There’s a certain way of life only small to mid-size business owners are able to understand, living day in and day out with a dynamic where work and play are seamlessly integrated. You, along with much of your family, live and breathe all things related to your business. Although every small business has its own particular personality, usually born from an entrepreneurial dream, most small businesses face the same basic challenges. Here are a few of the most common struggles that small business owners face, along with some ideas for how to best overcome them.
Challenge: Ah, the ultimate necessary evil. Every business owner has dealt with the onslaught of new government regulations annually. For each two-year period, the U.S. Congress typically enacts between 4-6 million words of new legislation, with each bill containing numerous laws. The most common regulations normally involve environmental protections. While many of these are a good thing long-term, they can require costly action on your part to stay compliant.
How to Overcome This: Legal counsel is worth every penny. A great attorney will review the tedious fine print and implement his/her experience to make sure you aren’t violating any updated regulations that you didn’t even know existed. Oppositely, remember there are times when the government can actually be of assistance rather than just another obstacle. For example, with so many restaurants recently in danger of bankruptcy due to COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was able to keep many of them afloat. Also keep in mind one of the principles that likely helped you find success: everything is negotiable. If you work with local leaders, you’ll be surprised what sort of regulation you’re able to skirt, whether you have a petition with plenty of signatures or simple know how to plead your case. The law can be detrimental and often you will need to reach a compromise to better serve the community.
Obstacle: Lack of Time
Challenge: There’s never enough time in the day. If you are occupied with managing the front lines (dealing with customers, etc.) this probably doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to handle what goes on behind the scenes. Another problem is that business owners like you are often perfectionists.
How to Overcome This: Accept the fact you can’t do everything on your own. Getting help where it’s most needed isn’t just a luxury; the extra assistance is often mandatory. As for being a perfectionist, there is an old engineering principle that the last 5% of a project takes as long as the first 95%. Figure out how good is good enough, ensuring that other aspects of your business are not neglected in their entirety.
Obstacle: Trusting Your Employees
Challenge: When the great American author Flannery O’Connor wrote the title, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, she was right on multiple levels. Despite the abundance of male and female candidates out there looking for work, it’s tough to find ones who have the right skills or mindset to learn the job and adapt in the right manner.
How to Overcome This: Your business is your lifeblood. That said, nobody is ever going to understand it on the same level as you, and let’s face it – they probably won’t care quite as much as you do either. The sooner you admit this, it will be easier to have realistic expectations regarding your personal workforce. Discuss the issue with other similar business owners in your field to find out how they recruited their best employees. Try to get a solid feel for how much you should be paying them, along with other benefits to foster motivation and keep them productive and profitable.
Obstacle: Cash Flow
Challenge: At the end of the day, a business is all about money. When there aren’t enough funds in the bank, and cash flow is slow, nothing else matters and your business could face closing its doors permanently.
How to Overcome This: While this might sound cheesy, you are never alone in this struggle. Pulling in enough to make payroll, pay vendors and keep the lights on is a challenge faced by all small businesses. Go ahead and google some of the biggest companies around – from Apple to Home Depot – and the founders all have stories of barely surviving, especially in the early days. If the financial numbers aren’t quite adding up the way they’re supposed to, consider every manageable way to reduce the money you have going out while still operating efficiently. Similarly, explore ideas to increase revenue – many times the solution could be as simple as raising the price for your services and/or products.
Obstacle: Staying Current
Challenge: For many small businesses, this is the toughest hardship you’ll ever face. It’s frightening to consider the reality that what worked so well yesterday will not be quite as successful next year, next month, or even next week. The world is constantly changing, and if you don’t change with it, you’ll be left in the dust before you realize how quickly it happened.
How to Overcome This: When you were younger and first starting out, you probably experienced frustration with your elders for not listening to your new ideas. Now that you are the business owner, don’t make that same mistake! Even well-seasoned businesses with established clientele are in danger because of not transitioning to the digital age. This involves things your website, online functionality, online reviews, social media presence and more. If all of this is too much for you, enlist the help of someone more tech-savvy who can be of crucial assistance.
Nothing can replace passion. You’ve heard it said that if you want success badly enough, you will always find it. With your business being an extension of you, it’s vital that you don’t ignore these problems as they arise but rather deal with them immediately and effectively. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be in a place where worry is a thing of the past.