Argh! 15 Mistakes That Damage Your Small Business

by Small Business Planned

You put in incredible hours to build your small business brand. Don’t let small mistakes blow all your hard work and make you look second rate. The following are a list of 15 areas that many small business owners neglect, costing them dearly.

If you fail in these areas, customers are not forgiving. It’s a case of guilty by association. If you’re not delivering in one area, people perceive that you must be cutting corners in other areas as well.

Some of these opportunities can be used to enhance your small business brand, others need to be overcome so they don’t overshadow your small business.

How Do Your Customers Really See Your Small Business?

How Do Your Customers Really See Your Small Business?


Has Your Signage Seen Better Days?

Mother nature will slowly sap the shininess from every sign. All signs have an expiry date before they succumb to the elements. Do not tolerate second rate signage. It decimates your first impression and scares even non-prospects away. Take a look at your signage. Does it need your attention? If so give it a new coat of paint or replace it.

Performing Cheap Alterations

Don’t make the mistake of patching up material to save money. This looks tacky and cheapens your small business. If you need to make changes to your hours, phone number, menu or statements, have them professionally redrafted. If you anticipate regular changes, ensure they can be made in a professional manner without looking second rate. You want customers to focus on the benefits you can deliver, not on why the number ‘9’ looks funny or why there’s masking tape over the second line of your brochure.

Make Way… And Make it Neat

Ensure the paths customers take to your small business are neat and free from obstruction. Grab a broom and sweep the paths of leaves, pickup the litter, fix the broken tiles and remove all graffiti. Make your trading area immaculate, and your brand will maintain the perception of high quality.

Your Customer’s Window to Your Operations

Ensure your windows are clean. This makes a world of difference. Dirty windows portray an uncaring small business who neglects themselves and their customers. Set a recurring time when your windows need to be washed and stick to it.


Worn Furniture Wears Out Your Small Business

George Orwell wrote a book titled ‘1984’. I often see business owners showcasing furniture which must have come directly from its set. Do not use dated or worn out furniture, no matter how much money you save. There’s a reason it’s cheap – because it makes you look cheap. It sticks out like a stick insect… on a beach ball. Your furniture choice reflects your small business brand. Are you a high quality small business? Or are you a dated ‘three days since I last shaved’ type business? Furnish you business accordingly.


You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Who Wants to Use Your Toilet?

Your toilets need to be kept private, clean, stocked and smelling as nice as possible. It’s pretty straight forward. Customers don’t like using foreign toilets at the best of times, so make their experience as tolerable as possible. Ensure you have a process of regularly spot checking them.



Is Your Lighting Too Dim or Inappropriate?

Your lighting needs to reflect the mood you are trying to achieve. A level of natural light is preferred if possible. Bright lighting helps customers view the full range of available products. Dimmed lighting can create a nice mood which complements services such as massage. Make a conscious decision on the lighting your small business uses.




404: Find Your Error Pages Before Your Customer

Your website has many pages and many more links. It is your responsibility to ensure that those pages are up and the links are working. Nothing’s more frustrating for a customer than being unable to access information. You’re effectively dangling a carrot in front of them before slamming your door in their face. You may as well post a message declaring “Sorry. Go check out information from my competitor.” In case of these emergencies, ensure you have a great 404 error page. Ian Lurie’s written a great article about creating great 404 pages.


You Are What You Wear

You may have a uniform or you may just choose to wear casual clothes. It’s your small business and your choice. Whatever you wear, ensure it’s clean, presented properly, in good condition and doesn’t smell. A good uniform will blend into your small business. A bad uniform will be a focal point for your customers, which will generate negativity towards your small business.

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” – Anais Nin


Music Must be Selected

Any music you play either on hold or on your premises must be reflective of your small business brand. Do not leave this music choice up to your staff as they are not your customers. Select the music choice and set the volume level. Music should add to the ambiance of your small business – not become the ambiance of your small business.


That Smell Reminds me of Aunt Betty’s

Smell is the strongest trigger of memory. A bad smell will negatively impact a customers whole experience. An appropriate smell will work to enhance your small business experience and gel everything together. Do your premises smell bad? Do your lunch smells waft into customer areas? Fix it. Don’t mask it. Just be mindful of using smells which may trigger an allergic reaction.


Is it Cold in Here or is it Just me?

The temperature inside your small business must be geared towards customer comfort. It should consider the outside temperature and also your staff comfort, although customer comfort is your primary concern. If you’re doing your job right, customers shouldn’t notice the temperature.


“Sorry. I Can’t Hear You. Can You Speak up?”

How does the sound carry in your premises? Are you operating a popular cafe with chairs jousting along tiles? Or are you heading a retail store with basic consumables? If your customers require a lot of interaction, either with you or one another, keep the music turned down. Consider sound proofing rooms and using sound absorbing material as decorative features.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” – Warren Buffet

“Can I help You? Not Yet? …How About Now?”

There’s nothing worse than an over eager service assistant. I once entered a shop and was asked ‘can I help you?’ After a polite ‘no’, the shop assistant proceeded to follow me around the shop for the next 10 seconds, forcing me into a quick get away.

Instead of asking “can I help you?”, which most of the time generates a negative response, instead open with “Have you been here before? I’ll just take 30 seconds to show you where everything is.” This approach both helps the customer, gives you an opportunity to build rapport and can also be a chance for you to communicate a current special or product you’re trying to move.

Receipts Are Your Last Touchpoint. Make Them Count

Often an after thought, your receipts are the last tangible item your customer takes from your small business. If you’re a pure service provider, a receipt could be the ONLY thing your customer takes from your premises. Flimsy receipts with scant information that’s difficult to read leaves you customers with a poor taste. Legible and logical receipts, perhaps including your small business unique selling point, serve to further solidify your small business branding.

Phew, congratulations for making it this far – you deserve a pat on the back. Have you noticed any businesses making these mistakes?


(To help you maximise your business)

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10 Website Mistakes That Cost You Sales

How to Get More Customers Contacting You Automatically

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9 thoughts on “Argh! 15 Mistakes That Damage Your Small Business

  1. Renee

    Hi David,

    great article about simple mistakes that damage your small business really easily. I couldn’t agree more.
    I guess not making these mistakes show that you care about your customers and about your business. And that’s important to me as a client. Because if you care about these things you will be more likely to really care about me – the client.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..10 Good Habits Worth Having =-.

  2. Jazz Salinger

    Hi David,

    This is a fantastic list of mistakes that damage your small business. I guess sometimes you need to stop and take a look at the way customers see your business.

    I think if we’re used to looking at the same thing day after day; we don’t always see the problems. Anyhow, this is really great advice and I’ll keep it in mind.

  3. Edward Brown

    This is a great checklist David. I’m so glad you mentioned receipts – it always annoys me, as a customer, when I get a tiny barely readable cash register receipt and I end up with no idea what it was for!

    Interestingly, BitRebels just posted a list of 7 online tools for generating invoices and receipts which might be worth a look at. I haven’t looked at them myself, but thought I’d share it here.

    .-= Edward Brown´s last blog ..
    Mystical Experiences are a Load of Crap! =-.

  4. Jan Littlaheles

    Hey David – what a great article. It made me think of all those dingy Doctors and Dentists surgeries I’ve been to over the years – and never been back to again. First impressions are so important. And don’t forget first impressions on the phone – the receptionist has such an important role to play and many companies don’t realise this – or maybe they do but they just don’t care. Thanks for another good read!
    .-= Jan Littlaheles´s last blog ..How to make Salad Dressing – in Ten Seconds! =-.

  5. David Moloney

    Thanks Renee, Tom, Jazz, Edward and Jan.

    Yes, looking at your business from a ‘warts and all’ customers view will help you identify areas of improvement. Edward, I agree with your comments regarding receipts. Some are so faded they don’t even last tax time.

    And Jan, great point about reception. From a customer perspective, the person on reception IS the small business – brand and all. If they speak too fast or without a smile the customer will notice it instantly. And this does not bode too well for a positive first impression.

  6. Eileen

    This is a fantastic article David,

    Many of these points business owners don’t give enough thought to. As a consumer we subliminally notice these things and then they impact our choice as to whether we return or not. We may not be able to come out and tell you why we don’t want to go back; all we know is that we don’t!

    Thanks for sharing!

    .-= Eileen´s last blog ..Cradle Cap Treatment =-.

  7. Emilio Houston

    I agree especially with #1! Having good signs and branding in your store or updated design and logos on your website is crucial to your customer experience and how your business is perceived.


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