We’re not here to tell you whether or not to indulge in April Fool’s Day shenanigans this holiday. If you really want to put your cubicle-mate’s stapler in gelatin, that’s up to you (and your HR team.) We would be missing a big opportunity, however, if we didn’t take the chance to share some common mistakes small businesses are doing every day – many that can make them appear pretty foolish to investors and customers.
1. Not Having a Social Media Mitigation Plan
People make mistakes, but social media lives on forever (thanks to Wayback Machine and screenshots.) That means you should avoid sharing updates willy-nilly on your social feeds and leave the account management to people who understand the power of the internet. Yes, you can delete tweets, and Facebook posts can be edited. However, people aren’t really that forgiving online.
Have your posts scheduled ahead of time, checked over by at least two sets of eyes, and posted with approval. React in a timely way to replies or questions, and never let disgruntled, former employees keep the login to your accounts. Finally, know what to do if something does go horribly wrong. Who will handle the fallout? What role will PR take?
2. Ignoring Tax Law
It would help if you had a competent accountant or CFP doing magical things with your tax returns, but even so, it’s your duty as a business owner to know what new rules apply. While we hope that the person you hire is up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations, your input may be welcome. Be part of business circles that keep tabs on new IRS changes and have a way to reach out with questions about how new developments affect your business.
Not knowing about changes that affect your business specifically can do more than cause a higher-than-healthy tax bill. You could be hit with fees, fines, penalties. Tax issues can also become public quickly, something that can hurt the long-term reputation of your business (and its value.) You can’t be expected to know every nuance in the law, but taking some ownership is never a bad move.
3. Missing out on Refinancing Opportunities
Banks want your business, and they are willing to take a bit of a hit to profits to secure you as a long-term loyal customer. If you have been paying down the same debt for over three years, consider how refinancing could shave a few points from your interest rate. If it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, consider that even two percentage points can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
Before you look to see what offers are available to you, get a glance at your business and personal credit scores. They’re free through Nav, and they can give you insight into simple changes you can make to boost your score. Better scores equal more competitive rates, so do this now – even if you’re happy with your current offers. You never know when you might want to restructure debt to pay it down faster or gain access to more credit.
4. Overlooking Your Star Players
Business growth requires harnessing talent, and for many companies, this means hiring from the outside. Before you place an ad or secure the services of a headhunter, look to see what competencies your existing employees already display. Promotion from within is still highly desirable, especially when you consider the time, frustration, and money spent to onboard new people.
Training and promotion of your current staff also gives you the benefit of nurturing loyalty and building a culture of permanence, something that’s in low supply among some of the newer startups in the market. For younger workers who crave stability, you have the chance to outshine competing businesses with the promise of investment in employee’s long-term personal growth, too.
You can’t forget the cash implications of using your benchwarmers for better roles; SHRM reports that hiring from outside can lead to salary inflation of 18-20%. Yikes!
5. Missing the Small Holidays
Are you already looking forward to how you’ll maximize the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year? Stop! With so many exciting holidays on the calendar between now and then, you could be missing out on a big opportunity to sell. Consider just what April and May offer: Mother’s Day, Graduation, Easter, Ramadan, National Beer Day, Tax Day, Arbor Day, Cinco de Mayo, and so many more.
Get some of the holidays most applicable to your customers into the pipeline for promotions, events, and ways to give a little back this year. Just be sure to become familiar with your customers’ values before you plan; sharing hype over a spiritual or cultural holiday that’s counter to your product’s voice can come off as tone deaf.
6. Over-investing in the Hype
This is a significant mistake that seems to happen in the budget categories of marketing and sales. Before companies have a product to launch or a news announcement to reveal, they spend tens of thousands of dollars on strategy, tech tools, and funnels to share the buzz and create demand.
Unfortunately, these same companies can be known for not having an excellent product or service to reveal. More time is spent on the fine-points of the landing page or social media metrics than making sure the new item being launched actually works (or meets a demand.) Make sure your R&D budget is at least as healthy as your marketing budget. Both should work in tandem to ensure that your new product, when finally ready for market, gets the best traction for your demographic.
While the above tips are pretty serious business, we know that today is a time for some of you to delight in tomfoolery and complete nonsense. Enjoy the pranks, but do your best to keep your business dealings strictly professional. Use this list of cautionary tales to re-examine your business priorities year-round, as well. You don’t have to wait until April to carefully consider if you’re on the verge of making a huge business mistake.
This article was originally written on April 1, 2019 and updated on January 28, 2021.