Wondering what keeps small business owners up at night? Conventional wisdom aside, things like recent government legislation, time management, and Internet marketing are all important concerns, but they’re not giving the majority of small business owners the jitters. The following eight things are the real ghosts and goblins of running a small business. How many can you identify with?
Getting and keeping customers
If few people or businesses come to buy your products or services, you won’t be in business very long. On the other hand, if you are constantly bending over backwards to please the customers you already have in the fear that they’ll defect to another company, you can easily exhaust vital energy and resources, hinder growth, and have little to show for it. Instead, focus on targeting your ideal, best paying customers and on building your brand with quality products and services.
Following on the heels of the point above, a sales slowdown can bring a good business to a screeching halt. Part of what makes poor sales so scary is that it can come from a number of unexpected occurrences, such as an economic downturn, bad weather, a natural disaster, or a sudden shift in consumer trends. The best way to cope with this fear is to have an “emergency” plan in place for dealing for the most likely scenarios. Depending on your business, this could include setting up an emergency fund and having multiple sources of income.
Not having access to credit or capital
Even if you belong to the bootstrapping camp, to sustain healthy business operations and growth, you will likely need access to some kind of outside credit or capital along the way. You don’t want to pass up on an opportunity to buy inventory in bulk at a great discount, or be unable to cover a sudden cash short fall, or put off buying the equipment, hiring the workers, or making the renovations that will increase your sales. While getting access to financing through traditional means, such as via your local bank, is extremely hard for small business owners these days, there are other alternative financing options out there, such as business cash advances, invoice factoring, micro loans, and even peer-to-peer lending. Just make sure you do some research before settling on the product that makes the most sense for your business.
Not being able to pay the bills
Many small business owners are so focused on increasing sales and ultimately their bottom line, that they don’t pay enough attention to their cash flow. This can cause a lot of operational issues, not to mention a huge load of stress and anxiety for the small business owner. The most important thing that small business owners can do is to create and monitor a weekly or monthly cash flow statement. Most accounting programs will do this automatically. Even business owners who are relying on Excel to keep track of transactions, can download a simple cash flow statement template. They are many kinds available online for free.
Loosing key employees
A small business’ employees can often be one of its biggest assets. After all, think about all the time, energy, and money that goes into recruiting, hiring, and training these people, not to mention compensating them for their work. One of the biggest fears that small business owners have is loosing their key employees to their competitors- especially those that have the size and the resources to offer better compensation and more opportunities for education and advancement. While this is certainly a real concern for many small businesses, business owners should focus on the positives that they offer aside from compensation, such as their unique work environment, more intimate setting, and perhaps the ability of employees to have more of an impact on business decision making than they would in a bigger business.
Not keeping up with the competition
Many businesses these days are being overwhelmed by their competition- whether their competitors are big brands that can slash prices and conduct flashy and pervasive marketing campaigns, or they are small, scrappy companies with a knack for drawing market attention. Add to this the reality that the Internet and the technology that supports it all is rapidly evolving, and businesses are having to deal with an increasingly impatient and demanding customer-base. It’s little wonder why many small business owners are in constant fear of loosing their customers to their competitors. The real solution to this starts with properly defining your ideal customer, developing your brand so that it highlights your company’s strengths and your customers’ needs, and then figuring out the most effective places and ways to reach these people. In other words, getting back to the basics of running a successful business.
Not being able to retire
Though many small business owners enjoy what they are doing and aren’t necessarily thinking of retirement, nevertheless, nearly two-thirds of small business owners fear outliving the money they need to retire, according to a poll from the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. But it’s more than that. Many business owners may not have a clear succession or sales plan for the business when it comes time for them to leave. It’s for this reason that even new small business owners should hash out a strategy for both retirement savings and for passing on the business to others.
The fear of failure
Every single person on the planet has failed at some point or other, yet the fear of failure can be one of the most debilitating sources of anxiety for small business owners. When a business owner hits a road block in the business, the worst thing he or she can do is to spend too much time on what went wrong without spending valuable time analyzing what went right and what was gained from the experience. Small business owners should also make sure they’ve got a strong support group to help them through the down times. Plus, taking care of physical needs such as proper diet, exercise, and sleep, can significantly affect both mood and performance.
So, where do you fit in this list? Are you dealing with other fears not listed here? How are you coping? Let us know in the comments below.