Entrepreneurship is amazing; if you’re reading this article, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back, because it means that you were brave enough to start your own business. You refused to listen to the inevitable naysayers when they told you that you would fail, and your tenacity pulled you through the tough beginning stages of getting up-and-running. You’re in full-fledged small business mode. Go you!
But the thing is, business is hard. Or at least, it can be at times. There are challenges that come at all business owners from seemingly nowhere, and if you aren’t prepared it can really shake that confidence that brought you here in the first place. But don’t fear, help is here with some advice on how to keep on track during those unavoidable small business problems.
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As a small business owner, it can be tempting to take on the world. You think you can do it all, but rather than being productive and getting ahead, you find yourself disorganized, unfocused, and making avoidable mistakes.
Setting up a manageable pace for yourself is critical to keeping at it for the long term. This might include reevaluating processes to see where there might be redundancies, researching new technologies that can help you to automate and streamline the way you do things, and most importantly, it includes delegating out tasks that you either can’t do yourself, or don’t need to in order to perform at your most efficient.
You can still be a passionate entrepreneur and not know every aspect of business. Instead of spending the time to learn about the tasks that are outside of your wheelhouse, consider bringing in some help. Accountants, bookkeepers, marketers, and even receptionists can all be hired on a task-by-task basis, meaning that you only pay them for the work they do, not the time they spend in the office.
This can help save money and ensure that your important backend tasks are getting done accurately and professionally. And with all that extra time, you are free to do the things you love; the things you got into business for in the first place.
Diversification of Client Base
All business owners love a dependable customer who pays on-time consistently and brings in great revenue. But, if you have a single client or a small group of a few making up more than half of your income, it’s time to start thinking about diversifying.
Diversification can be tough, and that one rockstar client might make it seem like an obsolete necessity, yet relying on a few for the majority of your cash flow can be a major handicap in the long run. Set up like this, you are acting as a subcontractor for a potentially larger business. This allows the client to avoid all the risks while you and your employees take it on fully. Your client gets away without adding payroll in areas of the business that may take a downturn at any time and you’re left with an excess of help when it’s no longer needed, and a deficiency in work and income.
Strike a Balance between Quality and Growth
If business is booming, it can be easy to become prematurely celebratory of the growth. There’s an increase in customers, but many small businesses can fall short of the demands that increase can make if they haven’t planned ahead.
It is essential for businesses to scale up without sacrificing quality. This may mean bringing on some new team members or hiring outside help to manage the things that the business owner can no longer do alone. Maybe this means bringing someone on who can keep an eye on front and backend functions so that you can focus your efforts on client relationships, or maybe it’s hiring a salesperson so that you can get back to the big picture.
Relinquishing control doesn’t mean that the business quality will automatically decline; there are plenty of people out there eager to care about your business as much as you do, it’s just a matter of finding them. The business owner must strike a compromise between quality and growth that allows for scale without damages to the brand.
Possibly one of the greatest small business problem is finding the right staff. Your employees are the gatekeepers to your brand. They are often the first point of contact for clients or customers, and are relied on for tasks that can sometimes make or break a company. There is an exceptional amount of trust put into employees – especially when it comes to small businesses, as individuals make up a greater percentage of staff – so ensuring that you have the right help can be critical.
On top of the difficulty with finding dependable, passionate, and hardworking individuals, there is the cost of it all. Time spent posting job openings, conducting interviews, and training, could be better spent finding new customers or strengthening relationships with those already active, so high turnover can be a nail in the coffin.
In small businesses especially, it’s important to learn how to deal with different personality types, figure out early on what motivates individual team members, and then structure your management to fit these needs. When you can develop a respected, open, and honest relationship with your employees, communication will come freely and growth can happen together.
Though there isn’t an ‘easy button’ that allows you to sift through all of the bad apples, there are options available to make the process more simple. Especially if you’re hiring part-time or for specialized roles, you can consider hiring a virtual team instead of hiring in-house. With a virtual team you are essentially employing an entire company full of people – the accounting department, receptionist, sometimes even marketing and sales – and only paying for the time that you use them. You aren’t pressured to hire full-time, so if things get a bit slow you can scale down your virtual work to match that. And without the cost of things like insurance and benefits, you’re drastically saving more money in the long run. Virtual companies generally have a solid base of workers, too, so you’re no longer having to vet your options and hope for the best.
