Photo Credit: Huffingtonpost.com
Square 1 Group is a boutique agency, and we’ve worked hard to keep our entrepreneurial spirit a core part of our relationship with our clients. Small-business owners have a vested interest in creative problem-solving, and they often have a much narrower margin of error than their heftier counterparts in the same industry. In this post, we’ll talk about the five biggest obstacles facing small businesses today, and what you can do to resolve them.
Interested in small business marketing strategies? Read our post on branding for small businesses!
All About the Money
Money is a challenge for every kind of business, but cash flow can be a special difficulty for smaller ventures, which can make it hard to plan budgets and allocate staff and resources. Economies of scale, informal discounts available to better-established competitors, and difficulty investing in expansion. Depending on your industry, you may even face cash-flow problems with clients, who may not take your invoices seriously.
How can you solve this problem? We may be biased, but we think technology holds a lot of promise! Nowadays, small business owners can use multi-talented apps to build and adjust budgets, calculate taxes and other add-ons, and track hours and wages. Online invoices are more polished, and they often make it easier for you to provide important details like task and time breakdowns. As a result, clients will be less likely to dismiss or delay your requests for payment. We understand that overhead is always a concern for small business owners, but you may also want to consider hiring a professional accountant or tax preparer – they’ll often save you money as well as time.
Time Is Not on Your Side
Social scientist Alan Lakein coined the term “Swiss cheese time” to describe productivity in an era of multitasking and constant contact. Small business owners are experts at Swiss cheese time management – slender staffing rosters mean that you wear multiple hats and cover any shortfalls; low overhead means that most support and admin activities are kept in-house; a relatively shallow client bench may lead to volatility in scheduling through the month or the year.
Time-management software can help you juggle multiple ongoing projects, and scheduling apps can also ensure that you never miss a time-sensitive deadline or meeting. You’ll also be able to track time, which will help you keep on track of any inefficiencies or hidden drains on resources. We recommend another strategy: delegation. It can be difficult to hand off responsibilities, but it’s crucial to effective use of staffing resources – and it’s also an important part of training staff members to grow their own skillsets and contributions over time.
Your Client Base Is Too Small
Many small business owners begin just one or two clients. These clients provide valuable income and stability, and they can offer sterling opportunities for networking and expansion. However, they can also be burdensome, particularly if they’ve grown used to seeing you as a freelancer rather than a business partner. Their “minor delays” can translate into catastrophic problems for you – and you may not feel equipped to complain given their sustaining role.
Standardization goes a long way – and if you’ve gotten into the habit of giving these older clients special privileges and self-sabotaging discounts, we suggest you start fresh with a one-size-fits-all approach. You may also want to consider ways to expand your client base and your services menu, so that you’re not as open to pressure or service delays. You can use that same standard contract approach to incorporate a few provisions for late payments and other hassles, so that clients learn not to take advantage.
Photo Credit: Ignition-mktg.com
You Tend to Be Penny Wise, but Pound Foolish
Small business owners can be incredibly resourceful on shoestring budgets, used to planning without any margin for extras expenses or wasted overhead. It’s a talent that has helped you weather the lean early years, but it might be holding you back as you move into a more stable phase. It may also be limiting your access to talent and innovation.
Spend a week or two tracking the time you spend on all tasks – not just billable activities, but “overhead” like web design and maintenance, record-keeping chores, and any tasks that can be done by an entry-level employee. Does it seem as though you’ve found a sensible equilibrium between professional and administrative duties, or are you stuck on menial chores most of the day? Do you spend a reasonable amount of time on tasks like website maintenance, or are you less efficient than a specialist? Hard data may motivate you to invest in help.
Want to maximize your marketing dollars? Read our guide to must-have marketing skills!
Entrepreneurs tend to have certain personality traits – they’re proactive, they’re tenacious, and they never stop believing in themselves. Self-reliance makes it possible for entrepreneurs to succeed during the first precarious years, when many small businesses fail. So do long hours, hectic schedules, and heavy responsibility. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your business, but you may be heading towards burnout.
How do you keep your daily grind from grinding you down? Ideally, you want your business structured in such a way as to allow you to work a reasonable schedule and prevent your company from foundering in the event of a catastrophe that takes you out of commission. With that in mind, consider ways you can share your authority and responsibility with your employees and administrators, so that you aren’t carrying an entire company on your shoulders.
As a small business owner, you’re not afraid of a challenge – keep these common hurdles in mind, and you should have no difficulty building a sustainable future for your company!
At Square 1 Group, we provide all our clients with individualized support and maintenance, online marketing services, and content creation. We’re passionate about delivering premium quality at an affordable price. Call us for a consultation today!