#1 Uncertain Political Climate
It doesn’t take a political guru to recognize this election as a tense one with the potential for serious, economic ramifications. Both presidential candidates are promising swift changes to economic policy and these changes could drastically affect small businesses and organizations. Keeping up with increasing regulations and changes in laws can rack up costs in research and business fees for business leaders. An uncertain political climate also makes it difficult for business owners to plan next steps for growth and action, especially when it comes down to budgeting for potential tax increases or regulations. If you’re a small business owner and unsure of how to navigate the current political climate, hold weekly or bi-monthly meetings with upper management to discuss plans and dealing with potential changes in legislation.
#2 Taxes & Regulations (Additional ACA* Costs)
Regardless of your political opinion of the Affordable Care Act, the Act is 10,535 pages long, which is about 30 times as long as the average law. This speaks to the complexity of the regulations included and it isn’t a surprise that small and large business owners alike are struggling to navigate the new policy. The good news is most of the requirements seem to fall on large business owners and businesses with less than 50 employees have a great deal less to manage. However, there are still new policies all businesses must comply with, such as health care coverage for employees and ensuring minimal essential coverage guidelines are met. However, if you plan on growing your business in the future or it is already approaching over 50 employees, you may need to plan on facing a new level of fees and regulations or managing your growth at or below 50 full-time employees.
When you’re first starting a business or organization, it’s common to try to manage most of the workload by yourself in order to decrease costs. It’s cheaper and easier to micromanage your business by forcing yourself to do the grunt work as it’s getting off the ground. While it makes sense initially, it’s not a sustainable work model for you or your business. Burning out is a real consequence of not respecting a work-life balance and your business will suffer if you don’t address this challenge. A key difference between companies that are successful and those that aren’t is the owners’ ability to delegate. Surround yourself with qualified and passionate people whom you trust and, most importantly, place your trust in them and allow them to do their jobs. Provide them support, as they need it, but focus on your role in the company and allow others to focus on their specialties.
#4 Finding Good Employees and Motivating Them
Finding employees that fit your company’s mentality and vision is a massive challenge but one that should not be overlooked. Employees will be more motivated to work efficiently and creatively when they’re passionate about the work they do and the compensation they receive. Starting a small business typically means you’ll be operating with a small staff for a while. Depending on your growth rate, you may not be able to invest in individual people for each role your company requires. Thus, hiring should focus on talented individuals who can handle multiple tasks with skill and professionalism. You may not be able to hire every skilled worker you interview, but make sure you stay in contact with them in case your company grows or an employee leaves for another opportunity. After hiring your initial pool of talent, try to fill other needs with cost-effective labor such as interns or telecommuter employees. Paying interns is preferred for ethical and competitive purposes – you’ll draw better talent with a paid, committed internship program – and you’ll reap the benefits of younger workers eager to learn and impress. Additionally, a study out of The University of Texas at Austin showed that telecommuters actually work 5-7 hours more than their in-office coworkers. Thus, you can capitalize on quality labor without worrying about adding office space and, consequently, increasing costs.
#5 Marketing/Breaking Through Online
The plethora of social media platforms available to small businesses can be overwhelming for business owners. The daily maintenance alone can seem daunting and that’s only a small aspect of online marketing. Yet, it’s absolutely vital to have a strong online presence to grow your company. Consider which platforms works best for your organization and focus on those initially. Have an older consumer base that primarily uses Facebook? Don’t waste resources on Instagram, which targets younger users, and use Facebook to leverage other platforms such as LinkedIn. Still struggling to manage the overwhelming nature of inbound and content marketing? MetisXYZ specializes in digital communications as well as web design, so you can outsource this feature and focus on running your daily operations.
#6 Dependable Clients and Customer Base
Dependable clients and customer base can be one of the hardest initial challenges a small business will face. Yet, when you are able to solidify your first customers and hopefully retain them, your growth will most likely appear exponentially. The hard part is establishing those seed customers, the ones that your business will grow from as they purchase your products and services and tell their friends about your organization. Customer service is key to ensuring a dependable customer base as any misstep, however small, can spell disaster for online reviews and word-of-mouth feedback. Reach out to your target audience and be genuine about the connections you forge.
#7 Money Management & Cash Flow
It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed by a personal budget, so imagine having to navigate business regulations, fees, salaries, taxes, and more with a business budget. Cash flow is typically slow when a business is first starting, which can make it difficult for owners to invest in areas of their company that could lead to growth and enhanced quality.
There are multiple apps and programs to help you manage your business’ costs and cash flow. Many of these apps are free and user-friendly, so do your research and find ways to cut costs when getting help with your budget.
#8 Founder Dependence
Your business is something you’re passionate about and something you’ve poured your sweat, time, and money into. There were sleepless nights and times of doubt that you had to power through. So, it’s understandable that relinquishing some control will be a daunting, anxious task. But, the better you delegate, the more you allow your business to thrive. Train your employees well and surround yourself with coworkers you absolutely trust and then allow yourself to embrace that trust. Empower them to be innovative and provide them with resources and support to take their work and your business to the next level. Some of the best ideas of emerging businesses have come from their entry-level employees. Attract top talent you can rely on by instilling a stable and positive work environment that thrives on feedback and transparency to create the best working atmosphere possible.
#9 Productivity, Processes, & Time Management
Productivity is about getting the most out of the time available to you, especially as a small business when costs must be kept low. Yet, some of the biggest productivity challenges could also be viewed as opportunities for change and success. If you’re asking yourself, “Is this computer system the best for my company?”, that may signal the opportunity to change vendors or negotiate better offers from other vendors. There is also an opportunity to embrace the opinions of your workers. Have weekly meetings with your employees and discuss where they feel the company could improve or grow. Creating an open dialogue will reveal inefficiencies you may not have been aware of and, once told, can improve.
#10 Research/Development & Staying Current
Research & Development is an integral part of every small business, but it can seem costly and difficult to manage. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of managing your business while forgetting to remain current in your industry. But, it’s important to the long-term success of your business to focus on research and development at least once per week.
Allocate time to research what competitors are doing and spend time writing blog posts to engage with the relevant topics in your industry. Create Google Alerts and track Google Trends, use hashtags to keep up with what’s trending on social media, and mine research that’s already free and accessible.
Networking and establishing connections in your industry can be time-consuming and may seem trivial at first. But, that obscure person you met at a networking conference six months ago may become vital as your business’ needs expand. It’s always beneficial to make a connection and, more importantly, to grow a connection. If you meet someone at a networking event, get their contact information and reach out to them a few weeks later, even if it’s just to arrange a coffee meeting or to see how they have been doing.
Additionally, there may be opportunities for you to offer help to a connection. If it’s within your business’ means, you may want to consider helping this person. In the future, they will remember what you did for them and will look to return the favor or connect you with someone who can. Connections are invaluable for small businesses, so take full advantage of the networking opportunities offered to you.