Everyone knows timing is critical. However, it is as bad to be too early as too late. Business offers many areas in which moving too early can work against success. As a SCORE mentor, I have seen these at close hand.
Bad timing is…
Don’t seek funding prematurely. You should start a business with enough money to get you through the first two years. You’ll know how much if you’ve assembled a thorough, realistic business plan (you should never start without one). Two years will establish a business history you can present to investors, with cash flow and growth records that prove you have been successful. It would be prudent to delay your business start to save additional funds.
Don’t rush to get a patent. Consider these points: First, a patent only has value if you have the money to fight for it in court. Few start-ups do. Pursuing the patent will distract you from what you really need to do: start producing the products your ideas enable. Balance the timing against the risk someone might independently develop (or copy) your idea. Focus on a patent only if you plan to license your technology. Early production might refine your patent, to strengthen its protection for your intellectual property.
Don’t expand too rapidly. Businesses should grow, but each expansion stretches resources. Use your business plan to analyze and cost out what you will need. It is often productive to phase in product line growth in increments to allow support to grow at a similar, manageable rate. That lets your customers see a steady growth in your offerings without any interruption of your service.
Don’t rush into an expensive ad program. Financial resources will be thin at the beginning. Don’t waste them on something you don’t need yet. You can generate tremendous exposure by aggressively using social media. And it’s free! Repeat: FREE. Even though you feel time constrained, you actually have more time to spare than money. Twitter, Facebook and the like will not require massive time. Set up a strong, dynamic web page.
Some elements of your business should not be delayed. Never procrastinate. When you know something must be done, do it. Some delays can be painful, like failure to remit sales tax and employee payroll taxes on time. Prioritize and expedite.
Don’t delay firing bad employees. Not all employees meet expectations. A constant complainer will eventually taint others. Shirkers are adept at off-loading tasks onto others. The victims could become complainers. The list grows: the chronically tardy, the frequently absent, the liquid lunch crowd and others are detrimental to your business. Strike fast. If you try to reform them, set a short deadline. If they’re incorrigible, terminate them swiftly (after you have carefully documented their transgressions and your warnings. Don’t explain why they’re gone. Other employees will know without being told. Remember, your first responsibility is to your business, not to employees whose behavior could harm it.
Never hesitate to ask for help. You can’t kick problems under the desk and hope they go away. If its beyond your skill set, find someone who can help. SCORE (part of SBA) has mentors who are ready to provide free counseling to small businesses who contact us. SBA offers inexpensive services through Small Business Development Centers at many community colleges. Don’t fear to question a friend in a similar business. Good advice will let you attack problems as they arise, not when it’s too late.
In most situations, listing the pluses and minuses of acting now or postponing will help you decide correctly. You can’t run everything on the same time track. Prioritizing the timing of events is a critical business skill.
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