3 Mistakes I Made and You Can Learn From as a Small Business Owner

Have you made mistakes as a small business owner? I know we have and in the early days I'm not sure we even recognized what those mistakes actually were. Over the last few years however and after seeing our business from new perspectives, my father and I have started to recognize and learn from those previous mistakes.

Here are three of our biggest.

Not Paying Attention to The Numbers

When I started working for the company all I cared about was getting to the end of the day. That same feeling you have as a teenager, sitting in class, staring at the clock waiting for the bell to ring. Wrapping my head around being a small business owner, profits and losses of the business and daily invoicing duties were the furthest thing from my mind.

Then the 2007-2008 economic crisis came and the learning process became a necessity rather than a choice. Learning what money was coming in and what cash was going out became my top priority, finding where the money was coming from and where it was going. Basically the lifeblood of the company and I was neglecting what was most important to our company.

If you don't know your numbers as a small business owner, you don't know your company.

Obviously, this seems like first day kind of stuff. Meaning, you should be concentrating on this from the get go. However, my father and I were never businessmen, we are tradesman and the numbers took a backseat. 

We have since learned from our mistakes and I have taken hold of dealing with numbers on a daily basis. Because of these changes we have turned a corner and been doing very well as a result.

Not Embracing New Technology

We have always been scared by big investment, putting large sums of money on the line to grow the business. The conservatism in the family is more of a curse then a benefit when it comes to building a company for success. 

But you can't run a sheet metal fabrication company without embracing some newer technologies along the way to make the job move quick and easy. We needed to learn from our mistakes of not taking a chance earlier in the business. We needed a change for the better and embracing new and proven technologies in our industry was something we needed to do.

So, after dealing with our numbers issues, we took the plunge and purchased more technological equipment to make our fabrication job easier. By easier I mean:

  • Work is getting done twice as fast thanks to our new CNC plasma machine
  • Money is being saved everyday because we are able to get more out of a sheet of metal, our most used commodity
  • Health savings: Our main form of fabrication was cutting by hand. It wouldn't have been long before complications set in.
  • Business has increased as a result

Everyone will tell you change is a good thing, but until you see the benefits for yourself, especially as a small business owner, it's tough to believe. We made the technological changes we needed to and are benefiting. Now we are looking for the next machine or employee to help us in the future.

Not Focusing on The Business

We all go through so much in our lives, neglecting friends or family along the way. But when you're a small business owner the last thing you want to do is not make it a priority. The business is your livelihood, the asset keeping you from working for other people. You have the benefit of making a living, supporting your family on your own watch, no one else's. 

Before making the changes I laid out previously, I was not focusing on our company. My thoughts were always somewhere else, leaving the business to suffer. My focus was lacking and it showed, rubbing off on my father and others around us. I gave off the impression we didn't care as a company, that other things in our life were more important.

Don't get me wrong, family comes first, so I am not suggesting you place business at the top. However, I was giving get rich quick schemes, girl troubles and other non-necessary situations priority above what needed the most attention at the time. Our company.


Learning from this mistake has been the hardest of all, but the most rewarding. Strangely, putting my energies into what I'm good at has made much of those other issues in my life fall into place. My focus and organization are better than ever and the business is succeeding because of it.

Small business owners will always make mistakes when it comes to their company. My father and I have made plenty and we will make more. The trick is making sure you recognize and learn from your mistakes before they can ruin the business completely.