Take it from Tom Panaggio, an entrepreneur who created and built two highly successful businesses including Direct Mail Express, which now employs over 400 people. “Simply hoping that sales will improve is the wimp’s approach,” says Panaggio. “You can’t wait for all conditions to be perfect because they never will be. You have to take action at some point.”
Here are some top inaction-excuses Panaggio has come across in his travels speaking to and advising small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Excuse #1: The timing isn’t right. People who constantly succumb to this excuse are what Panaggio calls “prisoners of hope.” They’re always waiting for something else to happen before “pulling the trigger” and end up never acting. Millions of would-be entrepreneurs, for example, are waiting for just the right conditions – funding, free time, a better economy. And all the time they’re waiting, opportunities are passing them by.
Excuse #2: We tried that already. Small business owners most often utter these words in relation to marketing. Maybe they spent a bundle on a TV commercial once and it didn’t work. Or an online deal offering resulted in a loss. But marketing is far from certain and often difficult for small companies to predict. Without proactive, long-term and consistent marketing, businesses die.
Excuse #3: If only I had [fill in the blank]. For business owners and especially startups, there are always a million “if-only-I-hads.” And often they involve technology. But if you examine the situation closely, you might find there’s another way. “The road to success is through action, not accessories,” says Panaggio. “While tools and technology may be helpful, they don’t guarantee success. Effort guarantees success.”
Excuse #4: I’m still working on a plan. There’s nothing wrong with planning. You need to be prepared. But endless planning that replaces the reality of execution results in stagnation. Your “perfect plan” might prevent you from failing, but it will also stop you from succeeding if it’s never put into place.
Excuse #5: It’s a good idea but things are different now. This kind of thinking often results in “moving the target” because you lack certainty or perhaps just the motivation to move ahead. You have a plan and are ready to act, but pull back and reassess for one reason or another. Moving the target changes the objective, goal or focus of your business and thus delays plan execution, innovation or change. And every time you move the target, you have to prepare all over again.
Excuse #6: I’ll get to it – eventually. Panaggio tells the story of a salesperson who did extensive research on each lead, compiling hundreds of pages of material so she’d know as much as possible before calling. On the surface this seems admirable. But the salesperson was really putting off the moment of truth. She was afraid of being rejected and research was a form of avoidance. In business, there’s no shortage of delaying tactics that can be used as a buffer between you and action. If you immerse yourself in busywork in order to avoid true priorities, your business will suffer.
Excuse #7: I’m in a defensive posture. The hardest risks for cash-strapped business owners to take are often financial. Many choose to cut costs and “do more with less” when what they really need to do is hire new talent, invest more heavily in marketing, upgrade technology or something else. “The truth is, you can save your way to mediocrity, but not success,” says Panaggio.
Excuse #8: Nothing’s broken, why fit it? When nothing is going wrong, it’s easy to tell yourself things are fine, the future is rosy, and you don’t need to put yourself out there to improve. But that’s a good way to get left behind. Customers don’t always leave because they had a bad experience with your company. They may simply have had a better one elsewhere.
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