Three behavioral patterns that make small businesses fail and their counter measures

Damilola Cole
3 min readApr 4, 2022


Time and time again, we hear of ‘what to do’ for small businesses, how to make your business grow, how to network, and the likes. Small business owners go online and they are overwhelmed with all the things they ‘have to do’ and most times give up before they even start. The ones who are not overwhelmed, are the ones who think it all looks too easy and in the end, they become victims of behavioral patterns that could lead to the early end of their business.

Three of these patterns have been identified below:

1. Ambiguous Goals

The problem most small businesses face is mostly as a result of the ambiguity of their plans. Goals are great, but only if they are well paced. Ambiguous goals only help to further complicate matters.


Pace your goals

In order to avoid the complications that come from ambiguity of your goals, it would be a great idea if you can pace your goals. For instance, a 10-year goal could be broken down into plans that rotate around estimated achievements either annually or in 2 years interim. This means instead of working immediately on a 10-year goal, you could be working on a 1 or 2 years goal still geared towards your 10-year goal.

Keep notes to track your achievements and monitor your progress. Trackers are great not only because they are a good motivator, but because they help you know when what you’re doing is no longer enough.

2. ‘Jack of all Trades’ Mentality

This is yet another cause for the alarming rate of small business failure. Most people take on much more than they can handle at the same time. In as much as it is great to be versatile, you need to slow down and take it easy on yourself. There’s really no need to end up as a jack of all trades and a master of none.


Fine-tune your best angle

Everyone has his own strong suit. You need to figure out what angle of business you are so good at, it feels like magic. You may not exactly be great at it, but with a little more practice or training, you’ll be there. When you figure it out, work on it like it’s all you live for. Fine tune your strongest point. You may have dreams or plans of branching out into other areas and you can, just not until you’re rock solid.

3. Failure paranoia

The fear of failure has proven to be more harmful than failure itself. When failure paranoia grips you, it’s so hard to take any decisive steps in business. The fact that it is well known that most small businesses fail during the course of the first 5 years, doesn’t help either. Most people rather not venture into small business at all out of fear. The ones who dare, eventually get caught up in fear somewhere down the line.


Be ready for failure

Strange as it sounds, your best bet in establishing and growing a small business is to prepare yourself for failure. Make plans for days that may not yield as much profit (if at all). Be ready with new strategies because you might at some point need to change strategy.

Learn to accept help. Independence has a way of making people decline help even when they need it. In business, you have to learn to accept help. Help may come in form of mentorship, accept it. Sometimes you may have to reach out for help yourself, if you need to, don’t fail to do so.

Believe in yourself and be confident in your business. Be passionate about your business. Cut off all negative vibes and build a support group that may consist of other small business owners or people in the same line of business.

Keep distraction at a minimum. Every second of your time counts. Until you’re grounded, social networks are no longer for you to socialize but for you to network. Network at every turn and don’t stop networking.

Bottom line; pace your goals, fine tune your best angle, and be ready for failure. You’ll be glad you did.



Damilola Cole

Operator. Advisor. Investor. Passionate about the growth of African businesses.