We all make mistakes, but when you are running a business, mistakes can cost you money. While you may approach big decisions with care to avoid a costly error, sometimes it’s the little things that really count. Here’s my list of the top subtle business blunders. I have witnessed all of them, maybe even committed a few myself. If you have employees, the list is worth sharing.
“Celling” it short. I recently had a life insurance agent visit me on a sales call. I had scheduled to give him 30 minutes of my valuable time. As he began his presentation, his cell phone rang. When he reached for it, I assumed he was going to hit the switch to send the call directly to voicemail. Instead, he answered it. Rather than politely tell the person on the other end of the call that he was in a meeting with a client, he engaged in the phone conversation as if I weren’t in the room. From my end, it didn’t appear to be urgent. He was on the phone for about five minutes—five minutes of my 30 minutes that I had graciously provided to him. He didn’t apologize when he hung up, just picked up where he left off. Needless to say, he didn’t make the sale. In that single mindless action, he made me feel as if I was not a priority. Why would I purchase from him? What could I expect from him in customer service if this is the way he treated me in the sales process? If you’re in a meeting with a real, living, breathing person, turn the cell phone off. If for some life/death reason, you must take a call, at least let your client know in advance that there is a possibility of an interruption and sincerely apologize for the potential inconvenience.
Driving Ms. Crazy. If your company car has your company logo on it, don’t do anything in it that you wouldn’t want your granny to witness. Don’t cut people off in traffic or provide a “middle finger salute” to those that cut you off. Don’t park in a handicapped space if you are not legally able to do so and don’t text while driving. You get the idea. The same rules (and many others) apply when you are wearing your business’ logo on your clothing.
No cards left behind. This one still gets me once in awhile. Obviously, it is important to always have a good inventory of your business cards with you at business functions, but a valuable networking connection can happen anywhere. Don’t let an opportunity slip through your hands because you weren’t prepared.
Follow-up failure. If you make an offer or a promise to a new networking connection or an established contact, deliver on it. If you don’t, you may be leaving money on the table. So many opportunities are missed because the follow-up didn’t happen.
All the world is a stage. And we can see the plots play out via social media outlets on a daily basis. You’ve probably heard the news stories of people getting fired from their jobs for bashing their employers on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I recently heard the story of a business that lost a huge account because an employee was posting some pretty hateful banter on a social media site about one of the business’ clients. You know how it ends. The client found out and decided to do their very hefty chunk of business elsewhere. The employee got fired, but it will take a very long time for the business to recover the revenue lost and rebuild its reputation with the lost client and others.
Building a positive reputation for your business takes time and effort. And while one small misstep may not destroy your business’ reputation, over time, subtle shortcomings can chip away at what you are working so hard to build.