How Not To Run a Business

Two men in an office, one laughing one thinking.

How Not To Run a Business

When it comes to learning, I pay attention to other people’s mistakes because I can learn from them, and I don’t have to go through all the trouble of making the same mistakes.

Whether you’re new to running a small business or a veteran, you’ll want to go over the next 23 points to avoid. The tips are short and sweet, so you can go through them pretty quickly.

Let’s get started!

1. Don’t Just Do It:

You’ve heard the popular term from Nike. Just do it!

Just do it doesn’t apply to starting a business. Sure, it’s great to have that go-get-it attitude and be motivated, but don’t just jump into starting a business. Don’t decision in business without taking some time to do some research.

You may have a gut feeling that you have a great idea. Just make sure you back it up with solid research and planning. When you take your time and plan effectively, you’ll reduce errors, hasty decisions, and risk.

2. Don’t Take Your Eyes off the Books:

One of the most important parts of running a business is managing the finances of your operation. It means dealing with money and managing the revenue coming in and the expenses going out.

When you’re on top of the financial part of your business, you won’t run into surprises. You don’t want to open your eyes one day and find out you don’t have enough money to make payroll or discover that you are losing money.

When you keep a close eye on the books, you’ll be in more control and will be able to make better decisions while increasing your chance of success.

Did you know the leading cause of businesses that fail in the first year is because the business owner runs out of money?

Make sure that never happens to you, and when you keep your eyes on the books, you can foresee problems before they occur.

3. Don’t Stop Planning:

People that constantly plan are usually organized and will have a grip on what’s going on in a business. Never make any major decisions without looking into the matter and without planning.

I know I had a great idea many times, and I jumped into it without planning to find I missed a crucial part of the puzzle, which derailed the whole project.

Get into the habit of planning, and the more you plan, the easier it will be.

Your plan doesn’t have to be a 40-page document outlining every detail. It can be as simple as a one-page document or a list. Do what works best for you and plan before you move ahead.

4. Don’t Forget What Keeps Your Business Alive:

Identify the one most important thing that keeps your doors open. Is it a special recipe, customer service, or exclusive product you provide, or the quality of a service you offer? It could be your pricing, the convenience of your location.

Whatever it is, it is just as important as your customers. It’s what causes customers to spend money. It’s something you’re doing right, and whatever that may be, it’s something you want to protect. And it’s something you never want to change and only improve.

5. Don’t Hide From Unhappy Customers:

Any business owner dreads customer complaints and avoids them like the plague. Customer complaints are hidden gems of gold. It’s the feedback you’re getting from your customers. A complaint can reveal an important piece of information that can reveal an underlying problem.

When you take each complaint seriously, you can refine your products, services, and customer service. Keeping track of all the complaints allows you to identify trends and problems.

The next time you get a complaint, use it as an opportunity to identify a problem. You may want to handle it to get all the information you can and turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.

6. Don’t Underestimate Your Team’s Talent:

I see this a lot in large corporations. Management hires someone outside the company for an executive position thinking outside talent is better than people they have in their workforce. They hire somebody who knows nothing about their industry and ends up being a failure. Does it happen all the time? No, of course not, but I do see it happening.

Before you hire from outside the company, check to see the talent you already have in your current workforce. When you hire people from within, they already have the experience, know the industry, and know-how things work.

Having experience within the company is, in most cases, more valuable than someone from outside with industry experience. Even with industry experience, each company has a certain way of doing things. An outsider will take time to adapt to your company’s culture where an insider already has the experience.

Even if an insider doesn’t have all the skills, they can learn the missing ones by taking courses online, a local educational institution, or on-the-job training.

If you don’t find the talent within the company, then hire someone from outside.

7. Don’t Close Deals on a Handshake:

Never close a deal on a handshake, and here’s why. Making a deal on a handshake is perfectly acceptable, and when you make a deal, you should be able to trust the other person. But when you close the deal, the issues you agreed upon must be documented.

You want to make sure that both parties are clear on all aspects of the deal. There’s too much that is unclear with a handshake deal, and if there’s a problem, you can’t go to court and say we had a verbal agreement because it’s your word against theirs.

Another point about verbal agreements is people forget the details. When everything is documented, it’s easy to get clarification by reviewing the document.

Therefore, even though the deal was agreed upon with a handshake, the final details must be clear. And both parties need to sign the document.

