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7 Traits That Make You A Miserable Failure In Business

by Shawanda Greene

A tombstone inscribed with "RIP Your Small Business"

How to earn more money is an often ignored component of the wealth building equation. In the short run, it’s easier and less intimidating to cut expenses.

However, there’s only so much you can trim from your budget. Fortunately, your ability to grow your income is unlimited.

Let’s assume you’re not going to win the lottery, marry “well”, or otherwise stumble upon an obscene amount of money. Your fincancial plan requires actual work.

Achieving success isn’t contingent upon you being the best in your field. You can pummel most of your competition by doing things that require little time or money.

If you haven’t progressed as far as you hoped in your business, bad habits could be sabotaging your efforts. It’s these seemingly harmless acts that prevent you from maximizing your income.

Here are 7 characteristics that will cap your otherwise infinite income earning potential.

1. Inconsistency

Confusing street signsWhen customers do business with you, they want to know what they’re getting into – everytime. Your offerings shouldn’t be whimsically based on who’s working the grill, how hot it is outside, or whether congress is in session.

Think about it. How many times do you let a business fail to meet expectations? If I received cornbread with my rib sandwich the first and second time I ordered it, then why did I have to request it on the third and sixth visit?

Personally, my heart breaks a little when I fixate my mind on a high level of quality only to be blindsided by mediocrity.

2. Pettiness

You want to piss off a customer? Be a stickler for nonsensical rules. Alienate them with trivial foolishness.

Recently, two Lil’ Wayne dancers were arrested for attacking a PF Chang’s waitress. The altercation started when the Lil’ Wayne dancers asked the waitress for separate checks.

The proper response from the waitress would’ve been an enthusiastic, “Sure!” Instead, she told her patrons they should’ve asked for separate checks when they ordered.

First, how crazy are those Lil’ Wayne dancers for beating up that PF Chang’s waitress?

And second, how hard is it to split a bill, PF Chang’s waitress?!

3. Unresponsiveness

White writing on black background that says "How may I ignore you today?"It’s amazing how many people don’t respond to inquiries for their services.

If I need work done, I contact multiple companies for two reasons:

1) I like to comparison shop for the best deal, and

2) I won’t hear back from over half of them.

Simply returning phone calls and answering emails will result in a dramatic increase in business. People, usually, won’t bother contacting you unless they’re primed to buy. Often, they’re already sold on what they’re going to buy, you just need to ensure they know it can be bought from you.

Avoid the temptation to ignore those you can’t help. Refer them to someone who can service their request if you can. The customer will appreciate it, and you’ll build goodwill with the guy who got the business. Plus, you won’t be remembered as that jerk who doesn’t respond to emails.

4. Unprofessionalism

When it comes to dealing with customers, error on the conservative side. Unprofessional behavior screams you’re not serious about your business or worse, you’re incompetent.

It’s okay to be personable and engage in small talk with your clients. But the more familiar you become, the more likely you are to say something offensive or inappropriate.

Realize it’s not only what you say to your customers that make you look like an amateur.

  • Leave the kids home (or under the supervision of a responsible adult). Clients won’t appreciate your bad ass kids tearing up their stuff.
  • Don’t talk on your cellphone. At least pretend to focus 100% on what you’re being paid to do.
  • Put the cigarettes away. Even if you work outdoors, just assume none of your customers prefer walking thru plumes of second hand smoke.

5. Laziness

Man walking dog while drivingYou do the bare minimum – sometimes less – and you half ass that. As a hired expert, I trust you’ll do what we agreed upon plus whatever else is reasonably necessary to ensure a quality product or service.

If nothing else, you should let your customers know what’s not included if the omission will result in what appears to be unfinished or shoddy work.

For instance, some housekeepers refuse to wash dishes. That’s fine, but imagine walking into your home, after you’ve paid someone to clean it, and unexpectedly finding a sink full of stankin’ dishes.

Customers appreciate and brag about the little things.

A friend told me how much he loved his pet sitter because she’d tidy up the kitchen when she stopped by. A few minutes wiping down counters and sweeping the kitchen floor builds a lasting, favorable impression that’ll win that pet sitter, not only repeated business, but numerous referrals from satisfied customers.

6. Dishonesty

Yuck! It’s one thing to be inconsisent, unresponsive, unprofessional, or lazy, it’s another to be flat out shady.

You can’t trust someone who lacks integrity. They’re always trying to change the terms of the agreement. Always trying to rip you off.

Customers need certainty. If you say you’re going to do something, do it – for the price you agreed on, under the terms you agreed on.

7. Shortsightedness

Greedy, selfish kid grasping 3 baby dollsUnderstandably, you want to make as much money as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, your quest to make money now shouldn’t kill your chances to maximize profits later.

There’s a word for short-term thinking people: greedy.

Greed often manifests itself in astronomically high prices. Customers, generally, know upfront what they’re being charged for a product or service. But there are times they assume the price will be in line with the market so they don’t ask. Sometimes they’re so deperate for a solution they pay whatever you ask of them.

For instance, a friend’s mother, who doesn’t own a car, needed someone to take her to the veterinarian’s office. A neighbor offered to take my friend’s mom when her previously arranged transportation fell thru. After returning from the vet, twenty minutes later, the neighbor asked my friend’s mother to cough up $20. The vet was only a couple miles away!

Since my friend’s mother only had $17 on her, the neighbor “graciously” allowed her to pay the $3 later.

What’s the likelihood a long-term customer was created in this situation?

What lessons have you learned from losing customers?

What have you learned not to do from bad businesses? 

This post was mentioned in the Carnival of Wealth – The Change of Guard Edition at Personal Dividends.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal Fries March 26, 2012 at 2:18 PM

I don't really have a formal business, but I have sold some things online. It's amazing how far good customer service can take you. You're so right when you say that people just want to be able to trust you.

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Independence May 24, 2012 at 5:10 AM

This are all very good points and remainder to all of us on the way to financial independence.

Thanks a lot for sharing the tips!
My recent post How to make willingness to achieve financial independence more clear and inspirational?

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