I begin my book Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions That Will Close Your Small Business by describing the scene as trucks and vans left our business location at the end of an auction with our equipment, parts, tools, office equipment, everything. It was one of the worst days of my life. Fifteen years of my life went down the drain that day. The only good news was that we were able to pay off our debts, barely, with the proceeds of the sale.
Like every small business owner I went into this wanting a better life for myself and my family. This wasn’t a new, unproven start-up but a well established business with a solid customer base and long-time employees. On the surface there was no reason to believe this would not be a dream come true, and for the first 10 years it was. The last five years, however, became a nightmare. The reason I wrote Mistakes was to explain how that happened in the hopes it would spare others from having to go through my experience.
If I had to sum up one overall problem that led to the dream becoming a nightmare I would have to say it was a lack of focus on my part. I didn’t pay attention to the details. I didn’t spend enough time developing a strategy for how our company would continue to move forward into the future. My competitors did and shot right on past us. I didn’t pay enough attention to the financial numbers, and although I knew they weren’t good I assumed they would somehow, automatically (?) improve. I didn’t spend enough time working in our business, and even worse, much worse, didn’t spend enough time working on our business. A business can coast for a period of time, but eventually you run out of downhill, and when the road begins to run uphill you won’t go far coasting.
Some who have read the book told me I took too much of the blame for our business’ failure. I don’t agree with them. I was the leader, the president of the company. The buck stops here! Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was the economic downturn in 2008, but many other businesses survived that crash and prospered. Mine was the only heating and air conditioning company in our area that closed. The others were able to come through that economic crisis and continue operating today. As I’ve written so many times in this post: Everything rises and falls on leadership. In our case, my lack of competent leadership caused our business to fail.
The Small Business Association says that 30 percent of new businesses fail in the first year, 50 percent fail in the first five years, and 66 percent fail in the first ten years. Everyone of those businesses began as a dream by their founders, and I can assure you that every time one of them fails it becomes a nightmare.
I wrote my book to help small business owners avoid the mistakes I made. It’s much better to learn from the mistakes of others than to make them yourself. The link above will allow you to download the book on your Kindle app. If you prefer NOOK you can get the book here. The book is less than $5.00. If you even avoid one of the mistakes I write about it will save you far more than the cost of the book.