Running a small business is no small task. In fact, running a small business is quite a big task because you still have to complete all essential business operations of large corporations but without all the experts, work force, or brain power of a 500-staff company.
That doesn’t mean, however, that running a successful small business is impossible. Nor does it mean that as a small business owner you’re doomed to spend your days putting out fires and trying to avert major catastrophes.
When you understand the ten biggest problems facing small businesses, you can take action by setting up the systems and processes that will help you solve these problems before they even happen.
That way, you can spend your time actually running your business profitably and enjoying it, rather than running behind and picking up after problems. It's much better to get out ahead of it.
If you’re just now starting a new small business and are still in the beginning stages of setting up your processes and operations, make sure you check out the following guide to successful planning:
For a checklist of all the major areas and systems you should review each month to keep your small business healthy and growing, have a look at the tutorial below. It comes with a handy checklist you can download to help keep your small business in order:
If you’re ready to dig into the larger issues, let’s move on to the ten biggest small business problems that you need to solve today.
The 10 Biggest Problems in Running a Small Business
1. Managing Money
Money, money, money. It's the biggest small business problem no matter who you ask, right?
Well, it’s actually not just a small business challenge. Managing money correctly can be challenging for businesses of all sizes because business accounts involve a lot more than simply adding all expenses and subtracting the total from all earnings.
Like fuel for an engine, no business can run without money. It's needed to power your core business engine and keep it running.
If you want to avoid money mishaps in your small business, you need to keep accurate accounts of every single thing that goes in and out the business accounts. From order, pre-orders, refunds, payroll, marketing budget, loans, payments, supply costs, software subscriptions and a thousand other things.
Luckily, you don’t need to hire an expert team of accountants to keep you on track. There are many powerful online accounting programs available today that can help you keep on top of your small business finances. All you have to do is decide which one best fits your needs—and you can easily do that using the following guide:
Though you may have need for a small business accountant at some stage of growth in your business. Beyond keeping good accounts, so you know what you have and what you spend, there are two other major money areas that every small business owner needs to conquer:
- finding funds for expanding your business, and
- not using company funds like an extension of your personal account.
If you have any doubts about how to do that, the following tutorials can show you how:
- How to Get a Small Business Loan (Simple Funding Guide)Andrew Blackman05 Sep 2016
- How to Pay Yourself From Your Small BusinessAndrew Blackman17 Oct 2016
2. Cultivating Growth
Not every small business needs to grow into a mega-corporation with a billion-dollar turnover. A small business can happily and profitably remain a small business forever.
That’s not to say, however, that as a small business owner you never have to think about growth. Finding growth opportunities often becomes a big small business challenge that if not mastered can lead to cutbacks, downsizing, and struggling to survive.
As a small business owner, you need to be constantly on the look-out for opportunities to grow your small business. Whether it be through marketing ideas, networking events, conference presentations, or what have you, it’s important to keep opportunities that could inspire growth coming into the flow of your business.
One of the best ways to combat the problem of growing your small business is to start thinking more like an entrepreneur. Begin implementing entrepreneurial methods into areas of your small business—working to scale or streamline your operations.
3. Gaining Visibility
If no one sees you, no one can buy from you. Simple as that.
Gaining visibility can prove challenging for small business owners who spend most of their time operating the business rather than showcasing it.
But gaining visibility no longer means that you have to take to the streets shouting the name of your business and what you offer from the rooftops. In our modern world, having visibility means first and foremost being visible (standing out with a great website design).
- Can clients easily find your business online?
- And if they can, can they easily understand how you can help them?
- Do you have a well-designed and functional website?
- Is it easy to use, navigate, and help visitors connect with you?
- And does that website work equally well on all devices?
If the answer to any of the questions above is no, it’s time to build a beautiful and functional website that shows the world who you are and what you’ve got!
For ideas for modern looks and functionality, check out some of the best selling website themes on Envato Market and begin creating your own professional-looking website today. Here's an example of Canvas, one of our most popular site templates:
If you’re not sure where to start with your website or how to choose the right theme for your business, have a look at the guidelines in the following article:
And if you already have a website? Make sure it’s doing its best to outsell your competitors!
4. Creating Outreach
One of the best and easiest ways to create outreach for your small business today is through the use of social media. A wise and purposeful use of social media.
Because when social media is used without a plan or purpose, it can become one of the greatest time wastes and money drainers for small business owners.
If you’re new to the challenge of employing social media to leverage your business outreach, the following guide can be a good place to start increasing your small business outreach online:
If you’re more experienced and well-versed in social media management for business purposes, the next step is making sure that all your social media time and efforts are put to the best use. Instead of creating random posts and wasting your time on visibility tactics that don’t pay back, check to see that you’re getting the best ROI for your social media efforts.
Discover more in our multi-part Social Media Guide for Small Business Kickstart series to learn how to set up your small business marketing channels, plan your strategies, and implement efficiently.
5. Finding New Clients
Even the tiniest small business needs to find new clients to replenish your contracts and to keep up your sales cycles—without experiencing major dips and bumps.
How do you find these new clients? Through your current and past happy clients!
Sometimes, small business owners think that asking clients for referrals may sound desperate or appear as a sign of failure. But that’s not true at all. In fact, this isn't as hard of a small business problems to solve as it first seems.
Happy Clients Like to Help
Happy clients are often happy to refer their friends to you (because they also want their friends to be happy). But with life being busy and hectic for all of us, most of your clients won’t think of taking the initiative to refer someone to you unless directly asked to do so.
