5 Common Small Business Roadblocks and How to Overcome Them
The dream of all entrepreneurs is a smooth journey, from planning, to opening, to expanding. Unfortunately, this dream is rarely realized. Most small businesses encounter at least a few common problems, and must overcome them on the road to success. The best way to do this is to have plans in place for as many potential pitfalls as possible. In order to help, we’ve put together a list of five common small business roadblocks along with advice on weathering them:
In general, there are two ways time can act as a hindrance to running a successful company. The first comes as a result of not having the right amount of time to put towards your business. Entrepreneurs have to be their own website engineers, customer service representatives, marketers, networkers, order fulfillers, and more. Add in the fact that many entrepreneurs start their business as a side hustle while working a full time job, and it may seem impossible to devote any time to all of the tasks required for success. It would be great to hit a button and have time around you stop. Unfortunately, that’s not a real solution to small business roadblocks. Instead, there are a few options you can try:
- Start With the Most Important Tasks: We know, we know, every task is important. But as the needs of your business change, so will the rank of importance of various tasks for your company. For example, you sit down at your computer in the morning and see two emails. The first is from a customer who needs your help. The second is from a colleague who wants to meet for coffee to discuss your industry. Which email do you respond to first? The customer email is most likely to need your attention first.
- Try Part-Time Work: Time is one of the most common small business roadblocks because many entrepreneurs start their venture while working full-time somewhere else. It’s incredibly difficult to find enough time in the day to devote yourself to both jobs. However, many entrepreneurs don’t want to immediately leave their full-time job lest the new venture fail to take off. Instead of losing that safety net, or stretching yourself too thin, ask if you can go down to part-time work at your current job, or find another job that offers part-time hours. This allows you to earn a reduced but steady income, while having the time to follow your business dreams.
- Ask for Help: Sure, you probably want to start your business on your own. But there’s no shame in asking for help running it if you need it. This help doesn’t even need to cost money, or be directly related to your business. Simply asking a family to watch your kids for a few hours on a day when you’re extra busy can make all the difference, and leave you with extra, focused time to handle your to-do list like a rockstar.
The second of the small business roadblocks related to time is that many entrepreneurs simply don’t give their company enough time to flourish before pulling the plug on the venture. Few ideas see massive success in their first week, month, or even year of operation. Some take even longer than that. So how do you avoid the problem of shutting down your operation too early? There are a few methods:
- Write a Researched Timeline: One of the earliest steps of starting a new company is writing a business plan. Your plan should include financial projections of both costs and earnings for the first month, six months, year, two years, and even five years. When coming up with this financial timeline, research your industry and the other businesses in it thoroughly. If your main competitor took two years to turn a profit, don’t expect your company to do it in six weeks.
- Predict Other Levels of Success: Success means different things to different people. In some cases, money isn’t the real measure of a successful company. Shifting your focus away from this, if it isn’t the main goal, can help you remain passionate about your business in the long-term. For example, if your venture is a side hustle just for fun, success might be measured in how much you enjoy the work rather than how much money you’re making. In this case, the time to pull the plug might come when your realize you’re no longer having fun and haven’t been for a long time.
Small Business Roadblocks: Money
In most cases, you need to put a little bit of money into your business to help it get off the ground, which may deter many entrepreneurs. Costs often include the price of a web domain, advertising fees, production and shipping materials, and rent for an office space. This is by no means a complete list, nor will it apply to every entrepreneur. However, the fact of the matter is, you will likely need money to start your company. How do you get it? There are a few ways:
- Use Savings: If you know you’re going to be starting your own business, you may want to consider setting aside money every month to help finance your venture. In this case, extending your planning period may be beneficial. This will give you time to think through every aspect of your business while accumulating some of the costs to launch it.
- Try Fundraising: Fundraising or crowdfunding is a popular way of earning capital for your venture. In this case, you pitch your idea to an online audience and they donate money (often in exchange for early access to your product) to help you succeed. Crowdfunding isn’t a guaranteed method of success, but may help supplement your finances.
