Owning your own business. It’s the American dream. However, if not done correctly, it can easily become a nightmare.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything, and there are many who know far more than I do about running a business, but, in my experience, if you are guilty of any or several of the following…

…you’re gonna have a bad time.


Look. Being competitive is great. You wouldn’t be running your own business (or considering doing so) if you didn’t have that drive.

But you have to know how to share toys. The sandbox is big enough for us all, and there is no shortage of opportunity.

If you are confident about what you’re doing, then you shouldn’t feel threatened by others who are succeeding, even in the same space as you.

People are always listening and watching, and if you talk poorly about the competition regularly, it’s a bad look. I promise.

We can accomplish more together.


Do you say “thank you” often? If not, I’m just going to be honest: Your business probably isn’t doing great, and people probably don’t enjoy being around you very much.

As Mark Twain once said: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Your business might be really awesome, but, ultimately, the world survived (somehow) before without you, and it’ll do the same when your business is gone.

So, tell your customers thank you. If you have employees, tell them “thank you.” If someone shares something nice about your company on Facebook, thank them.

You’ll never develop a bad reputation for being too grateful, but it’s really easy to earn poor marks for being someone who never says thank you.


If you want people to give you their money, here’s some advice: Don’t make it hard for them to do so.

I live in a small town (Gloucester, VA), and as much as I love it here, I see a regular occurrence that ends up being the downfall of many local businesses.

If you’re only open every third Thursday, first Tuesday, and lunchtime on Wednesdays, or if people have to check your Facebook page every day to see when you’re going to be open, the likelihood is that people are going to get tired of fooling with you.

There are just too many options in this day and age. As much as we all talk about loving “Mom and Pop” shops, if that experience is not a good one, we’ll take our money down the road to the big chain store in a heartbeat.

It’s your business. Set the hours however you want, but make it predictable, and don’t change them often.

Otherwise, you will soon be lost amongst the noise. (And you’ll deserve it.)


If you have a shop, store or restaurant, your first impression is everything.

Studies show that consumers make up their mind about a place within several seconds. (No pressure!!)

If you have a restaurant, are customers greeted right when they walk in? Even if you have a “seat yourself” policy, a sign can never replace the human element of a smile and warm greeting.

Also, what’s the atmosphere like? Do you have music playing? If not, you should. If it’s too quiet, most people feel apprehensive about having conversations and awkward about being there.

You want people to feel welcome and to want to hang out. If you’re not sure how to accomplish that, just do some research. The information is readily available online, and you can (and should) also find out by asking customers and people you know and trust.

Which brings me to my last and most important point on the list…


The worst business owner faux pas (and possibly just the worst quality of a person) is an inability to take criticism.

Even if the person offering the critique is dead wrong, just listen. Let them say what they need to. Make a habit of allowing people to finish, even when what they’re saying is hard to hear. Then, thank them for their feedback.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The same is so for the overly critical customer or friend. They might be a jerk, but is there ANYTHING in what they’re saying that might be helpful?

As soon as you develop a reputation for being someone who doesn’t listen or who is a know-it-all, people will stop sharing with you, and then you’re dead in the water.

If you don’t know what your customers, employees, or critics are thinking, you stop being able to adjust, and, instead, you’re only catering to your own preferences.

Certainly, there are other reasons why a business might be failing, but these are some of the ones that I witness regularly.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Would you add any to the list?