So the easiest way to overcome this small business challenge? Simply ask!
This strategy also leads to onboarding new clients more efficiently. It's also one of the more effective strategy to increase your profit as a small business.
How to Ask for Referrals
Create an email template in a friendly and excited tone that thanks each client for the work you’ve done together. (You may want to personalize this part to fit each customer). Then, in the second part of the email ask clients if they have three friends they can think of that could use your services. Ask for their contact information, so you can reach out to them.
Tip: Never ask them to have their friends call you. You have to be the pro-active one in this situation.
Send this email at the end of every contract, sale, or collaboration to keep new client opportunities flowing into your business on a regular basis.
Make Sure Your Emails are Professional
To help your emails to stand out professionally, be sure to use a professional email signature design. This way you can include your branding and contact information when you reach out to potential clients—putting your best foot forward.
If you don’t already have an email signature template you use for your small business, now may be a good time to consider setting one up for all your client communications. The following guide can help you choose an email signature design that best fits your needs:
6. Delegating Effectively
As a small business owner, it’s very likely that you started your business all by yourself, holding on to nothing more than your own bootstraps. And that’s great!
The problem is that many small business owners forget to let go of those bootstraps as their business starts growing, and they end up becoming an impediment to the very business they set up.
The biggest truth you need to realize is this:
You can’t do everything by yourself in business.
The best strategy you need to implement is this:
Delegate tasks to employees and let them get on with it.
If you micromanage everything, you’ll never have time for the big-picture plans and strategies that can actually grow your business. So trust the people you’ve hired and learn to delegate the work that doesn’t need your immediate attention to them.
Not sure what you should delegate in your business? No worries, check out the following guide.
And now go delegate! Because you won’t be growing an extra set of arms or eyes any time soon to cover all the tasks that need doing!
7. Automating Processes
Fear of delegation is not the only thing that keeps small business owners busy with tasks that don’t deserve their attention. Small business owners often make bad use of their time by painstakingly executing tasks and processes they could easily automate.
The good news? This is a small business problem you can fix by putting the right systems in place. There’s a whole slew of apps that can help small business owners automate your tasks and improve productivity by eliminating more of your busy work. All you have to do is choose what you’d like to automate.
From time management to project management, and from team communications to administrative tasks, there’s now an app for that.
And you can find out which apps will help you put some of your business processes on autopilot in the following guide:
Aside from leveraging the right productivity tools, you can also set up efficient processes using standard operating procedures. This create consistency in your business and allows you to delegate and scale more efficiently.
8. Analyzing the Competition
If you’re too busy springing around trying to keep your small business from running into the ground, you have no time to look at what your competition is doing. And that’s a major problem for small businesses.
Without a competitive analysis, you’re selling in the dark. You have no idea what your competitors are doing, how they’re performing, and how many of your customers you’re losing to them, or why. In other words. You’re heading straight for disaster.
To avoid such disaster, set some time aside in your business planning to analyze what your competitors are doing and, most importantly, how your business is performing in the market.
If you’ve never done a competitive analysis before, have a look at the following articles to learn how to do it and how to discover who’s buying from your competitors:
- How to Write a Competitive Analysis for Your Small Business (With Template)Celine (CX) Roque18 Aug 2016
- Competitive Analysis: How to Find Out Who's Buying From Your CompetitorsCeline (CX) Roque30 Sep 2016
9. Creating a Marketing Budget
Finding out what your competition is doing won’t help you if you’re not also prepared and willing to implement a marketing plan that gives you a competitive edge.
When running a small business, however, marketing efforts can sometimes seem more of an expense than an investment. And for that reason, many small business owners hesitate to spend their hard-earned money on marketing their business.
Changing that mentality is one of the greatest challenges facing small business owners.
Marketing doesn’t have to be synonymous with big-dollar spending though. There are many ways to market your small business to the right people without spending a fortune:
The important thing to remember is that for your small business to succeed, it needs to stay current in the market. And marketing can help you do that. Even a relatively low-budget budget marketing investment can go long way as it’s appealing, creative, and well-executed.
10. Hiring Experts
Most small business owners don’t have the budget to hire big-time biz consultants or other experts that aren’t necessary to the everyday operations of your small business. Though understandable, the lack of expert advice and execution can become a great obstacle in running a small business profitably.
The right professionals can help with everything from:
- creating fun and educational videos
- posts on social media for attracting new customers
- designing your graphic assets and branding
- coding your websites or developing for mobile
- creating nurturing email campaigns that produce more sales
- coming up with a strategy for attracting more visitors to your website
All these types of activities can play an essential role in the survival of your small business. But they also require professionals that you probably don’t want or need to hire on your regular team (such as a video producer, copywriter, or branding specialist).
You don’t have to hire these people as regular employees. In today’s flexible business environment you can get all the experts you need for running your small business on a contract or freelance basis. Forming these expert collaborations will help you overcome any small business problem no matter how big.
Running Your Small Business Without Letting Problems Hold You Back
In this article, we've covered a number of types of challenges a small business will face as it works to grow. How you approach these issues and work to overcome them will define your success.
- What are some of the greatest problems you've faced?
- How have you overcome these types of challenges?
- Which of the issues above will you be tackling this next?
Share your thoughts and tactics with us in the comments. Help other small business owners overcome these tough obstacles!
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in November of 2016. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.