Small businesses face many challenges in our competitive world. According to polls conducted earlier this year by Gallup and Forbes, the top three challenges small business owners face are attracting more business/sales, various forms of governmental interference, and hiring good or qualified workers. While some of these challenges are beyond the direct control of small business owners, others are not. Let’s take a closer look at these three major areas of concern for small business owners and some general approaches that can be taken to effectively handle each. Challenge #1: Sales
Both Gallup and Forbes found that the single biggest challenge facing small businesses is the need to expand sales and/or attract more business, which has been made more difficult by meager growth in the economy. Writing for Forbes, Jim Blasingame says, “At this stage of recovery, the economy should be growing at 4%. But when you see this response from the sector that creates over half of U.S. GDP, it’s not difficult to understand why the economy has barely averaged 2% growth per year.” What can you as a small business owner do to more effectively deal with this issue?
One thing you may want to consider is revisiting or revising your strategy more frequently. Instead of strategically planning for the next decade, try planning for every few years or so. Some successful companies are even planning for less. When planning, study trends and talk to your customers or clients. Study other successful companies to see what avenues they have taken. Allow the information you gather from these sources guide your decisions, and decide whether or not you need to follow the lead of your competitors or blaze a new trail for your company. Doing these things should help you better navigate an increasingly dynamic business world, but remember that the best routes are those that are fulfilling and rewarding.
Challenge #2: The Government
Various governmental policies that create burdens for small businesses also ranked high on the list in both polls, and collectively these issues may pose nearly as much of a problem as sluggish sales growth. Included in this group of obstacles are regulations, healthcare mandates (Obamacare), and taxes. Many of these obstacles are beyond the direct control of small business owners, but there are positive steps that can be taken to effectively deal with these issues.
Focus on what you can control and act with vigor in pursuing actions that will alleviate problems related to these issues. (When doing so, you may find it helpful to remember the old axiom that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.) If possible, you may want to find outside resources or consultants to help you, such as a lawyer, business coach, accountant, etc. It is sometimes advantageous and healthy to get an outsider’s perspective on a business because we may be too close to see it clearly, and delegating to others some responsibilities in dealing with the government can allow you to devote more time and energy to the success of your enterprise.
Challenge #3: Workers
Finding qualified staff is among the top challenges of small business owners as well. Attracting qualified people who are productive and fit a company’s culture can be hard. Retaining them can be just as hard. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take toward assembling a successful staff for the long term.
When posting for a position, be clear and specific in your job description. Let prospective employees know what the job entails, what the qualifications are, and what the job title is (so they have a point of reference to similar positions in the industry). Indicate the type of organizational culture you wish to maintain for your company, and consider including people with whom the prospective employee will work in the interview process. This will help you better determine whether the potentially new hire is a good fit for your organization, and it may have the additional benefit of allowing the prospective employee more insight into your company so that they may make a more informed decision about whether or not they will be a good fit for you. Plan to hire people with skill sets that will meet current and future needs, and be sure to place them in positions where they are most likely to succeed. Doing these things should help ensure that you have the right people to make your business a success. However, if you find that some people are not working out and can not meet your standards or expectations even after remediation, you must do what is best for the company and let them go.
The business climate is difficult, and small companies in particular are faced with many challenges and obstacles. Small business owners may not be able to control everything that affects their organizations, but they can control how they respond to those challenges. With some strategic planning and good advice, small businesses can grow and experience success.
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