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Insights for Business Owners from a Retail Perspective

publication date: Apr 8, 2014
author/source: Jacob Harbor

Don't Sweat The Small Things—

Or, Well, At Least These 4 Things

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Your business is your baby. Well, at one distant time in the past it was. If you’ve been running it for awhile, it has probably grown up.

And like a grown-up, a developed business is resilient, probably more resilient than you think. But many entrepreneurs refuse to believe their businesses can withstand one bad day, one unforeseen expense, one minor mishap. In their minds, problems start small then blossom out of control. It’s the classic Mom’s slippery slope: First it’s dirt behind the ears, next it’s sleeping in the gutter. For the entrepreneur, first it’s one bad sales day; next it’s selling your office fixtures on Craigslist and eating Ramen Noodles for dinner.

Sweating the small stuff, one can really hurt your business by keeping you needlessly fixated on minor problems while ignoring the important stuff. Below are four things business owners commonly fixate on when they should be treating their business like a grown-up who can tie their own shoes, thank you very much.

1. One bad day, one bad week or even one bad month

While over-optimism is a sure death knell for a business, pessimistic short-sightedness can be just as damaging—sometimes fatally so. A smart business owner knows that changing your strategy prematurely based off of a short-term assessment can ruin an otherwise solid, sound approach. You had a bad day? Well, how was your year?

Granted, you shouldn’t be afraid to adjust. But you always need to be thinking long term—the longer the better. As Warren Buffet once said concerning long-term investment, “Our favorite holding period is forever.” Bad days happen, randomly sometimes and in no way because of anything you did wrong, in fact. A good business owner knows this and doesn’t make rash decisions in a frantic, fruitless attempt to avoid some periods of negativity.

2. Indolence from employees

It takes a village, as they say. In your business’s case, it takes a village of employees. A lot of times, though, you’re not going to see eye-to-eye with certain employees on how to raise your precious business. They might rebel slightly, exhibiting classic passive-aggressive tendencies like “doing things their way.” And it will be aggravating.

But the worst thing you can do is let your employee’s negative attitudes distract you from the big picture. Personal conflict with an employee who thinks he knows best is going to happen sometimes. But don’t sweat it. Don’t let his indolence distract you from your ultimate goal. Personal conflict with employees is natural, but is nothing that should derail you.

3. Small theft and other losses to take personally

As a former shop owner, one of the most frustrating experiences I had was the first time a small case of actual theft occurred. At the time, the violation was, to put it mildly, quite upsetting. Someone had stolen from me! From my business, my baby!

Truly petty theft happens in almost all businesses—pens go missing, people don’t chip in for coffee, maybe a stapler goes AWOL. It’s insulting, and if it’s a pattern, certainly address the problem. But do not obsess over it!

In my case, I allowed the theft to affect me personally and ultimately allowed the theft to distract me from what mattered most: growing my business in a positive fashion. Being stolen from was (and is) very upsetting. And if you catch someone stealing, punish them accordingly. But if it’s not a recurrent, truly damaging pattern, suck it up and move on. Don’t let the isolated actions of a few thoughtless individuals take up your good time. Your time is worth too much.

4. Slow response from advertising

I don’t know how many business owners think that people actually see an ad and immediately go to patronize said business, but I do know business owners who have just had an ad air or run in the paper certainly think so. Advertising works gradually. Just because the phone didn’t start ringing off the hook the second the newspaper went out this morning doesn’t mean your ad didn’t reach people. The best test is to see if people are familiar with your business. If nobody in the world saw your ad, maybe you need to switch mediums. But if you don’t get an immediate response, don’t sweat it!

Jacob Harper co-founded clothing store/apparel brand Vintage Vice in 2006 at the age of 23. He sold the company in 2009 (it still operates successfully today) and has been working as a writer and teacher ever since. Harper is currently a head writer for the weekly political sketch show Top Story! Weekly at the iO West in Hollywood.


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