A key element of achieving success in business is making as few mistakes as possible, especially those that can prove fatal to the business. Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr. in his book “Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes that Can Destroy Your Organization” (Wharton School Publishing, September 28, 2004) shows how you can avoid mistakes and failures that can push your business to the edge of the cliff.
Mistakes happen, even in the best corporations and enterprises. But it is important that businesses recognize mistakes early and immediately work to rectify the situation. Ignoring warning signs – and there are always signs — could lead to potential disaster for the business. Unfortunately, many simply ignore the warning signs, even the most obvious ones. Hence, big mistakes happen such as the Firestone Tires, New Coke, among others — mistakes that could have been prevented had the people involved saw and took note of the warnings. Alas, no one saw it coming.
While the big business is the book’s main focus, Mittelstaedt dedicates a chapter to small businesses, noting, “Mistakes aren’t just for big companies.” In fact, “startups and small businesses make mistakes in the same ways that larger organizations make mistakes. However, they usually have fewer resources to avoid or recover and less flexibility to survive mistakes with alternate plans or products.” He lists the common mistakes small business and start-up entrepreneurs commit, from the process of developing the business idea to securing financing.
According to Mittelstaedt, for small businesses “it is simply a question of how many mistakes are made before there is damage and how rapidly it all plays out.” The list is illuminating, as follows: