We have a lot of small business success stories due to handling the bookkeeping for a wide variety of great businesses. I also have been having more business consulting conversations lately than just bookkeeping advice. I have noticed a similarity in the challenges or roadblocks that small businesses face on their path to success. Not all businesses face the same challenges due to differences in knowledge, experience and other characteristics of business owners. Here is a list of some common roadblocks to small business success and how to overcome them.
One of the more common challenges I hear from an owner is a lack of time. This was one of the piss poor excuses for not succeeding in business that I have written about before. Common phrases I hear are: "I don't have time to blog", "I don't have time to network" or "I don't have time for bookkeeping." Of course you don't have time to do it all but you have to make time for what you can and outsource the other tasks. All of your critical business tasks must be attended to in order for your business to succeed and it is up to you as an owner to figure out a way to get them all done.
Takeaway: Winners make time, losers make excuses.
Another common challenge that many small business owners face is a lack of startup capital. Come on baby this is America and we love credit. Didn't you ever learn in business that you should never use your money to start a business but to always use the money of other people? Don't let money be the reason for not taking the leap and starting your own business. If your idea is good and you work hard enough you will find the money you need.
Another option to get your business off the ground is to bootstrap your business. When I started my business I used nothing but my own money. A service based business is obviously much easier to bootstrap than a product based business. However, I have heard many entrepreneurs say that bootstrapping a business is a great approach for several reasons. First, you are personally vested in the business, which makes you care that much more. Secondly, you learn to deal with less. Therefore, when money does start to roll in you are protective with it and you end up making good business decisions to run a tight and successful company.
Takeaway: Use other people's money or bootstrap the business.
Scaling A Small Business
Scaling a small business is extremely hard, and scaling a service based business is even more difficult. I see many one man show businesses grow to the point where it is a full-time job for them. The next obvious step is to hire some employees and grow the business. This is where mistakes start to happen. It seems so simple; hire employees, keep finding new clients and continue to grow. However, this can be very difficult and it requires a major shift in the way you operate your business.
Here is some of my advice for the small business that wants to scale:
- Identify early on the vision of what you want your business to be. Make sure to analyze the current state of your business often so you can be sure that you are staying on course with your vision.
- In order to grow money can't be your main motivator.
- You are in sales. No matter what products you sell or services you deliver, you are in sales.
- Don't be afraid to ask others for advice. The business owner that tries to scale without the help of others is foolish.
Takeaway: Scaling a business is tough. Don't be afraid to ask for help and make sure you are staying true to YOUR vision, not everyone else's.
Resistance To Change - Early Adopters Win
In general I would say that people don't like change. When the format of Gmail changed all sorts of blogs popped up about the pros and cons. When your bank changes its online format and you can't figure out how to navigate the page like you used to you get frustrated and call the new website dumb. Right? People get very comfortable with the way things are but those that succeed in business are open to change and pay attention to where things are going.
When inbound marketing, blogging and social media first came out very few people adopted it as a business strategy to bring in new sales. Now it seems like everyone is jumping on the ship. The thing is that those who adopted early are so far ahead it is laughable. People and businesses that are early adopters are usually thought as industry leaders for a reason; they are very smart. They understand the importance of trying out new things early in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Takeaway: Early adopters win. They are not afraid to take chances on new methods or technologies, but they know when to dismiss them as well.
Not A Salesman
Quite possibly the #1 roadblock I hear from small business owners is: "I'm not a salesman." My response: "Oh really, well I'm an accountant so how do you think I feel?" I often wonder if I would have started my business had I known that my main role would be sales and marketing; two things I hated in business school. For a long time I looked at myself as a bookkeeper and nothing more. I still could be just a bookkeeper if I had decided not to take my business to the next level. As you grow your small business you need to realize that you are in sales, whether you take the sales role on or not. One thing you might want to consider is getting small business sales coaching help.
Takeaway: As a small business owner you are in sales. When you realize this and accept it you will forever change the way you run your business.
Lack Of Motivation
In general many people are extremely lazy. There is no easy route to starting your own business. I think many people that want to start their own business see dollar signs. Those motivated by money quite often quit or fail only to return to their 9 to 5 job where everything is given to them and the business owns them. It can take a long time to make a living as a small business owner, so finding a motivator other than money is important. Maybe you want the freedom of running your own business or the feeling of accomplishment that you get from running a successful business. If you don't have motivation to succeed then it may be a waste of time to even try to run your own business. Motivation can't be taught, you are either motivated to succeed or you are not.
Takeaway: You need to find motivation to succeed that is not money related.
Lack Of Planning
Lack of planning can kill a business before it gets anywhere. Even a simple business plan can be useful as it at least gives you a road map. Many people start their businesses as a side gig, a hobby or a passion of theirs. Things usually go pretty well because the owner actually enjoys what they are doing. Lack of planning really shows around what I refer to as the tipping point. The point at which you have the thought: "oh sh!t I am in over my head and don't know what I am doing." I'm sure this happens more often than you think. There are days when I think that I am running a great business and then there are the days when I question if I have a clue what I am doing at all.
Takeaway: Having a business plan in place no matter how simple is absolutely necessary.
When you decide to start your small business don't think it will be a smooth ride. Every small business hits roadblocks along the way. It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses and not to be ashamed of them. When you come across a tough situation and you don't know what to do probably the worst thing you can do is to not ask for help.
What roadblocks did you face when you started your business and how did you overcome them?