As a small business owner, it’s easy to get bogged down in the daily minutia of running your business and, in the process, lose sight of the bigger picture. However, in order to grow, you need to take a step back and focus on the long-term goals. In order to do so, you need to ensure you aren’t making these common mistakes that may impede your progress.

  1. Drop difficult customers.

Do you have client who are always paying late? Or perhaps they take time to get back to you about any queries you have regarding their order? You may even have clients that just take up lots of your time but don’t spend much money with you. At some point, you will have to assess whether or not they are worth keeping as a customer. While you may think that you want to keep every customer you can get your hands on, in reality, it’s more profitable to get rid of someone who is a drain on your resources. Try to do this in a way that won’t burn any bridges – you don’t want them to turn around and start bad-mouthing you. Diplomacy is the key.

  1. Service is non-negotiable.

Everyone talks about their superior customer service but you really need to walk the walk. Going above and beyond for your clients is no longer a differentiator for your business – it’s mandatory. In today’s world of social media and online reviews, news of one bad experience can quickly spread and ruin your reputation. Good customer experience mean having someone available to answer questions, resolve problems and offer assistance. If you don’t currently have the resources required to provide this level of service, perhaps it’s time to review your operations so that you can. Technology can be a big help here with many businesses using social media and online chat tools to resolve any customer service issues.

  1. Diversify revenue streams

It may be tempting to put all of your eggs in one basket but being overly reliant on one large client can be dangerous, especially if that clients goes bankrupt or leaves you for a competitor. While it’s good to hope for the best, be prepared for the worst and ensure you have revenue coming from more than one source and throughout the year. If there is generally a long lead time before someone makes a purchase, you should also ensure you have a healthy sales pipeline. That way, if one client leaves, it won’t have such a dramatic impact on your bottom line.

  1. Back-up your data

It seems pretty obvious but you would be surprised the number of businesses who only back-up their data on an ad hoc basis, or sometimes not at all. This leaves your business’ sensitive data vulnerable to hacking or loss should your servers crash. There are any number of cloud-based options available. A cloud-based storage solution will ensure your data is safe and will be stored more securely than your small business server, with the bonus that you can access your data anywhere with an internet connection.

  1. Learn new things

It’s important to stay up-to-date with any changes in technology that may have an impact on your business. With technology constantly changing and evolving it’s easy to be left behind and find yourself losing business to competitors who have kept up. The same thing applies to industry rules and regulations, policies, the political landscape and more. Staying up-to-date with changes that could impact your business means that they won’t come as a shock when they invariably make their mark.

  1. Network regularly

Having a strong network of contacts can be invaluable to a business owner yet many think that attending a networking event is a waste of time. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that you never know when one of your connections can become a potential ally – whether they are a supplier, business associate, investor, customer or distributor. Plus, it’s even easier than ever to stay connected with, and even expand, your network using online tools such as LinkedIn and Meetup. After all, it’s not what you know but who you know.

  1. Check-out the competition

While you shouldn’t blatantly copy your competition, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on them, as you can be sure they are looking at what you’re doing. What are they doing that’s different? What seems to be working and what isn’t? Consider how your business compares to the competition and always be on the lookout for ways your business can improve.

  1. Seize the opportunity

Carpe diem – which roughly translates as ‘seize the day’ – should be every business owner’s motto. While you should carefully consider your options before making a decision, most opportunities are time sensitive so don’t take too long to make a move. While you shouldn’t make reckless decisions, fortune favours the brave and many business owners are guilty of dragging their feet for too long when the moment is right.

  1. Plan ahead

When you’re caught up in the day-to-day running of your business, it can be difficult to think about what might happen in the future. However, having a business plan is vital to ensure ongoing success and to prepare you for any potential challenges. Start with a goal in mind and develop a business plan to help you get there. Enlist the support of your accountant or business adviser who are experienced in putting these together.

While you may be only making some of these mistakes, any one of them could be holding your business back. By following these tips, you can ensure your business is prepared to overcome any hurdle and to seize every opportunity that comes your way.