Whoever invented the saying, “There are no stupid questions” had patience beyond belief. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all received some agonising questions in our time.
But especially as business owners who with clients, ‘stupid’ questions seem to be what we deal with the most.
Saying they are stupid isn’t fair. It’s more that people tend to ask you questions that they should know the answer to. Or are able to answer themselves through a simple internet search.
As a retired website designer, I had my fair share of unbelievable questions. I would receive emails and phone calls asking about the most obvious aspects of website design. Sometimes I couldn’t believe they took the time to write to me, or make the call.
It alarmed me. It would seem, from the outset, that basic cognitive thinking escaped the people I worked with. Yet, that really wasn’t the case.
I learned what these absurd questions were telling me about the modern business owner and how they operate. I realised that it wasn’t laziness or lack of intelligence getting in the way. It was, in many ways, a lack of knowledge causing these issues.
Here is what I learned.
Business owners don’t beef up their education regularly enough.
“What does SEO mean? Like, really?”
The workload of the modern business owner is unreasonable. As the jack of all trades, they need to be across many business concepts outside their education. And it isn’t their fault they can’t keep up, despite their need to.
When it came to website design and search engine marketing, education was lacking. One of the biggest issues involved search engine optimisation (SEO). Most business owners I worked with didn’t understand that it was a fluid, continual process. That SEO required equal attention as their everyday operations.
Most of my clients would come back to me after three to six months and ask why they weren’t gaining the desired traffic on their website. It was then I realised their limited SEO knowledge was less than I thought.
But all these owners shared one commonality. None of them actively pursued further education outside of their industry requirements.
Here’s where you can do to avoid falling behind:
- Schedule education sessions well in advance, and ensure they’re a priority within your business
- Diversify your education to include all facets of the business
- Adopt the approach of pre-emptive learning, rather than retrospective catch-ups
- Embrace education as a valuable commodity
Business owners don’t know why they do what they do.
“Why does it matter that I need a website? Isn’t it something that you do?”
I’ve always valued the website. I understand the power it has in modern business. And what can is achievable from the perfectly designed site. A business has the opportunity to convert interested prospects into paying customers. They have the ability to showcase sides of the business customers' value. And they have the ability to add value to a customer that sets them apart from their vast competition.
Most of the business owners I worked with knew they had to have a website because someone told them to. But they didn’t know why. The problem with this is that without knowing why you need these elements in your business, you don’t get the maximum value from them. You miss out on crucial opportunities. And, the most important of all, you lose customers.
Here’s where you can do to avoid making these mistakes:
- Become a ‘why’ asker. When someone recommends adding an element to your business, ask them how and why it will benefit you. Equally, understand the downsides too.
- Research any recommendations. Everything you’re told is best approached with a grain of salt. Look into the suggestions made to you to find out what validity it has to you.
There isn’t enough education about the perils of set-and-forget principles.
“Why do I need to change my website every month?”
I don’t blame business owners for falling into the trap of setting and forgetting. Most of the education we’re offered online centres around the steps to put processes and assets in place. Website design is one of them.
How many articles we read about how to design the perfect home page. Or how to design an online store. There is rarely information about how to update your home page every month to keep your customer interested.
Many of the business owners found me because they needed a website. But almost all didn’t know that once they went live, the work didn’t stop. I was responsible for educating them on what needed to happen after.
It’s was in these moments they always questioned the need for the extra work, assuming it was a ploy to make their life harder. But hardly any of them knew that a website wasn’t something you put into your business and move on from.
Here’s where you can do to avoid making this mistake:
- Schedule operation reviews for your business. Every process you have will need updating, analysing and overhauling at some point. Plan them in advance to avoid playing catch up.
- Research the maintenance of your assets. From your photocopier to your marketing campaigns, know how to tender to it. Put those processes into your operations.
- Don’t undertake a process or asset without knowing what you need to do to maintain it.
New business owners rarely understand the cost-to-quality ratio.
“Why do I need to pay for help when I can do it for free?”
There is this rite of passage in the business world that I’ve always struggled to understand. New business owners seem to find the value in paying for quality once they understand the perils of opting for cheap. Their contemporaries warned them. Yet they don’t learn until they make the mistake first hand.
I was often called in to help website design disasters. Many business owners assumed how easy it was to create their own website. This was once again thanks to the abundance of online advice claiming how easy it was. They discovered that to design a website to a professional standard, they had to pay for it.
Here’s where you can do to avoid making this mistake:
- Don’t completely dismiss the advice of others. It can cost you significantly if you assume you know better than others with more experience.
- Limit your trial and error to less consequential outcomes. Don’t invest large sums of your budget in a trial idea. Test the waters in safe, measurable amounts.
- Familiarise yourself with business principles. Violating the basic business elements is at your own risk.
Business owners have everything at their fingers tips. They simply need to look for it.
“How do you know everything about website design?”
There were so many moments when the people I helped reminded me why I was a website designer. I was there to impart my knowledge, and to help them develop the best business possible. Yet, so many of them, couldn’t believe how much I knew about design, marketing and the online sphere.
When they asked me how I knew so much, I never held my tongue. I always told them how much I continually studied, how much I applied my knowledge. And how I never stopped learning. I was using the tools and resources available to me to become the best possible website designer I could be.
But I wasn’t doing anything that they couldn’t. I learned through the knowledge available to everyone else. I watched online tutorials. I read how-to manuals and programs. I signed up for courses and spent hours going through the arduous trial and error process.
Attitude is everything. You aren’t special, as hard as that is to hear. You are in the same position as everyone else, learning the same way.
Embrace your situation and work with it. You will get the success you deserve.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analyzing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised.