It’s fair to say that things are never easy when you are a small business owner. You work hard every day, trying to cram in as much as possible, but there still aren’t enough hours to spare. Constant problems and issues keep cropping up, and when you need to put out fires, it takes you away from the all-important tasks of being productive and making some money.
If this sounds familiar, you are in exceptionally good company. Small business owners all over the country face these challenges every day, just like you. But, as with everything in life, with a little preparation and planning, it is possible to deal with all these issues – and a lot more besides. Let’s take a look at the biggest challenges facing small business owners today and reveal what you can do about them.
Although it is possible to start a business with next to nothing, you won’t survive long without capital. Ultimately, you need money to make money, whether it’s for investing in your marketing to attract better levels of attention, to employ people to meet demand, or anything and everything in between. The big question is, how can you find the capital you need to survive and thrive? It all starts with a business plan. If your plan is sound, realistic, and thorough, a bank or private investor will leap at the opportunity you are giving them.
Liquid cash flow
As we mentioned above, your business relies on money to survive and grow, and that includes cash flow. Having cash means you can pay for everything it takes to run your business properly, and without it, there will be areas that will cause significant issues. Make sure you are getting invoices paid on time – there’s more from DataServ about this. And try and withhold payments for as long as possible, without affecting your relationship with the suppliers, of course. You will also need to be savvy with money – it’s imperative to eradicate unnecessary costs from your business. Account for every penny you spend, and you will find that your cash flow gets a boost, your priorities start to change for the better, and you have that all important breathing space when it comes to financial and business critical emergencies.
When you have major league competitors, it’s tough to compete on price. In fact, doing so could even put you out of business. Whereas your large competitors can approach their suppliers from positions of strength and high levels of ordering, you can’t – which means you have to charge your customers higher amounts. However, if you can make it clear to your clients that your pricing also comes with better customer service or added extras, it can be an excellent way to balance things out. Try to avoid getting sucked into pricing battles with the major players, and offer additional services or better value instead.
As a small business, the simple fact is that you cannot compete with the marketing budgets of your larger rivals. While they are spending millions on a 30-second spot at the Superbowl, you are struggling to find the time to post on your Facebook page. There are, however, a few benefits of being a small business that you should exploit in your marketing. Lots of consumers love to do business with local companies these days, so local SEO will often be a better and more affordable way of reaching them. Similarly, local radio ads cost a fraction of the price of an appearance on national TV – and can also be highly effective. Developing a reputation in your local area as the ‘go to’ company for anything to do in your industry will give you a strong foundation, and it’s something you should work into your marketing strategy in man cases.
As a small business, it can be hard to attract the right kind of talent. The lure of more money from larger organisations in your industry is often too great. The trouble is that you need talent just as much as your competitors – perhaps even more so. Bootstrapping and working long hours yourself can only last for so long, and without the right people, it’s going to be difficult to make anything of your business beyond a constant struggle. If this sounds familiar, try looking at different ways of appealing to candidates. Perhaps you can be more flexible about working arrangements than the big companies, or offer more incentives. Not everyone is chasing the money, and some people like to strike a happy medium when it comes to work-life balance.
The vast majority of small businesses want to expand and grow. But it’s not always possible, and may put added pressure on your business. You could be sailing along quite happily, keeping your customers happy and earning some real money. But once you start to expand, it’s all too easy for your customer service levels to nosedive, and it’s also worth understanding that managing a company with ten employees is a lot different to running one with 100+. And if you throw a few new locations into the mix, too, you are looking at an entirely different operation. There are lots of pressures involved in growing a business, and it can be incredibly tough on you as the company owner.
Fatigue is a huge issue for small business owners. When you are going it alone or are responsible for a small team, it can be wearing and grinding beyond belief. You have to be on your toes and fully energised at all times, which is incredibly tough to achieve. But without that energy and verve, tiredness can set in, and you will be more liable to make mistakes. It’s a big challenge to face, and it’s important to have some kind of life outside the business. Working out, socialising, even just reading a non-business book every once in awhile can help.
What are your biggest issues when running a small business? Let us know in the comments section below!