8. Don’t Forget About the Pros:

Don’t forget about using professionals for those sensitive projects.

There are many tasks involved in running a business, and as time goes on, you’ll be experienced in many of them. But there are those tasks that you may want to outsource or consult with a professional.

Let’s look at an example:

Unless you’re an expert marketer, you may want to outsource your marketing to a professional. Even if you have a good background in marketing, keep in mind a professional has the experience and has a better grasp of the industry. They know what works and what doesn’t. When a marketing professional does their job well, they are worth their weight in gold.

Another area where you might want to use a professional is the IT department. Even if you are knowledgeable in this area, a professional may be the better route for complicated jobs.

9. Don’t Sugarcoat Things for Investors or Customers:

Whether you present your business, products, and services to investors or customers, you don’t want to sugarcoat it and set the bar so high that you disappoint everyone, including yourself.

You’re better off highlighting your strengths and providing accurate information about your product services and your business. Sugarcoating and exaggerating will only come back to haunt you.

10. Don’t Push Products No One Wants:

Ensure you provide products and services that people want. Attempting to sell products and services that people don’t want is an uphill battle and doesn’t work, and it is a recipe for failure. You might spend years trying to push products with little success.

You may think you have the best product in the world, but if nobody wants it, you have nothing.

Business can be simple. Find out what people want and provide it.

11. Don’t Rush Into Partnerships:

I once heard a saying it’s easier to get into something than to get out of it. You may have the opportunity to partner up with someone, and you think it’s your ticket to success. Although partnering with people has many advantages, you want to make sure you find the right partner. You want to take your time to think about it and outline a detailed plan.

It’s like a personal relationship when you’re going out with someone you don’t ask them to get married after a week. That’s the whole point of dating to make sure that you’re compatible with the person before committing to a long-term relationship. It’s the same with partnerships, and if you can, work out a trial. It will probably work out better than going in blindfolded.

12. Don’t Bet the Farm:

It’s my opinion that you must be “all in” when you’re running a business. You have to believe in what you’re doing that you will succeed. That being said, it doesn’t mean to take risks. It doesn’t mean you should mortgage your house and everything you own, betting the farm.

There are risks when running any business. You can’t see everything, and you can’t anticipate everything that can happen. For example, a new competitor could come into the marketplace and take most of your customers. There can be a natural disaster that can take your business out for months.

Look what happened with COVID-19 thousands and thousands of businesses worldwide came to a halt. Many of them will close for good because they couldn’t withstand the shutdown during the global pandemic.

It’s good to be dedicated. It’s good to believe in your cause, but you have to keep in mind that risks and events can happen beyond your control.

13. Don’t Forget Your Mission:

Many people have a mission when they start their business. A business may start on one path and move in a different direction, which is not bad. Sometimes, a business can go in a direction where it gets off track. It no longer adheres to its core values, and the original mission is long gone.

Ensure you stick to your core values and your mission. Have your mission statement somewhere where you can see it, and act as a reminder.

Sometimes, the business has a new mission. In that case, you would replace your original with the new one.

14. Don’t Get Discouraged With Every Bump:

Running a business isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are always surprises and unanticipated events.

You don’t want to get discouraged with every bump that appears. Changes and problems are part of doing business once you understand that you’ll get better at handling unforeseen events and anticipate them.

One of the things I often advise in my articles is when you start a business, start one you’re passionate about. When problems arise, you’ll have the motivation and drive to deal with those problems. When you start a business, you’re not passionate about, and problems arise, you’ll be thinking of ways out rather than thinking of solutions.

15. Don’t Forget Your Strengths and Get Off Target:

Many people start a business based on an idea. Many people have a strength and a certain area, whether it’s their service, a popular product, a brand they have developed, etc.

Remember to stay on target and remember your strengths in your business. Sometimes businesses drift away from their strengths and their core products and services.

It’s not bad to get into other markets. Still, if you’re strong in one market and try different markets where you’re not successful, you harm your overall operation. You’re taking your efforts and resources away from the products and services you dominate. It’s important to set your focus on those areas where your business is strong.

16. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin and Do Everything Yourself

There are many businesses you can run as a one-person operation. And there are some businesses where you’ll need help. One thing you want to make sure of is that you don’t spread yourself too thin.

