Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth ... the 7 deadly sins that the Catholic Church warned against in the middle ages. It’s easy to see how each of these sins can be applied in a business context.
For example, Harvard Business Review posted an article on The Seven Deadly Sins of Management, explaining lust is all about vanity projects, pride about overestimating abilities (you get the picture).
But I think there are other sins that business owners can commit to the detriment of their businesses. Here are my top 7:
This is all about not having a plan for your business. It leads to acting on a whim. It prevents you from analyzing your numbers and your actions.
Solution: Make a plan. It doesn’t have to be a formal written document, but you need to create benchmarks against which to measure your progress.
Established businesses may falsely assume that customers are satisfied, employees are happy in their work, and things will continue in the same fashion. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can’t assume things are good and won’t change for the worse.
Solution: Talk to customers and get feedback. Engage with your employees and find out what they think. Continually strive to make things better.
You know the old cliché that ignorance is no excuse. But some business owners are guilty of this flaw. They don’t pay attention to new technology that can improve operations. They fail to learn about new laws that they’re required to follow and can get into trouble for not doing so. They miss out on new opportunities because they’re oblivious to them.
Solution: Make it a habit to stay on top of things. This can be done by reading newsletters about small business from thought leaders (like Big Ideas for Small Business®) and trade associations. It can also be done by working with key advisors (e.g., your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, IT person).
This is the sin of taking employees for granted. In today’s tight job market more than ever, it’s critical for business owners to value each employee. This means taking an interest in their personal development and helping them advance.
Solution: Recognize that it’s the job of a business owner to be involved with employees.
It’s good not to splurge (see Sin 6), but it’s just as bad to be cheap. This is evidenced by not reinvesting in the business. It can mean working on outdated equipment. It can thwart marketing efforts by not spending money as needed here.
Solution: Work with a financial advisor such as your CPA to project your return on investment so you’ll be motivated to spend appropriately.
The other extreme of being cheap is to be wasteful, and this is clearly just as problematic. This can result from not watching a budget, or even worse, not having a budget. This sin can lead to spending on things that aren’t helpful (e.g., an expensive vehicle). It can even lead to incurring needless debt.
Solution: Make a budget and stick to it!
7. Acting like Superman or Wonder Woman.
This sin is trying to do everything yourself. You fail to delegate and think you can grow your business by working harder all by yourself.
Solution: Think of yourself as a Fortune 500 CEO. You don’t have to be the one who turns off the lights at night or puts the stamp on the envelope. Work more productively.
“Sins, like chickens, come home to roost.” Charles W. Chestnutt
In business, your sins can undermine your growth, or even worse, lead to ruin and bankruptcy. Don’t let this happen to you.