- Find an Investor: If you think your business idea is really unique, you might be able to find an investor to financially back or support you. Research investors thoroughly so you know you’re pitching to someone who would have a genuine interest in your idea, rather than wasting your time and theirs.
- Cut Costs: No, we’re not telling you to be cheap or stingy with your business. However, not every cost is necessary for every business. For example, do you need a dedicated office building for your knit-scarf-making business? Or can you work from home? The money you save by not renting a separate space can be funnelled back into your venture in different, more important areas.
If your business takes off and becomes wildly successful, that’s great! However, that in itself can be one of the most common small business roadblocks. Having your small, home-run business grow into something that needs staff, an office space, and more, can be complicated and have a lot of requirements. So how do you make scaling your business easier?
- Don’t Be Pressured into Expansion: If your business is looking like it might have the ability to grow, make plans for that growth but don’t feel pressured to force your company into it. Some entrepreneurs would prefer to keep their company small, manageable, and more enjoyable than take on added stress for extra money. Move at your own pace and within your limits instead.
- Plan Early: If you know early on that you want your business to scale up down the road, write a thorough scaling plan of action in your business plan from the start. Once you reach the point where you’re ready to scale up, refer back to your plan to help guide you.
- Adapt with the Right Tools: Often, scaling a company means adopting to a new system of operations. That might mean adopting new technology, hiring extra hands, and more. Figure out the tools that are right for you and remember to constantly adapt to your business’ changing needs to remain on the cutting edge.
A poor mindset or attitude can be as limiting a roadblock as lack of money or time. In general, constantly telling yourself, “I can’t do this,” will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy that will end your business before it can even begin. So how do you turn an anxious mindset into something primed for success?
- Recognize the Negativity: Self-doubt is common. In fact, it’s not even an entirely bad thing, because it can temper ego and hubris. However, it can also cause inaction, worsen fear, and lead a promising entrepreneur to give up before even getting started. Recognizing these negative thoughts is the key to overcoming them, because it allows you to reason them away.
- Talk to Others: Sometimes we can’t help but see nothing but the bad in ourselves. That makes hyping ourselves up difficult. If you find yourself fighting against your own mind and attitude, try talking to others. Friends and family can provide more positive viewpoints about your abilities. In addition, talk to other entrepreneurs. They can provide advice on overcoming negativity and more.
Staff can become a roadblock to a successful business in two ways. The first way is lack of staff. If you’re struggling to cope with the workload of your business, having no one else to help you is difficult. Here are a couple ways to solve this issue:
- Hire Someone: The obvious fix to the problem of low-staffing is to hire someone to help you. However, this can be tricky if you don’t have the funding to pay someone regularly. In this case, there are a few options you can try out. Sometimes friends and family members might be willing to help out a few times a week, if you only ask them. In addition, many schools require their students to complete volunteer hours or internships. If you have a business that can help them complete these course requirements, consider reaching out to ask for student-help. However, in all cases, consider coming up with some variety of reward to show your appreciation for anyone who gives you a hand.
- Rework Your Processes: If hiring is absolutely a no-go, restructuring your work can help you boost productivity to complete the work yourself. Write to-do lists if you have trouble focusing, sell more ready-made goods instead of made-to-order, etc.
Having no staff can be a huge problem for small businesses. However, having bad staff can be just as harmful. Employees who have a bad attitude or don’t pull their weight can bring down the rest of the company. Here are ways to overcome this roadblock:
- Take the Time to Train: Thorough training can help align your staff with your company and its needs. This helps them understand their role and your expectations of them. If necessary, retraining can be conducted as well: it’s hard to expect absolutely everything they learned in the first round of training to have stuck.
- Create a Pleasant Work Environment: If your employees enjoy their job, their attitudes are likely to be better overall. Also try to reach out to employees with poor attitudes; they may be struggling with things outside of work which can impact them at all times of the day. Treating them with understanding and providing help where possible is a great way to ensure your staffing remains optimal.
- Fire if Needed: No one wants to fire an employee. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes necessary. If your other attempts at correcting a problem have failed, consider removing the person from your team altogether.
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