Resource Management & Cash Flow
You’re turning a healthy profit, so business is great, right? But what about those accounts receivables that haven’t come in yet, or the capital expenditures draining your cash flow? All of these factors affect the ability to keep the business balanced and running for the long run.
To combat this problem, businesses must be sufficiently capitalized, and need to shore up reserves to meet obligations and react to emergencies that may arise. This is especially important during economic downturn and during slow times of business, but it’s a good standard to set for the entire life of the business.
This kind of resource management might be possible completely in-house, but it takes an expert hand, so if you aren’t comfortable with it you might consider bringing in outside help. Seeking professional help for things like bookkeeping, accounts payable/receivables, and document management can save you time and money over time, since there will be more standardization and fewer inaccuracies.
Working IN the Business Rather Than ON the Business
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to kill themselves focusing on all of the small things that keep the business running. They get wrapped up in paperwork, obsess over customer satisfaction, even doing things like bookkeeping and accounting because they know they can do it – and do it right – and trusting someone else to take over can often be a scary challenge. This is an understandable occurrence, and is often fine in the short run, but it doesn’t allow the business owner to do the important task of analyzing the business.
Analyzing the business is critical; how else will you know which areas need a bit of extra attention, or what the status of cash flow is at any given time? This comes back to the idea that the owner simply cannot do it all forever. At some point a team of people will need to be brought in to alleviate some of the pressure of everyday business. Whether that means hiring professional people for tasks like payroll and reception desk management, or employing a virtual team of people to do it all, the point is that you as the owner are able to step back a bit and look at things in the bigger picture.
Going it Alone
Many business owners think that they are alone in everything; they think that they can manage all aspects of the business and don’t need advice or help from outside experts. While it’s definitely important to trust your own ideas and instincts when it comes to your business, that doesn’t mean that a bit of advice wouldn’t do some good, either. Afterall, outside perspectives are invaluable if they’re coming from the right people.
If you feel like you’ve got things figured out but aren’t 100 percent sure where to take the business next, consider finding a business advisor or business coach to help push it to the next level. Business is what these people do; it’s likely that they’ve run at least one business from the ground up and have helped many others along the same journey. It may seem a bit over-the-top to bring in outside help for business planning and strategizing, but even large corporations use resources like business coaches, mentors, and advisors to help them make decisions. It’s like bringing a cheerleader onto the team; one that’s great at boosting your confidence, but who can teach you how to be the best version of yourself so that you can do the same for your business. S-U-C-C-E-S-S!
Drab or Non-Existent Marketing
New clients can’t find a business if they don’t know about it, and they won’t ever know about it without good marketing. Simple as that. You can have the most detailed business plan in existence, the best possible product to offer and unparalleled customer service, but if you don’t have good marketing, all of this could be going to waste.
Marketing is great for helping your business reach your target market, but it’s good for so many other things, too. Marketing teaches you about the climate your business is in, and where your competitors are in relation to you. It can help make you appear as a thought leader in your field, and bring in a deeper level of customer loyalty as well as a wider client base. Marketing can teach you about where your business is at now, where it needs to be to fit your vision, and how to get you there – it’s an essential part of business!
Understanding how to market – and who to market to – can be tricky, and unless you’ve got a knack for the skill yourself or have a team in-house, it’s imperative to hire an expert. Markets change; marketing tactics change; your customers are constantly changing their interests and lifestyles, and a team of experts understand how to keep up with these changes in order to stay in the market trend. When it comes to picking a team of professionals, though, gone are the days of having to go with high-cost companies that only sell large package deals. Nowadays you can find contract workers to do one-off projects for you, you can hire a team of virtual administrators and pay them on a per-project basis, or you can hire an in-house expert – the options are plenty and it really depends on your business needs.
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Owning a business is an amazing endeavor, and no one said it would be easy. There are likely going to be challenges that you face at every turn, but if you know how to prepare for them, nothing will be able to shake you from your path to success. The competitive drive you have – the one that made you start your business in the first place – is the same one that will carry you through the inevitable hard times.
So take a deep breath, take a step back and assess your business situation, and know that you don’t have to go it alone. There’s a whole team of people out there eager to help you when you need them.