There are actually dozens, if not thousands, of ways to fail in business. But these five run through the stories of fizzled careers with a sad consistency. They are important landmarks on the map to the minefield of professional failure. We all might make one of these mistakes at some point, and they can be left behind with great effort. But every one of them is corrosive to professional success. If any one of them is your normal mode of operation, knock it off right now and learn to practice its opposite trait on my list of Six Ways to Succeed in Business.
1. Cost More than You Are Worth
Does your product or service take more from people in money, time, energy, trouble, etc. than it gives to them? Do you cost too much to your employees, colleagues, suppliers, government regulators, etc.? As soon as this equation is upside down for you, your days in that business are numbered.
2. Misunderstand Your Marketplace
What do customers need or want? Why do they, or would they, buy from you to meet those needs? Where else can they get their needs and wants met? If you don’t know your customer or the constantly shifting dynamics of your marketplace, your days in that business are numbered.
3. Think Like a Entitled Victim
Never believe that customers owe you their business, or that you deserve to succeed. People buy to meet their interests, not yours. Never dwell on any unfairness that you think you’ve suffered. While you feel sorry for yourself and nurse your wounds and grudges, your competition is wooing your customers. Passivity is a prescription for business failure.
4. Lose Your Liberty
Business success requires flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and resiliency. All of those require freedom to think, choose, and act. The more you limit your freedom—through debt, unnecessary overhead costs, bad commitments and contracts, your own bad habits, etc.—the more narrow your room to maneuver in a constantly changing marketplace. Self-imposed limitations shorten your shelf life as a business.
5. Value Information Over Knowledge
Know what you know, and what you don’t know. Know what you need to know, and what you don’t. In every business there are thousands of bits of data, information about everything from the environment to your customers, competition, and resources. Knowledge is information that you are sure of, and that is useful. Focus on what you know. If you need to know something but don’t, learn. Other information might be interesting, but if you aren’t sure of it and can’t use it, it’s a distraction. Don’t waste your time on useless information, or your days in business will be numbered.
Like this? See the companion article, Five Ways to Succeed in Business