As you evaluate how this year has been for your business, are you truly looking at every aspect of your shop? One aspect many business owners neglect is how you think about your business. You may need to reframe a few (or more than a few) ways of thinking to take your shop to the next level, but there are steps you can take to make this transformation happen.
We’ve identified six of the most insidious mindset issues business owners fall into – and offer suggestions from the experts on how to break out of them now. You can rid yourself of this “stinking thinking” by taking the actionable steps outlined below and have a brighter and more successful 2023.
Mindset Challenge #1: “I know I should work on the business, but my team needs me to work in the business!”
The Problem: One of the biggest challenges owners face is the push-pull between working “on” their business vs. “in” the business. On one hand, you know you need to work “on” your shop, developing new product ideas and looking for new markets to target. On the other hand, it’s easy to abandon the “harder” visioneering work, getting pulled into the trenches alongside your employees, doing work you pay them to do.
The Solution: “It’s helpful to periodically take a bird’s-eye view of your business to make sure you’re continually heading in the right direction.” says Michael Nova, director of Nova Custom Label Printing. “Here’s the reason: You might miss something that could become a larger problem later if you’re always in the trenches. For instance, if you lose sight of your overall financial position, you might find yourself on the brink of bankruptcy.”
Develop a forward-looking mindset where you tackle new challenges and goals to shake up the status quo. This may mean being uncomfortable with change or with slower employee production or employees that do things differently than you would. To make a change, you need to set boundaries, make sure your employees are well trained and motivated, and then let them do their jobs while you do yours.
Mindset Challenge #2: “As the owner, I need to constantly be checking that my team is doing their work correctly.”
The Problem: When you’re the helicopter manager, you’re not focused on growing and expanding your business. You might come off as a controlling micromanager who doesn’t trust your employees to get their jobs done – this can create a hostile shop culture. Plus, you’re avoiding the real work of a business owner.
“The problem with this mindset is always feeling behind and stressed that all my to-dos aren’t getting done,” says Jessica Miller, CEO of Prestige Apparel. “While I don’t over-manage, I’ve always wanted my staff to know that I’ll work alongside them every step of the way. I finally realized I have to hire enough help to get things done right and in a timely manner. This has been such a huge shift for me, and I wish I did it sooner.”
The Solution: Give your staff room to do their jobs. You know where you want your business to be a year from now – so it’s on you to create the strategy and plan for that to happen. You’ll be the one to execute that plan throughout the year.
“Don’t put off hiring staff, since they’ll provide you the time to grow your business,” Miller says. “Their worth is way more than the money you pay them. Now, I have staff on my team in specific positions who take so much off of my plate. It’s allowed me time to focus on the business. My incredible staff still knows I’m there for them every step of the way.”
Mindset Challenge #3: “I must do everything myself! Asking for help comes off as weakness.”
The Problem: No one can do everything, especially in a business. You may own and run the business, but you know that it takes a team to create the best products and customer experience. “Even if you think you can do everything yourself, it’s impossible,” Nova says. “Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a natural part of doing business.”
This type of micromanaging and avoidance of the difficult work of creating a plan and direction won’t help your business. Your “endless hours” and “blood, sweat, and tears” may be useful when complaining about how hard you work, but won’t get you the profits or success you want. The idea is to work smarter, not harder, and to build a business that will pay you back. This also allows you to support your employees with careers, salaries and benefits.
The Solution: Hire skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced staffers, contractors or consultants in the areas you need them. “You can’t be an expert at everything, so it’s important to surround yourself with experts,” Nova says. “For instance, I turn to an SEO expert for guidance, since this effort is extremely time intensive and you need to be on point to do it correctly.”
Mindset Challenge #4: “Just my luck! Everything’s always such a problem for me!”
The Problem: Handling issues and challenges successfully is what separates strong businesses from the ones that go belly up. Everyone would be an entrepreneur if it were easy. As the owner, whatever the problem is, it’s your issue to tackle and resolve.
A negative mindset is when you believe nothing ever goes right, and everything’s falling apart with no chance of fixing it. This attitude will easily and quickly land your business in more trouble. If you don’t believe you can rise above and create solutions for the problems you face, your staff and customers will come to lack trust and confidence in your and your business.
Don’t think of “failure” as actual failure. You’ll probably fail many times before you achieve success, in both small and large challenges. Failure isn’t an end to your aspirations. Think of it as a series of stepping stones to success.
The Solution: Being positive doesn’t mean that you should act like everything’s perfect when it isn’t. Many psychologists now refer to that as “toxic positivity”—the idea you should only have good vibes. “It’s understandable that negativity can affect you, but there are certain exercises you can do on a daily basis to keep your mind focused on the positive,” Nova says. “What you focus on becomes your reality, so look at what’s going right and be grateful vs. focusing on what’s going wrong and letting it affect you.”
The same is true of mistakes: You can’t just wallow in them. Instead, reframe your problems. Don’t view it as being stuck. Ask yourself how you can use this as a learning opportunity and how you can handle this issue differently to avoid the same mistake in the future.
With a positive mindset, you’ll also spread this attitude to your employees, improving your shop’s retention. “Celebrate victories with your staff,” Nova says. “Have one-on-one talks with each person to tell them what you value about them and how much you appreciate them. That alone will completely change how they see you.”
Mindset Challenge #5: “Our customers never know what they want! It makes everything take 10 times as long!”
The Problem: If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking or saying, “Customers don’t know what they want,” do you know what you’re really saying? While you may be paying lip service to customer care, your attitude may convey that you don’t respect your customers enough to educate them. Or that you don’t value their feedback.
The Solution: It’s your job as shop owner to educate your customers on how your decorated-apparel business works — after all, you’re the expert at what you do. So, you need to let them know what you need from them to move forward on an order, how you accept payments, how you process orders, what happens if they need a rush order and so on.
“This is our area of expertise and our responsibility to educate customers so they know what’s expected of them,” Nova says. “The good thing is, once you educate a client, when they come back, they’ll understand how it all works.” Keep in mind, an educated client isn’t always one you’ll want to keep. If they won’t adhere to your processes and policies, you may have to show them the door.
Finally, send feedback forms with each order so you can listen to your customers’ opinions whether positive or negative. Use this data to adjust your processes to accommodate their suggestions and observations.
Mindset Challenge #6: “I can’t possibly ask for 100% upfront payment. All my customers will jump ship!”
The Problem: Customers don’t have skin in the game and can change their minds with no repercussions. If you produce 10 decorated-apparel orders and half of those clients pay late or refuse to pay, you’ll have a negative profit/loss statement.
The Solution: “Our policy is that once a proof is approved, the payment is due in full,” Nova says. “We haven’t had any problems with our clients agreeing to this. The only clients you’ll lose are problems from the beginning.”
With the 100% upfront payment practice – which more and more shops are embracing – you’re not carrying the cost of an order until completion. If a customer has paid upfront, it’s less likely they’ll cancel the order or try to change it.
The Right Mindset Sets the Foundation for Business Growth
Successful businesses have to grow and change. Growth is a big part of any profitable and positive business mindset. To really evolve as a shop owner, you have to work at managing and creating growth daily. Resting on your laurels won’t build your business or increase your bottom line. To grow your company, and yourself as a business owner, set goals and challenges that help you combat, and conquer, the mindset issues listed above.