Take your small business to the next level by identifying and overcoming these common challenges.
You've always wanted to be your own boss, and now that you are, you might wonder why owning a business is so hard.
"Running a small business is very different from working in a large company," explains Cynthia Kay, author of "Small Business for Big Thinkers," and board member of the National Small Business Association.
Here, Kay, along with Christopher Hatch and Natalia Olson, from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and AnnMarie McIlwain from CareerFuel, a small business resource site, identify six common struggles small business owners face, and provide advice to overcome them.
Hire the Right People
Small business owners need to build a strong team and “the right person for a small business looks very different from the right person for a large company," explains Kay. "In a small company, employees may walk into something new and different every day. They need to be comfortable with uncertainty."
Since your recruits must have a different mindset than employees of a large company, traditional hiring methods might not be your best approach. Kay suggests using personal connections and networking opportunities to spread the word about open positions.
Pursue the Best Opportunities
"Another challenge for small business owners is that they believe they should go after every opportunity to win new clients and grab more business from existing clients. Doing this can actually ruin your business," explains Kay. If you are too focused on pursuing opportunities that are actually a poor fit for your company, you may miss out on the ones that would have been perfect for you. "Develop a list of key questions that you use to filter out the good opportunities and recognize the ones that are suspect. Don't be afraid to be picky and walk away from opportunities that are not well-suited to your core business."
If you need assistance, the government has small business support programs designed to offer this counsel. "We [the SBA] help with research on where [a] product or service is going to best be accepted and where [a] product is going to work," Hatch says.
Small business owners juggle a lot of plates, and keeping them straight can be a challenge. As McIlwain says, "Small companies are long on ideas and short on resources." She proposes using technology to help you stay on top of everything. Her suggestions include "Evernote for organizing your brain, Sprout Social for scheduling social media postings and Trello for project management."
Deal With the Government
The federal government provides assistance for small businesses, but many business owners aren't aware of these services. Every state has at least one SBA office, where small business owners can turn for free assistance. "We guide you through the process," says Olson. "We'll work with you to understand the tax credits."
Procure Sufficient Capital
Without capital, it's impossible to get your business off the ground, and economic struggles have kept banks from making loans to small businesses in recent years. However, the SBA offers loan programs that can help you get the money you need. "Our job is to guarantee loans for small businesses," explains Hatch. Another option that has become popular in recent years is crowdfunding, which involves raising capital through online campaigns. According to McIlwain, "Crowdfunding has emerged as a viable way to raise money to support early sales and before too long will enable people to invest in companies."
Find a Mentor
Although no two small businesses are exactly the same, there's great value is talking to someone who's been in similar shoes. "I recommend that business owners look for forward-thinking organizations that are small business advocates, provid[ing] networking and other education programs," counsels Kay. Your state's Small Business Association and the National Small Business Association are good resources. The SBA also has volunteers willing to help and has developed a mentor program. Its SCORE Association pairs experienced small business owners with those looking for guidance.
Owning your own business might be a lifelong dream, but that doesn't make it easy. Help is available and using these resources will elevate your small business to the next level.
Meghan Ross is a freelance writer. Her work can be found here.