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Mistakes Made in Growing Your Business, Part 2

Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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My previous blog post listed the first half-dozen common mistakes made in growing your talent development business. Those, along with the remaining six listed below, make up the Dirty Dozen.

7. Putting the wrong people on the bus.
Perhaps it goes without saying to a talent development supplier audience that your people are your most valuable asset. Undoubtedly, you preach this to your clients. We all know the sunk costs associated with putting the wrong people in the wrong job, just as we understand the incalculable value of our top performers. But getting the right people on the bus requires meticulously identifying the capabilities needed to fill the jobs, managing the performance of the people so they can improve, and developing their skill set to take you forward. This doesn’t happen by accident.

8. Believing you have all the answers.
You may have founded the business or even been promoted to the top leadership role because you are good at what you do. Many leaders have an arrogance that leads them to believe they have all the answers, but let’s face it—none of us know what we don’t know. Sticking your head in the sand without being curious about what you need to learn will bring you to your knees. You can fake it for only a relatively short amount of time.

9. Adhering to outdated sales and marketing techniques.
Probably more than any change taking place over the last 20 years in running a business is the way you market and sell goods and services. Enhanced technology is surely responsible for this. Whether it is used to generate leads, target customer segments, optimize search engines, communicate to prospects, engage customers, or manage the sales pipeline, it has all changed. And it continues to evolve every single day. If you don’t stay up-to-date with the technological sales revolution and the impact this can have on your interactions with your customers, you will quickly fall behind. The proliferation of sales support tools, along with increased sophistication in how buyers think, act, and interact has significantly changed the sales landscape. Get in the game.

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10. Pricing inappropriately.
Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks for any business is to appropriately price its goods and services. This means not only understanding the competitive landscape and how your pricing stacks up against it but also how you value what you are selling in relation to your competitors and your customers. At the end of the day the market will give you precise feedback on whether your pricing is competitive. But it won’t tell you whether it is appropriate given the value it brings to your customers. All too often, suppliers undervalue the real return on their customers’ investment in them and so underprice. It is common knowledge that customers will pay more for those items they value over similar products and services they don’t; some say as much as 20 to 30 percent more. There is a breaking point over which only a few will go, but you don’t know until you experiment. Don’t be shy; be bold and always remember it is easier to reduce your prices if necessary than to increase them when it isn’t.

11. Failing to scale.
Scale simply means getting more for less—that is, more bang for your buck. It is all about leverage, whether this refers to labor, products, distribution, or customers. From a financial perspective, it means continuing to increase your margins so you bring more to your bottom line. There are multiple ways to orchestrate leverage and scale, but failure to achieve it, whether in a purely consulting or product business, will significantly impede your opportunities for consistent growth. Although success is not necessarily defined by growth alone, if you want to grow you will have to figure out how to achieve scale.

12. Dreaming too small.
Growth may be painful but holding back because of fear of failure can be excruciating—especially as you see your competition passing you by. Lost opportunity costs are perhaps the greatest of all expenses, invisible as they are. There is nothing wrong with setting audacious goals as long as you are relatively circumspect in doing so—that you fully understand the consequences of taking those risks, both their upside and downside, and are prepared to address them as needed. There is a difference between taking risks and taking chances. Risks can be calculated; chances are random events. No guts, no glory is the common mantra, but understanding the return on investment is inherent in carving out your future. As has been often said, the biggest risk is not to risk. And those perceived to be the biggest risk takers usually have taken the necessary precautions and plans to minimize the worst of consequences.

As you read through these additional common mistakes, which ones did you think you were making? Which did you think you were on the precipice of making? How can you remedy these quickly and efficiently? What other mistakes in growing your business might also be taking place?

For more insight, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm. Or join my session at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition. We will explore how to create a specific action plan for moving forward in building and growing your business.

About the Author

Dr. Stephen L. Cohen is a 40+ year veteran of the talent management industry, having founded and/or led eight different business entities in the field. He also has served on 19 different advisory boards for firms in the training and education sector, helping them effectively navigate their growth strategies.

He currently is in private practice, focused on strategic and business planning and senior leadership development. His latest book is The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm. Contact him at 952.942.7291, steve@strategicleadershipcollaborative, or www.strategicleadershipcollaborative.com.

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