You can only do so much by yourself. Trying to do everything yourself will keep you from achieving success.

Your productivity suffers, your customer service suffers, and the quality of your personal life suffers. Get the help you need when it’s needed.

17. Don’t Spend Money Without Planning for Every Cent

Many businesses fail in the first year because they run out of money. Borrowing money for a business is not the easiest because financial institutions understand the risk of starting and running a new business. Therefore, funding can be difficult.

You never want to spend money on your business unless it’s necessary. On the other hand, you don’t want to keep your business from succeeding because you’re not spending money in the right places.

You have to have a balance where you’re spending money where it’s needed and planning for every cent you spend. The better you can control your spending, the more success you can expect.

18. Don’t Save Money in the Wrong Places

You don’t want to save money in the wrong places. For example, you have a machine that is constantly breaking down, causing downtime. You cannot fulfill customer orders, and you don’t want to spend money on buying a new one.

By not spending money on a new one, you’re hurting your business, you’re cutting orders, and you’re damaging your reputation. It’s good to watch your money and watch your spending, but you need to spend money in the right places to make money.

19. Don’t Take Key Positions for Granted:

Make sure employees that have key positions in your business are not doing anything to harm your business.

For example, suppose you have a retail business, and you have one employee that is a customer representative. This employee can destroy your business in a matter of weeks without your knowledge.

Your customer representative is in direct contact with your customers. If they are doing a poor job, you can lose a lot of business in a short time. If your employee is rude and offers very poor service, you lose customers without even knowing it. Your sales will go down, and you’ll wonder what the problem is. Keep an eye on those employees that hold key positions.

The same would go for a business manager. If you have a business manager that’s performing poorly, your business will perform poorly.

Keeping an eye on key positions is something successful business owners always do. It’s the same as we mentioned earlier in this article about keeping an eye on the books.

20. Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Things are going well, so you don’t have to try hard to be successful. Money is flowing in and, everything is running smoothly. It is great when things are going well, but you don’t want to get to where you think your business will run on autopilot.

You have to keep an eye on things and ensure it keeps running smoothly. Watch your cost, your industry, and the marketplace.

Running a business is a roller coaster ride. It has ups and downs and when you’re enjoying the ride, keep in mind that things can change.

21. Don’t Forget To Stay Up to Date With Your Industry

You may have a good understanding of your industry, and that’s a great thing. But even though you understand your industry, you have to keep an eye on changes and updates.

With the abundant availability of information and technology, changes in the business world occur constantly and quickly in today’s world. With that being said, make sure you keep an eye on your industry.

Tracking can be a simple process of creating a Google alert and subscribing to industry journals and blogs, and following industry experts on your social media accounts. To be successful in today’s business world, you need to keep up with the times.

22. Don’t Forget the Customer Is in Charge

Many people start their own business to be in control and in charge. Although you do have a great deal of control over the operation of your business, you have to keep in mind who’s really in charge.

And the one that’s in charge of your business is your customer. Your customers are what keep your business open and operating. Without customers, you don’t have a business.

When you put your customer first and understand they’re the ones in charge, you treat them better, and you appreciate them more. When you appreciate and treat your customers well, your customer service improves, and so does your revenue and business stability.

23. Don’t Run Your Business Without Feedback From the Most Important People:

Don’t run your business without feedback. It’s important, and when you act on the information, this technique could be worth its weight in gold.

Running a business means you’ll be making a lot of assumptions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get feedback, so you know how to make things better and keep things running smoothly.

I would suggest getting feedback in two main areas your customers and your employees.


Even though you’re running your business and you’re in charge, the people on the front lines have a better handle of what’s going on because they’re doing it every day. When you get feedback from your employees and act on that information, you can make your workforce workplace better and more efficient. Who better to get it from than the people doing the job every day.


Your customers are the heart of your business. They’re the ones that spend money, and they’re the ones that keep your business alive.

It’s important to get feedback from your customers and use it to improve your products, services, and overall operations. There are many ways to get feedback; see How to Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey That Works, which can help you get the feedback you’ll need.


Well, there you have it, what not to do when running your business. I suggest you work on a few of the tips at a time. Putting them all in place at once could be counterproductive. Take the ones that appeal to you most and start to put them in place. Once those are in place and working, then you can work on others as needed.

Good luck!
Acey Gaspard