I will be the first person to admit that running a small business is not easy, and it seems that most small business owners would agree. Back in 2010 GrantThorton sponsored an international survey of small business owners, and found that 56% of those surveyed felt more stressed than they did just a year ago. And yet, despite this high level of stress, more than half of business owners surveyed by Hiscox in 2013 say that they are happier running their own business than they would be as an employee. Becoming an entrepreneur is a very rewarding experience -- the trick is learning how to surmount the obstacles that nearly every business owner will inevitably face. And while I could've made this list a lot longer, I find that five issues repeatedly come up when I talk to new business owners.
1. You need help, but can't afford any employees.
When you start a business, you have to wear a lot of hats and your budget will be stretched thin. You simply won't be able to afford to pay a secretary, or a marketer, or customer service department. Being that busy all the time can really wear on your nerves. If you need a bit of help, think about looking into some tech-based options. There are plenty of online businesses that provide virtual assistants, billing help, and outsourced customer service for a small subscription fee less than it would cost to hire someone. You won't have as much control over what they do or how they do it, but these companies can help take some of the pressure off you.
2. Money is drying up.
It takes a little while to make money, and when you first start out, you are going to spend more than you initially bring in. And while you're well aware you can't operate in the red forever, sometimes you just need a few more months to climb into the black. But if money is drying up, you may not even be able to stay open for a few more weeks, let alone months. Sometimes you can get another loan, but I've long been a proponent of bootstrapping, and it is usually better to cut back on as much as you possibly can to stay afloat than it is to ask for more money. Cut out what you can, and keep fighting.
3. No one is buying what you're selling.
Market research forms the foundation of your business, and you probably wouldn't have gotten any funding if you didn't do some research first. However, if you did that research and sales are still dry, there could be a few issues. You may have found something people need, but don't want. Or you may be in the wrong area for your industry. Experiment a little bit -- try selling your product in a different way, or target a different type of consumer demographic. By performing these small scale tests, you can see what works and what doesn't before you adopt it on a wider scale.
4. The business isn't growing as fast as you want it to.
Success is not going to come to you overnight, and if you expected money to just roll in, you've chosen the wrong job. Entrepreneurship is not an easy way to make money. Part of running a business is being patient and putting in your dues, so if you're making enough money to make a living, don't rush things. As you build a name for your business and your brand, you will grow.
5. The risks seem way too high.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this problem. Starting a business is a gamble, and there is no way around that. Turning your company into a separate legal entity like a limited liability company or corporation can help limit risks as it allows the business to carry its own debts, helping protect your personal assets from collections, but that isn't a panacea. However, I can say that this is the sort of gamble that pays off - I risked my house to buy MyCorp and it was the best decision I've ever made. Even with all of the headaches, the stress, and the worry, I love my job and MyCorp. In my opinion, that sort of satisfaction is well worth the effort it takes to overcome any obstacle.
(Image: ddpavumba via freedigitalphotos.net)