At some point, every entrepreneur encounters business struggles. For example, accounting can get complicated when it comes to healthcare or tax reform measures. Perhaps customers want less of one product or service and more of another. Otherwise, if you run a business with one or more co-founders, tensions can easily rise with varying ideas and opinions.
If any of these scenarios resonate, take heart—let’s talk about it in a frame of “if you struggle with Y, do Z,” and make it easy to find solutions to specific business challenges you may face.
Cash flow, the money coming in and out of your business, is the lifeblood of your company. As long as more money comes in (from customers) than goes out (to expenses), you remain in the black. But you probably know that maintaining positive cash flow is a persistent problem. You have to stay on top of it to cover short-term (daily operations) and long-term needs (growth and expansion opportunities).
Solution: To manage your cash flow, create a financial statement. Review and update it regularly to assess potential cash flow problems. This information also allows you to seek working capital from creditors, investors, and financial institutions.
If your customer base appears stagnant, it might be time to rethink your customer acquisition strategy. Maybe your reach has been too broad and you’ve accidentally marketed to everyone. Then again, maybe you’ve prioritized niche areas and now need to expand into other strategic markets.
Solution: The Small Business Administration offers practical advice for finding new customers, such as asking for referrals. You can also partner with complementary businesses to spreads out the work of finding new customers and enter new market verticals.
The National Federation of Business (NFIB) reports many small business owners struggle with locating qualified employees. It can be hard to find employees who are both qualified and right for your company culture. You want to know, definitively, that you’re hiring a person who will integrate with the team and contribute to the company’s growth.
Solution: To attract top talent, hone your culture and share it with the world. That is, talk about your mission, vision, and values on your website and social networks. Potential employees often research future employers, so sharing this information will attract qualified candidates.
Brand awareness problems can occur at any stage of your business. Early on, you might encounter challenges because of a crowded market—it’s hard to get noticed when fifteen other brands clamor for attention. But brand awareness difficulties arise later on, too, and you should address them to anchor your position in the marketplace.
Solution: To solve a brand awareness problem, revise your branding strategy. Identify external factors, too, such as new competition or a changing audience demographic. The two elements affect not only the products and services you sell but also how and where you advertise, market, and submit press releases.
If you find yourself handling tasks other than growing your company, you may have a delegation problem. (Caveat: If you own an early-stage startup or small business, you’ll likely perform work not found in your job description.) Some signs of a delegation issue include getting impatient with employees, micromanaging employees, or thinking your way is the only way.
Solution: In your workplace, look for employees who seem uncertain or frustrated with their roles. Also, analyze yourself. Ask if you’re taking on activities that would be better delegated to an employee or third party. Healthcare, taxes, and government regulations, for example, could require a professional’s assistance.
Best practices to implement change
The five scenarios illustrated above require change, but how you make change matters. If you try to tackle two, three, or five business struggles at a time, you’ll either burnout or demoralize your employees. Because of that, prioritize the struggles and work on them one at a time. Prioritizing can raise your chances of success, help get everyone on board with the new process or tool, and teach management lessons on change to incorporate into future efforts.
Business struggles happen to every entrepreneur. But you can overcome them with the examples, solutions, and best practices listed here. And, if you have any questions or advice about a particular business concern, please reach out in the comments or on social media.
Shea Drake is obsessed with all things tech, leadership, and starting (and failing) as an entrepreneur. When not geeking out over tech news with her husband, she’s working on her photography career or planning a road trip to a ghost town.