and require more supervision. This takes you away from making your business profitable. When you spend all your time checking and helping junior people learn, you’re not spending your time where the money is made: with customers, looking for opportunities, inspiring and motivating your crews, and on the bottom line. Better people require little or no supervision and will allow you to do more business and make more money.

4. Do it yourself.  (No written systems - it’s all in my head!)
It’s easier to do everything yourself than to teach employees how to do it for you. This management style requires you to be everywhere to make sure everything gets done perfectly. This also holds your company and people back from reaching their maximum potential. Replace yourself with checklists and systems to improve productivity so you can focus on your top business priorities.

5. Let someone else manage your money. (Too busy to mind the store!)
Most small business owners don’t know their numbers and don’t have financial targets. They work really hard and hope their numbers work out. Or they let someone else worry about the finances. The purpose of your business is to make a profit. But with your head focused 100 percent on getting work done, you’ll never make any money. Get focused on your sales revenue, overhead, job costs, job profits and company profits.

Related: On the Money: Getting That Loan

6. Too big, too fast, with no cash. (Not enough working capital!)
The number one reason small companies go broke is they outgrow their cash reserves. Before you take on more work than you can handle, make sure you’ve got the capital resources to do the work. You would never start a donut store without at least $250,000 in the bank. Plan to have plenty of cash on hand for three to six months of overhead, personnel and equipment to be paid for in a normal time frame. Keep adequate reserves on hand in case payments get delayed.

7. Go with the flow. (No marketing or sales plans!)
Companies without a specific written marketing and sales plan tend to bid on jobs or do whatever work comes in the door. This is a reactive approach and will not take your company where you want it to go. Successful companies have an ongoing approach to sales and methodically approach the markets and customers they want. Identify your top customer targets and make them a priority.

A final thought

Basic business fundamentals never change. The choice to succeed is yours and is based on your willingness to take the proper steps. Consider these seven factors and apply the principles to chart a profitable future in any business climate.

Related: On the Money: Cutting And Spending

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