HR & Management

Five business mistakes you can avoid

5 min read

01 March 2012

What are the five top business mistakes you're likely to make? One entrepreneur shares his biggest errors – and how you can avoid them.

Having started Global Personals (and its B2B service WhiteLabelDating.com) eight years ago, growing it into a £30m-turnover business, Ross Williams knows how to grow a business. He also knows a thing or two about mistakes.

Ross Williams shares his five top business mistakes – and how you can avoid them:

1. Rushing into hiring someone

We all feel the pressure to hire when we’re busy, myself included. With workloads increasing and demands rising, it’s easy to employ the first person that walks through the door for an interview. 

In the early days when the company was growing quickly, I did, and it backfired. Not only were they not right for us, but we were not right for them. Three months down the line we both knew, so there was an easy solution and thankfully for both of us it was a happy resolution. But it would have been far more efficient for both parties if we’d not rushed and got it right first time. 

We are currently recruiting and have a much more rigorous process in place, which helps ensure we have the best team possible and those joining our team know the detail and depth of the roles.

2. Inhibitive office layout

When planning one of my first office spaces, I forgot to think about the simple impact of having stairs. Having half of my team upstairs and half of them downstairs created a divide not just in location but in building strong working relationships. T

he separation formed a reliance on email and phone rather than face-to-face conversation, which is essential when generating bonds within a growing company.

3. Getting caught up in the moment

We all know the thrill of those first wins when starting a business. Having been there myself, in the early days of a previous venture, I made the mistake of failing to add any long-term value such as assets or contracted revenues to one certain project, because I was too focused on making sales. As a result that venture did not quite lift off.

4. Holding on

Your business is your baby. And if things go as planned, your baby will grow. When it’s time for the youngster to leave the nest, it is difficult to let go, and I have certainly held on longer than I should have to some of my business sprogs. 

Instead, maximise your value as a shareholder and when the time is right, hire someone to take over who can bring something to the job that you could not. This is also applicable to internal roles. As someone with a background in technology, I tend to have a strong vision for the product and experience being offered to users. However, as CEO of a company with over 115 staff, it has become difficult to maintain a regular focus on product development so I have had to delegate to my team. 

I don’t think I’ll ever let this go fully though – it certainly didn’t do Apple any harm having Steve Jobs dictating product direction.

5. Skills can be learnt 

It’s a misconception that when a new development occurs in your company you need to hire someone to fill the skills gap. I’ve been in many situations where the obvious choice seems to be to hire a new body with the right background for the role. However, I’ve found it to be just as successful if not more, to train current employees to fill the skills gap. 

I was once so impressed with a temporary junior receptionist and her enthusiasm that when a PR and Marketing Assistant position became available, we asked her to interview for it. She shone through, got the job and progressed really well within the business. That is not saying I’d put one of the programmers on the phone making sales, but if the transition can be made it is well worth the training cost.

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