How to succeed as a small business owner and keeping up with the “big boys” is a never-ending task. Studies have determined 6 obstacles common to all small businesses. These include financing, knowing the market, customer service, speed of growth, finding and keeping good employees, and of course finding time.
- FINANCING: The most common source of start-up capital for a small business is family and friends. For existing businesses, the best advice is to get a banker involved in the planning process. Small business owners should communicate their needs to the banker and let him or her help in finding the best source of funding.
- KNOWING THE MARKET: Not only do small businesses have to work on finding new customers, but they also have to keep existing customers happy and coming back. The key here is to listen to customers and provide those products and services to meet their needs. At the same time, develop a profile of current customers and promote the business through appropriate media channels that those types of customers read, watch, and/or listen to.
- CUSTOMER SERVICE: This is where the “little guy” can really compete against the “big boys”. Probably the most cost efficient and least remembered form of marketing—customer service—will set a small business apart from its competition. Go beyond the call of duty for the customer. The word-of-mouth advertising this generates may be worth thousands of dollars to a small business.
- SPEED OF GROWTH: It’s hard to believe that growth causes as many small businesses to fail as does lack of growth. Uncontrolled growth can wreak havoc on cash flow, and if not managed properly, can lead to a reduced level of customer service. Manageable growth where the small business owner maintains and exceeds customers’ needs is a key to success.
- FINDING AND KEEPING GOOD EMPLOYEES: As a small business owner, it’s difficult to afford top-notch salaries and benefits. Successful small businesses compensate for this by offering other perks such as flexible scheduling, a pleasant work environment, increased responsibility and recognition.
- FINDING TIME: Finding enough hours in the day is not unique to small business owners. However, most entrepreneurs wear many hats, from sales clerk to ad rep., accountant to janitor. In this case, time management and outsourcing are key. Well-prepared organizational skills make for more efficient use of time. Outsourcing (otherwise known as “paying someone else to do it”) may be worth the money, and your sanity.
The small business owner may not be able to compete head-to-head with the “big boys”. But, with a well thought out business plan focusing on finance, marketing, personnel, and future goals, entrepreneurship can be one of the most fulfilling challenges an individual may face.