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Merchant talkback: Recovering from business mistakes

May 22, 2018

When starting a new business, it’s inevitable that there will be a few bumps in the road. Clover asked our merchants what were some of the biggest mistakes they see small businesses making and how they recommend fixing them. Here is what they said.

Mistake 1: Trying to Do Everything Yourself

Many entrepreneurs struggle with letting others manage key business responsibilities. Founder and CEO of Transcription Outsourcing, Ben Walker writes about the need for outside opinions and skill sets, regardless of your vertical.

“We want to take control of as many aspects of the business as possible, which can make it hard for us to feel comfortable sharing responsibility,” Ben shares. Instead, he suggests focusing on diversifying perspectives within the business, trusting your team, keeping an eye on the big picture, and outsourcing as necessary to keep your workload manageable. After all, a burnt-out CEO can only move the business forward so much.

Mistake 2: Not Choosing the Right People

At the end of the day, the customer experience depends on how well your team executes your vision, and the wrong hire can do significant damage to your reputation.

Percy Jenkins, CEO and founder of W4 Construction Group wanted his company to be “the best of the best.” After his experiences in the Armed Forces performing search and rescue missions, he learned the value of having a team you can trust. “We had a crew of three or four people and we had to rely on each other and our training,” he says. The values of trust and loyalty are just as crucial in his business. “I have to be smart enough to surround myself with the right people,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins’ value-based hiring methods go beyond looking for trust. He recommends looking for that little something extra—passion. “I’m not a big fan of going to work for a paycheck; I want people to be on our team because they want to be.”

Mistake 3: Not Standing Out

Offering a unique experience is crucial for small businesses, especially if you’re going head-to-head with the big-box stores. “People’s palates have become more sophisticated, with the Food Network and foodie culture,” says Daniel Sterling, the CEO of Seattle donut startup FROST. “We try to make coming to FROST a fun experience for everyone that comes in.”

When they first opened, they rotated flavors several times a week to see what became a hit. Now, variety and novelty are part of their brand with their unique flavors being “the number one reason people come to FROST. People are used to getting interesting products from us, not your typical things,” Sterling says.

FROST releases new flavors about 10 times a year, changing the menu to suit the season and offering a little something for everyone. “We find that people get really excited about new items that come out.”

Mistake 4: Leaving Out Luddites in Your Loyalty Programs

Six Beans Coffee Company offers their customers great coffee, great drinks, and super-friendly service all in about 3 minutes through a drive-through window. “We are more tailored to the commuter, the busy professional, moms, teachers—people who have stuff to do but still want really good coffee,” Co-owner Brian Nicklason says. While the concept has become very popular, their drive-through model doesn’t give them much time to develop customer relationships. Six Beans uses Clover Rewards to offer perks to loyal customers. For most customers with a smart phone the app works like a charm, but there are some customers who just aren’t comfortable using an app yet.

“Not everybody is as tech-savvy as we’d like,” Nicklason says. Rather than leave these customers out, Six Beans allows these customers to simply show their loyalty points on their receipts to claim their rewards. By offering a low-tech option, they avoid alienating a valuable segment of their customers.

Mistake 5: Not Taking Advantage of Time-Savers

Tony Westenhaver, owner of Tonto Hair Salon in Denver, Colorado, is a stylist at heart. Yet, like all entrepreneurs, he struggles balancing his passion for his business with taking care of business.

“The thing about being a small business owner is that not only do I work behind the chair 50 hours a week just doing my personal business,” Tony says, “but I have the shop business to take care of as well.”

Investing in software to help him automate and simplify details like inventory and accounting saved him time so he could focus on the creative side of business. “You know, what I liked best about [Clover] is that at the end of the week, it’s the reporting processes on the machine that makes life easy for me. I can look at daily totals… weekly totals… and tax reports. There’s no question, it makes my life a lot easier. For me to spend the time I spend behind the chair, anything I can do to cut time elsewhere creates a lot less stress for me and helps to balance my life a little bit.” Automating repeatable tasks like payroll, accounting, and inventory frees you to spend time building the business.

There are a lot of moving parts when starting up a business. Don’t go it alone—Clover can help. You can take your business farther with Clover in your corner.


Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, Sun Trust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including Ignite Payments, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.