We all make mistakes; some of them are just more costly than others. Running a small business isn’t for the faint-hearted and mistakes are part of the game. With that in mind, here are four mistakes to avoid that you don’t have to learn the hard way:

1. Don’t ignore the details
It’s been said, “The devil is in the details.” Truer words were never spoken.

Unfortunately in the rush of trying to get stuff done, we sometimes brush over the details. According to Aaron Goodin, writing for Entrepreneur magazine, too many people overlook the fine print. It’s sometimes called “mouse type” because it’s so small only a mouse could read it. If you don’t read it, it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do—make important details they are required to disclose difficult to discover by making them difficult to read. Always read the fine print.

2. Don’t hire the wrong people
It’s no secret; great employees make a difference—particularly when a business only has two or three employees. One of the biggest challenges of a growing business is finding the right people to help make it happen. One of the biggest temptations we face is hiring the best person who applies instead of the best person for the job. Earlier in my career I worked with a business owner who refused to hire someone unless he felt they were the right person for the job. That meant extra hours and extra work for all of us, but it was worth it. He always hired great people.

3. Don’t mistake busy-ness for productivity
Dorie Clark at Forbes suggests picking at least two items per day and tackling those first. That’s great advice. The key to productivity is to prioritize the things you need to accomplish, start with number one, and work your way down the list one at a time. As long as you focus on what’s important, you will remain productive without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Don’t compete on “their” terms
Some business owners worry too much about what their competitors are doing and don’t spend enough time focused on what they do really well. Regardless of whether your competitors are larger than you, in a better location, or even claim to have a better product, focus on your strengths and make “them” compete on your terms. If you offer personalized services, customized products, or have a great customer service program, spend more time telling your customers about it. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Don’t learn to avoid these four mistakes the hard way. If you can focus on the details, hire the right people, get the important work done, and make your competitors compete on your terms, you’re well on the way to building a successful small business.

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