Five mistakes people make with startup businesses

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Whether you’ve established a small business, are in the midst of launching one, or simply considering it for the future, it’s certain you want at least one thing out of this investment: success.

Starting and running a small business isn’t a cakewalk. It’s hard to believe, but over 50 percent of small businesses fail in their first year, and ninety-five percent fail within the first five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. Starting a business is risky for most, but success can come to those who proceed with logic and discipline.

Here are five common mistakes people tend to make when starting up a small business — and how you can, today, relegate them to the trash bin of “bad things that never happened”:

1) Business owners don’t create documented procedures for the day-to-day operation.It’s a simple equation: Documented procedures equal freedom and profit. A “Working Procedure” is a written description of how to perform a task. Having it prevents random problems and ensures the task is performed correctly every time. Procedures allow you to work smarter and accomplish more with less effort. Thus, work less and make more. It’s ironic, but by implementing documented and thoughtful system procedures, your employees can relax with their jobs because they don’t have to “wing it” all day. Rather than engendering an uptight, Gestapo-like, do-it-by-the-book authoritarianism, documentation keeps things moving along smoothly, predictably, calmly. Your people don’t have to be mind-readers or fortune tellers.

2) Owners don’t delegate: They are “doing the work.” The reason a successful business owner can work a few hours a week, or take an extended vacation without stress, is because he or she has automated processes and has learned to delegate. I know, I know. You’re proficient at what you do, and as the brains of your new business, you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get things off the ground; you’re anxious to dig in deep and get your hands dirty. But, successful people don’t work harder; they work smarter, so focus on what needs to be done to make the business grow, and delegate the “work” to others.  Lose the “I am Superman” attitude and focus on finding people who are trustworthy and qualified to take the weight off your shoulders. Be a delegator, not a worker. Go to for a free download about automation and delegation (and other topics covered here).

3) Owners don’t use time wisely. Understand this: “Biological prime time” is when your brainpower is at peak capacity. People function at maximum effectiveness about six hours out of a twenty four-hour day. It is important to determine precisely when your personal prime time occurs, and then use that time period wisely. Six hours each day is not much, so, presuming you wish to reach your goals sooner rather than later, it is best you perform the tasks that contribute most to the success of your new business during your prime time hours, and that you protect those hours from interruption.

4) Owners see their business as “holistic.” If you want to get things done, see the elements of your world as separate, linear systems. In their simple and uncomplicated structure, separate sub-systems can be perfected, one-by-one. Understand that by perfecting a primary system’s sub-systems, the primary system will be perfected. Although you are taking a non-holistic approach, the end product – your business – will be a highly efficient, entirely holistic, “Primary System.”

5) Owners don’t create a Strategic Objective and set of General Operating Principles. Think about this: In history, every single great idea or human major advancement has been written down. It’s not a coincidence. A Strategic Objective is short, usually a single page in length. It defines overall goals, describes methodology, and prescribes action. It gives direction for making major and minor decisions. It’s an essential instrument for business and personal life. General Operating Principles are a two- to- three- page collection of “guidelines for decision making” that are congruent with the Strategic Objective. Essential for the work environment and in a simplified and shorter format, they also help guide one’s personal life. Two examples of simple Operating Principles are “do it now,” and, “choose the simplest solution.

Sam Carpenter is author of the new book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, published by North Sister Publishing, Inc. in April 2008. In 1984, he founded Centratel, an elite quality national telephone answering service in Bend, Ore. With a background in engineering and publishing, he is a telephone answering service industry consultant, writer and speaker, and has served as president of several regional and national answering service organizations. He also founded and directs Kashmir Family Aid, a 501c3 non-profit that aids surviving schoolchildren of the Northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir earthquake of October 8, 2005. Originally from upstate New York, and an Oregonian since 1975, he is married to Linda Carpenter. He has a daughter and two grandchildren. He and Linda are also in the process of launching an Internet business that promotes communication between absent adults and their children and grandchildren.

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