Monsters Hiding In Your Business’s Closet

Nate Hindman

Vampires, zombies, and bad Yelp reviews, oh my!

This Halloween, before the candy starts flowing and the witches start cackling, take time to eradicate the monsters who may be hiding in your company’s closet.

In your search for small business revenue-suckers, keep an eye out for the following ghouls and goblins.

1. Consumer Complaints

Internet reviews bashing your business could be tainting your company’s online image, even as you read this. Toxic remarks and posts on sites like Yelp, Twitter, Google, and Facebook can send prospective customers running for the hills.

Research from BrightLocal shows that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, and—among consumers ages 18-34—that percentage rises to 95%. These reviews aren’t only from consumers buying furniture or dining out; 67% of B2B buyers “rank peer reviews as very important when making a purchase decision.”

However, the goal is not to have 100% positive reviews. In fact, consumers are more likely to trust your business when they see a mix of positive and negative reviews. (Also, never post a fake review for any reason.) What’s important is how you respond to negative reviews. In three words? Early and often.

According to the BrightLocal data, 89% of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews. Proactively publishing useful, positive information on your website, blog, or Facebook page also can serve to reduce the visibility of negative content.

2. Disengaged Employees

Few employees have the courage to tell their higher-ups that they’re not satisfied with their jobs. But managers would be wise to find out if that’s the case—that is, well before the exit interview. And, if you have a difficult employee, disengagement may be part of the reason behind their behavior.

Actively disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $483 and $605 billion a year, according to Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace study. Highly engaged employees, on the other hand, were found to be 17% more productive, and 21% more profitable, than their disengaged counterparts. Plus, customer ratings for businesses whose employees are more engaged were 10% higher.

Workplace experts encourage regular office surveys that let employees anonymously submit reasons why they’re dissatisfied with their work. But engaging your workers doesn’t stop with a survey, or even with the annual performance review. Workers coming into the workplace today are doing so with more specific expectations than ever before, raising the importance not only of your company culture but also your employer brand.

3. Hungry Competitors

There’s a reason they call them competitive threats. Your small business doesn’t operate in a bubble that contains just you and your ideal customer. Your competitors represent a threat, and also an opportunity.

Competitive analysis is not just for bigger companies. If you get too comfortable with your business’s status quo, or stop paying attention to customer service, you’re exposing yourself to having your customers choose someone else’s goods and services.

The opportunity is that even—or especially—in a world that’s increasingly online-focused, there’s still a place for you and your small business model. For example, despite the online giants and big-box retailers, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the independent bookseller. As a small business, you have an edge over your competition in that you can focus more on your individual customer relationships, grow your specific niche, and make strategy changes quickly as needed.

Whether the competitor is one with whom you’ve engaged for years—or a newcomer or disrupter in your niche—keep your eyes peeled to help maintain your advantage.

4. Founder Burnout

Not all business threats are external. If you’re like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, one of your primary reasons for going out on your own was the opportunity to be your own boss. Led by your particular business passion, you would create a business that suited you to a T, while also serving your customers.

Too much passion, however, can contribute to feelings of burnout, according to a 2018 study by the Harvard Business Review. As the study stated, “…obsessively passionate entrepreneurs reported feeling that work was more emotionally draining and that working all day required a great deal of effort.” While a certain amount of passion is one of the key drivers of your success, if that passion leads to pressure to deliver specific outcomes that may or may not be realistic, you may want to consider dialing it back.

Once you are your own boss, the onus is on you to treat yourself well. Know when you’re overcommitted and learn to delegate as needed, or just get better at saying no. If you’re a solopreneur, be sure to build in breaks between projects—and throughout your day—to avoid that feeling that you’re working all the time. Some stress is inevitable when you’re a business owner but, if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, don’t ignore that feeling.

5. Website Woes

Whether or not you conduct your actual business transactions online, your business website and your presence on social media both contribute to whether or not you close the sale. Even if your business is purely brick and mortar, your customer’s experience is not. As more people live their lives on their phones, you’re not doing your business any favors if your website or app is slow to load or is not optimized for mobile users.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools out there that track down and exterminate the kind of bugs that cause slow response times. One industry leader is New Relic, whose performance monitoring tool helps businesses get visibility into the performance and health of their digital properties and align their metrics with their business goals.

One of the great advantages of being a small business is the ability to get to know your customers and to deliver personalized and outstanding customer service. If your user experience online does not meet or exceed the ease of doing business with you in person, then that’s a disconnect you’ll want to address sooner rather than later.

In one long night, Halloween reminds us of all the scary things that are out there. This year, keep your focus on your goals for your business—and the needs of your customer—so you won’t get derailed by any spooks that may come your way. And remember, too, that some monsters are much less frightening once they’re brought into the daylight.

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11 Responses to "Monsters Hiding In Your Business’s Closet"
    • Richard E Murray | October 31, 2017 at 8:13 am

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    • David A. Vigil | October 30, 2019 at 10:52 am

      The articles and tips sent out by The Hartford have been tremendously helpful for me and my business. I have had some challenges in the past and these tips have helped us develop best practices and policies to address and reduce risk. We are becoming a better business with organization and structure. Thank you for including us on these very insightful tips and articles.

      • Chloe Silverman | October 30, 2019 at 11:31 am

        We are so glad to hear that you are finding these articles helpful to you and your business! Thank you for the comment, David!

    • ZACHARY PAVLIDES | October 30, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      When my wife immigrated to the USA, Hartford provided her first job. Soon after we built our own business and have Hartford provide their services to us. We are very happy with Hartford for both of those situations. Keep up the good work, Hartford. Zachary and Socorro

      • Chloe Silverman | October 31, 2019 at 9:57 am

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    • Steele | October 31, 2019 at 8:27 am

      I, too, was skeptical of coverage by a large company for my not for profit business. What a great find/ blessing! We’re always hosting different events; recently, we needed a special event liability policy for one of our upcoming events. Usually, we call another company because we just didn’t think this was possible via the Hartford. Any how, we called and not only did we get it; it was already part of our coverage. One of the smartest business decisions I’ve made. Another one is reading the articles and tips sent out by The Hartford.

      • Chloe Silverman | October 31, 2019 at 9:58 am

        Thank you for the comment!

    • Jon Briccetti | October 29, 2020 at 9:51 am

      Another great post! In a sea of information and a constant bombarding of content to my inbox, The Hartford’s newsletter and blog posts have been a breath of fresh air – I actually open up these emails and go to the post, read them and find great value. Like others who have commented, I am delightfully surprised to see the focus on small business – I grew up in a family of small business owners, I am actively involved in a local chapter of Entrepreneur’s Organization, I am a small business committee member with the US Chamber of Commerce and I am active in the local startup community here in Troy NY – I have a very close ties to the small business community and the content you have been providing, especially during the pandemic, has been outstanding. Keep up the great work!

      • Hannah Stacy | November 2, 2020 at 2:44 pm

        Jon – Thank you so much for your feedback. We’re happy that you’ve found value in the blog!

    • Dalia Brown | November 5, 2020 at 8:27 am

      I have been a client of The Hartford for several years now and their customer service has been excellent.
      Interesting article! Especially about the presence in social media and websites. I learned this the hard way: missed my first huge contract with a client for not having a website. Although they did not say this was the reason for not granting me the contract, in the interview they asked me about my website and why I didn’t have one. So I knew immediately I needed to have my own website! Best wishes and happy holidays in 2020, The Hartford!

      • Hannah Stacy | November 5, 2020 at 10:35 am

        Thank you Dalia! Glad you enjoyed the article.

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