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Bad Behaviors to Break as a Small Business Owner

Let’s talk about some nasty behaviors that could be costing you business, shall we?

As a small business owner, I’m sure you get the excitement (and incredible challenge) of building something from the ground up. There’s so much to think about: inventory, service procedures, payment processing, documentation, taxes, employees, oh, and more taxes as it turns out.

All of that being said, each small business owner also has to hone in on a set of “soft skills” to help them survive in their small town. Some skills are a bit easier than others to master. 

Out of them all, here are three that I’ve found if not handled with care can ultimately lead to the demise of your small business.

Let’s get into it!

Relying on Others to Support You Without Supporting Your Community

It's a wonderful feeling when the community rallies behind your new business. But this support shouldn't be taken for granted. One of the biggest mistakes is expecting continuous support without giving back. Investing time, effort, and even donations into your community not only builds goodwill but also creates a loyal customer base. Small Town Startup’s motto is always to "serve before you sell." Show up for community events, sponsor local teams, or simply get to know your neighbors. When you invest in your community, the community will invest in you.

Think of the relationship between a small business and its community as a marriage. If you're taking love, affection and gifts from your partner constantly, but then when they need something you just turn and walk away… your marriage isn’t that great, is it? Neither is the relationship of a small business owner and a community if it’s purely only a gain for one side.

Talking Poorly About Other Businesses Without Direct Communication

Competition can be fierce, but speaking ill of other businesses is a sure way to tarnish your reputation. We recently had a conversation with someone who said, “Gosh, I want to go to X’s business more often, but every time I go in there, they’re bashing someone else, or want to gossip about an individual in town.” Turns out, talking trash can lose you business - even if you think it’s a fun way to connect with people. 

On the flip side, getting negative feedback about a competitor is a great way to actually BUILD a relationship with them. Let’s say someone talks negatively about your competition, be it the service was poor, or the product wasn’t up to the standard it should be. The move is NOT to talk trash back. Instead, stop them and ask if they’ve let the business owner know, and if not, would they do so, or would they mind if you let them know.

Explain that all small business owners have room to grow and no one is perfect, and feedback like they’re giving is valuable when given directly to who it needs to go to.

Letting the business know you received the feedback and doing so in a kind and empathetic way helps to a) foster a supportive business and environment and b) frankly shows maturity and professionalism. 

When you nip gossip and criticism that isn’t useful in the bud, you’re creating a better business environment for all small businesses, conversation by conversation.

Expecting Support Just Because You Opened Your Doors

Opening your doors is just the beginning. Making one post about it is just the beginning. Believing customers will flock to you simply because you took a risk in starting a small business in a small town isn’t reality. It requires continuous effort in marketing, product quality control and excellent customer service. It’s that consistency in those three areas that will drive business growth over time. 

Now here’s the kicker: Letting up on any one of those three at any time is where it all starts to fall apart. Is it exhausting keeping it together? Sure is. But the goal is to grow your business to a sustainable level where you can begin to hand over “ownership” of any one of those three areas to a trusted source - be it someone you hire, an agency, a call center, etc.

And even then, it’s not always smooth sailing. As the business owner, YOU are the only one responsible for its pathway. Make sure that the direction you’re driving the ship is a good one.

What other things would you add to this list?