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B2B Business

3 Mistakes I Made While Building My B2B Business

March 29, 20245 min read

Mistakes. They happen to everyone. Yes, you learn from them. Yes, they help make you stronger. Yes, they are inevitable. But, let's see if I can help you avoid some, Okay? In fact, I'm going to share 3 mistakes I made while building my B2B business. 

These mistakes:

  • Slowed my growth

  • Frustrated my team

  • Impacted my customer service levels and my reputation

  • Drained my bank account

  • Wore me down emotionally, mentally, and physically

Fortunately, when I see a problem, I jump on it. So, the impact of these mistakes was lessened because I addressed them as soon as possible. Failure to do so could have been catastrophic. So, today, I'm going to share 3 mistakes I made while building my business, in hopes that you'll be able to avoid making them in yours.

Mistake #1: Offering Too Many Products/Services

I can't even count the number of products and services I've created and sold over the years. If a client needed something, I could build it. One day, we'd be delivering leadership training and on another day, customer service training. Then, we'd take on a recruiting engagement and then, an outplacement engagement. Although I was able to make a lot of clients happy and make decent money, I was never efficient. I was constantly starting, building, and delivering new things without any thought of using them more than once. I could never gain any economies of scale and I never had a reputation for anything. 

Then, I decided to narrow my focus to simply selling leadership assessments and training solutions to human resources professionals. That focus allowed me to build systems that scale and to develop a reputation as being a go-to person in my industry and community. Clients find me, because of my focus, thereby lessening my need to be prospecting on a regular basis.

How to Avoid This Mistake: Take a look at your products and services. What do you love to do? What gets you excited and energized? What products and services have the greatest return on investment? Prioritize them and focus on those that bubble to the top. Most importantly, have the courage to say "no" to clients who want the services that drain you financially, emotionally, and mentally.

Mistake #2: Working With the Wrong Clients

When you're first starting out, it's easy to say "yes" to any client that comes along. That might be okay for a while, as you try to sort out who you enjoy working with and who you don't. Over time, you learn which clients are more profitable than others. You see which clients share your values and beliefs. You begin to identify who your "best" customers are.

For me, my "best" customers are not solely defined by the revenue they generate for my company. For me, what ranks above revenue are things like how they feel about their employees. Do they care about employees? Do they want to create a great workplace culture? I also consider how difficult they are to work for. I call it the PITA factor. If they are a Pain In The A*%, I don't want to work with them.

Today, I love my clients. In fact, in many cases, I've become friends with my clients. I care about them, their success, their families. They care about my business and me. Their support has allowed me to have so much of what I have enjoyed in my career and my personal life. I don't take those relationships lightly.

How to Avoid This Mistake:  Identify what makes a "best" customer in your mind. It's different for everyone. Perhaps it's a client that contributes a certain amount of revenue to your business, a client who shares your personal values, a client who prefers to do business a certain sort of way, a client that has a particular philosophy or personality trait. It's totally up to you. 

Next, review your client list with three colored highlighters:

  • Color #1 (Your Favorite Color): Highlight clients that meet your "best" customer definition

  • Color #2: Highlight clients that are on their way to meeting your "best" customer definition - write down what you need to do to push them over the top

  • Color #3: Highlight clients that will most likely never meet your "best" customer definition. Identify when it will be time to say "goodbye" to them. You might need them for a while longer, as you grow your "best" customer list. Just don't take too long.

Mistake #3: Choosing the Wrong Partners

I've had a lot of partners over the years. Some have been formal, legal business partners. Others have been referral partners and people for whom I've served as a value-added reseller or affiliate. Some of these partners have and continue to be amazing. Others were on a completely different wave length.

My first business partner had very different philosophies than I did. When we started our business, we didn't have one client. We were starting from zero. During our first week in business, she purchased a Jaguar.  When I asked why she would buy such an expensive car when we didn't have one client, she replied, "Amy, we need to exude success." I thought, what on earth did I do? She wants to exude success when one of my core beliefs is that humility is the cornerstone of leadership. We did a lot of great work together, but eventually our philosophical differences led to the end of the partnership.

How to Avoid This Mistake: Choose your partners carefully. Ensure you have alignment around your personal values, your goals for your business, and how you want to be perceived in the community. Use formal legal agreements, even if your married or the best of friends, to ensure your rules of engagement are clearly spelled out. And, be sure to communicate frequently and regularly - the key to maintaining any strong relationship. 

There you have it - the 3 mistakes I made while building my B2B business. I hope you haven't made these mistakes already and that you're reading this blog post in time to avoid them in the future!

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