Through my years of experience dealing with companies large and small, I have witnessed a fair share of mistakes in business situations. Some minor, some troubling, and some that could not only be harmful to an organization’s health, but that of its employees. The issues listed below were observed in real companies, and were either remedied or – to the eventual detriment of the business in question – not. Here is how to keep your business honest:
- Don’t lie to your clients: Yes, this is pretty basic, but I’ve witnessed it. And not from employees, mind you – but from the owner of a California property management firm. In fact, the owner wanted me to refrain from altering income statements for some of his clients to correct errors that would result in lowering revenues to them. When I brought this issue to the owner’s attention – he not only refused to allow changes to those statements – he encouraged them, so as to reflect errors that were advantageous to him. Needless to say, we parted ways soon after. Not only will such dishonesty cultivate a toxic environment within any organization, it will surely ruin a business sooner, not later. And it should.
- Don’t cheat your vendors: Being dishonest with your clients is pretty awful, but being unethical with your contractors and suppliers is just as bad. These organizations are trying to make a fair living too, and most of them work pretty hard. Of course, you should make every effort to find the best business partners, and this means weeding out those that can’t deliver worthwhile results or charge more than they should. Like finding good employees, finding good vendors isn’t easy. Keep your supplier relationships above board.
- Don’t abuse your employees: There are business owners who force their truck drivers to operate beyond federal mandated hours, expect employees to work beyond 40 hours per week without getting overtime pay, and who micromanage their staff members as if they were eight-year-olds. Don’t be one of those owners.
- Never ignore safety: Not only will you drive away valuable employees, you’re likely to open your company up to big lawsuits by ignoring safety regulations. Perhaps the quickest and most effective way to ruin your business is to ignore the concept of “safety first”, then go out of business following an injury-driven legal action that could have been avoided. You don’t just keep your business honest by maintaining integrity; you also do so by taking care of your people.
- While you’re at it, don’t ignore your own health: You may think you’re a “star performer” because you can work through lunch without stopping, or get by on five hours’ sleep a night, or drink yourself into oblivion to counter work-related stress when you get home in the evening. Eventually, however, your business performance will suffer, then your family will, and then your own health will. Take good care of yourself. Your business depends on your good health, and so do those you love.
- Avoid unlicensed or corrupted software: I’ve encountered this shady practice a number of times. Some small business owners think they are being clever by using “academic” or “non-profit” licensed computer applications or by purchasing pirated software from unscrupulous sellers. And then something breaks. Guess what happens when those business owners need support? It’s not available, and their books and/or other business data might be lost.
- Get rid of the “do it because “this is how we’ve always done it” mantra: This backwards thinking has probably caused more small businesses to fail than any other mistake. I have encountered business owners who insist on making copies of invoices or reports in triplicate to be filed in various office filing cabinets for safe keeping. These folks can’t seem to embrace the idea of document scanning and remote, offsite data backups. We’re not in the 1950’s any more, and we don’t use butter churns or the pony express. Update your systems, or get crushed.
- Make your marketing efficient: When the money’s coming in and the phone’s ringing, it’s easy to get complacent. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t devote at least a little bit of time each week to pursuing a marketing strategy. Whether you decide to offer your services or wares via a website, a storefront, or a farmer’s market – you need to get customers. Find ways to get the word out about your business as efficiently as possible. Online marketing is just one avenue, of course. Many small businesses still derive most of their revenues via local classified ads, referrals, or flyers left on doors. Can your business benefit from these approaches?
- Use the right marketing approaches: I encountered one business owner who admitted to burning through several hundred bucks per month on “pay per click” online advertising and getting meager results. Unfortunately for him, he had a poor understanding of online marketing in general and PPC advertising in particular. Some marketing approaches require in-depth expertise and big budgets; some, of course, do not. If your competition is doing well, try to find out how they advertise. You might be able to mimic their approach in more cost-effective ways. Before adopting expensive marketing techniques, read up on them first. Don’t be like the guy who spent too much on a marketing process, got too little in return, and then spent hours per week (yes, I’ve been around this) arguing on the phone with the PPC vendor because he didn’t understand the process. It wasn’t the vendor’s fault that he didn’t understand this particular approach to marketing; it was his own. He didn’t bother to educate himself or hire someone who could have helped him use his marketing dollars, and time, more efficiently.
- Don’t assume that you know what you’re doing: Some business owners are humble and some…not so much. It’s the latter group that gets into the most trouble. For those of us who do remote bookkeeping, it’s a joy to help any business find ways to improve its operations, cut spending, and increase revenues. However, while we welcome them, we know that the challenges presented by businesses that have used unqualified or untrained employees to keep their books are significant. In addition, many business owners attempt to keep their own books while wearing the many other hats required by their enterprise. If you’re good at providing a specific product or service, then stick with that! Just be sure to call Statera Services to help you handle your Quickbooks accounting.
- Don’t change bank accounts like most people change socks: Like other situations mentioned above, I’ve also seen this happen. One business that I worked with had just changed banks just before it contracted with me. Its books were already in very bad shape; but changing banks made an out-of-control bookkeeping situation much worse. By the time we were able to clean up the books and move forward with reconciled accounting, the business owners decided to change banks again. It became apparent that this business was attempting to dodge legal issues by keeping its bank account numbers a mystery. Obviously, it also became apparent that I could no longer work for this client!
Bottom line, most of us know how to maintain integrity in the business world. Those who don’t eventually fail. Keep your business honest, and the revenues will follow. I strive to uphold integrity while making sure your business runs efficiently. Contact Statera Services to find out how to keep your business honest but also keep it running like a finely-tuned machine.