How much could your business save?Find out now!
Or, you can call us on:0800 411 8830

Mistakes every SME makes (and how you can avoid them)

This article was updated 16th September 2016

Many people dream of running their own business, but there are downsides to being the boss. We look at some of the most common mistakes business owners make, and how to avoid them. 

Not embracing the admin

Small and early stage businesses often don’t have the cash to hire admin staff, and you may resent taking a step back from what you love. However, ignoring the admin in the short term can mean more headaches in future. Whilst you may not have gotten into business to manage cash flow and tax returns, by keeping on top of these areas you can ensure that your company continues to function at its best.

One of the biggest headaches for companies is chasing invoices. If you have a lot of contracts with large businesses, you may be frustrated by long payment terms – sometimes up to 120 days. Joe Friedlein, founder and managing director of digital marketing agency Browser Media, says big companies’ payment terms can leave SMEs hanging. “Bigger companies often have longer payment terms and no flexibility – if you’re waiting 120 days for payment as an SME it can be pretty challenging to manage cash flow.”

Curb late payments by working with a mixture of small and big companies, and always keep an eye open for new business opportunities to keep the pay dates rolling in.

Build your network

It stands to reason that the larger your network, the more business opportunities will come your way. If you’re lucky enough to secure a few big contacts in the early days, it may be tempting to rely on them, and stop looking for new business. However, that puts you in the precarious position of being dependent on just a couple of clients. Keep pushing the word out and building your network, even if you have to turn away clients. That way, if the worst happens and a client leaves, you can quickly fill the void.

GoLocalise, which provides translation, voiceover and recording services, learned the hard way not to neglect marketing. “We put all our eggs in one basket and when two years later we lost two big clients because they in turn had lost contracts; it was very stressful,” says managing director David García González.

Making time to diversify your client/customer base is always a sensible business insurance policy. Ensure that you have a website, social media presence and advertising plan.

Do your research

Alex Grace, marketing director at personalised clothing company Banana Moon, says letting staff choose images for a blogging scheme led to a brush with copyright law. “A few years later an image rights company found the image in a tiny square on one of our old blogs and billed us for its use. While we were perhaps naive, it’s difficult for an SME to keep up with all the latest developments in fields such as this.”

Using unlicensed images or copying text can seem like a low-risk, cheap way to boost marketing. But today’s technology means ‘crawlers’ can find even the tiniest infringement. The big corporates that tend to own the rights are often extremely inflexible about even innocent mistakes. Fines tend to be hundreds of pounds per use, or more.

Shooting for the stars

Lofty goals are something shared by many entrepreneurs, and having high expectations is not automatically a bad thing. But make sure that your belief in your business doesn’t blind you to cold hard facts. Be sure you walk before you can run – yes you may see your business as having global potential, but it needs to become a national success first. It’s about managing your own expectations as much as anything else. If you’re realistic about the market, you’re less likely to get frustrated when you hit a roadblock, and more likely to be prepared for hard times.

Not looking beyond your main competition


Competitor analysis should be a pivotal part of every business plan, but you’re missing out if you stop at your main competitors. Keep an eye out for up and coming businesses in your space, particularly if they have a new way of doing things. Likewise, is there a business in a different sector who’s talking to your target market? Taking inspiration from outside your niche will help to boost your creativity, and allow you to set yourself apart from the crowd.

What’s your management style? Click here to take our quiz

Related Articles


Halloween horror film lessons for UK SMEs

Classic Halloween frighteners are more than an easy way to while away a few hours. What lessons do horror film...

Read More
the week's top energy news

The Week’s Top Energy News

Top News In Energy This Week This week we’ve seen a flurry of green energy stories – including gr...

Read More

Very Clever Commuting Hacks

It’s easy to focus on the downsides of a long commute. The average UK commuter spends 58 minutes every ...

Read More
Excellent, 9.4 / 10

Competent and courteous service.

"Marie was knowledgeable and helpful. I feel able to recommend the service given without reservation. David Slesenger"

This review was posted by David Slesenger on the 16th of August 2016

Good service

"Nadia was very helpful"

This review was posted by Robin on the 16th of August 2016

Excellent Customer Service *****

"Jonathan Burgess is an asset to Switch My Business. He made me feel at ease and was more than helpful at all times. He made regular contact and guided me through the whole process which made switching a breeze. I just wish there were more customer service advisers like Jonathon whose friendly and happy demeanour make your day a much nicer one. Well done Switch my business and more importantly thank you Jonathon for all your hard work! Maria Owen Lodgecrest"

This review was posted by Maria Owen on the 17th of August 2016


"I totally agree with a customer maria owen,Jonathan Burgess was such a pleasure dealing with and is truly a asset to the company, he made it very easy to switch my electricity companies, Jonathan Burgess was very helpful, easy to talk to it was like talking to a friend not just a customer adviser. I would definitely recommend switchmybusiness and try get hold off Jonathan Burgess if possible and have the same excellent service as I did. Rajan Shanan"

This review was posted by Rajan Shanan on the 19th of August 2016

Excellent and very helpful

"Arron who dealt with my switch of energy and gas has been a huge help and extremely efficienct and easy to deal with. Despite British Gas throwing obstacles in the way at every turn he has doggedly stuck to his task and saved the day. Thanks Arron."

This review was posted by Rod Pryce-Jones on the 19th of August 2016