Last Update: October 14, 2014
Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small.
So, we asked 15 successful entrepreneurs to reveal their biggest small business challenges. Learn about the barriers they faced and ultimately, how they overcame them.
1. Building brand awareness.
Our biggest challenge has been educating the public that there are investment opportunities that have less fees and risks in comparison to those that traditional banks sell.
Solution: We overcame this challenge by providing superior pricing and customer service, using traditional forms of marketing including seminars and networking events to brand the company name and internet marketing such as search engine marketing (SEM), blogging, email marketing and social media marketing to spread the word online.
2. Competing against established companies.
When I decided to launch a startup in the athlete representation industry, the main challenge I faced was competing against established agencies with prominent client lists.
Solution: As a startup agency with a fledgling roster, I was required to play to my strengths and sell personalized attention — coupled with expertise and experience. I extolled my educational background and real-life legal experience to reassure potential clients about my ability to do the job.
3. Starting big and driving demand.
I was challenged to bring in enough business to support the size of the operation I started. I didn’t grow into a 20,000 sq. ft. facility — I started in it. We set the bar high from the beginning. If you want to be on top of your profession, I thought, start big and do what you can to fill up production.
Solution: We overcame our challenge with two key initiatives: First, we found the proper employees with the right experience and attitude, and next we filled a void in the market by giving customers a one-stop shop for embroidery, screen printing and digital printing. No one had all three elements under one roof. Our value proposition solved a problem for our customers — they no longer had to make multiple phone calls and deal with multiple vendors.
4. Building a company culture.
As the leader of my organization, I see it as my primary responsibility to ensure that my team understands who we are, where we are going and how we are going to get there. It must be clear that the journey we are taking together is one they want to take and will enjoy being invested in.
Solution: I have made a point to invest in the little things that make a small team feel special – ensuring our team has gear to wear that they are proud of, recognizing the team as a whole and individually at team outings or dinners and making it a point to keep the workplace fun and competitive. All of these things, when combined with the right team members, will provide a strong foundation that ensures a team is connected and committed.
5. Finding and hiring great talent.
We are a developer of innovative social gaming apps with Mark Cuban as an investor. Our major challenge was finding the best people to hire.
Solution: Since there is such competition for developers, we started going directly to some of the most creative, fresh minds in the workforce — colleges. We look for talent at both my alma mater, University of Southern California and other design schools in the Los Angeles area. With so many of the students so passionate about mobile and social gaming, these new graduates can become completely invested in our new games and see the complete process.
6. No startup capital to hire employees.
I had a great business idea, needed to execute it and had absolutely no money.
Solution: I decided to get creative and utilize the resources around me. I used the Internet to disseminate my idea. I turned my family room into a home office equipped for four and I called every college and sent internship descriptions looking for interns. My first month in business, I had four interns working with me and one paid assistant. By my second year, I was up to 10 interns and 3 paid staff members.
Many people have told me that they can’t rely on interns for their business. I think that all depends on how enticing your proposition is and how much effort you are willing to put in to train them. Several of my interns have stayed for a year, and others have stayed longer. Four of them are now on payroll. I was able to bring my business along a lot faster and far less expensive than if I had taken a loan, found an investor or did it all on my own.
7. Being first-to-market to gain a competitive advantage.
We launched and gained retail distribution with our product just under a year ago. Because our product, Slawsa, is so unique to the food category, We knew we had to grow rapidly to create a barrier of entry for potential competitors. In less than one year, we now have our product in over 3,500 retail locations and we’re still expanding our retailer presence.
Solution: Our product doesn’t get picked up without an aggressive marketing plan — which we’ve managed to execute on a budget. Pairing retailer promotions with the following tactics allowed us to gain retail points of entry: a. Taking part in countless mass consumer sampling events b. Partnering strategically with in-radio programming in our retail market areas c. Pitching hard on the PR front to food writers and bloggers d. Incorporating giveaways with social media e. Reducing production and freight costs by partnering with other food manufacturers. We also plan to launch a YouTube video mid-October that has the potential to go viral.