I talk to a lot of small business owners and many of them are pretty bummed out. They say they can’t survive, and the economy is the cause. Others complain about the highs and lows of working in a seasonal business like the hospitality industry, even though there’s ample evidence of competitors down the street as busy as they where during the dog days of summer.

In my opinion, there are three major causes, all easily rectified but almost never acted on.

First, there’s an unwillingness to invest in effective marketing and promotion. There’s this belief that the sign on the door, or the loud, obnoxious lawn sign is effective marketing. It’s not. You’re not in the “thing you do” business, you’re in the marketing business. If you forget this, you’re doomed.

Second, there’s investment, but in all the wrong places. Instead of fixing and improving their core products and services, or improving the customer experience, they believe the solution is to add more stuff. It’s the classic Messy Closet Theory in action.

And finally, there’s the continuous blame of external elements like the economy. It’s not me, it’s you.

If you tell yourself it’s the economy but you’re not doing anything about it, you’re creating that economy.

If you tell yourself your business is dying, but you’re not doing anything about it, it is dying.