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9 Common Small Business Challenges and How to Navigate Them

Starting a small business comes with many perks. From the freedom to create your schedule to the possibility of earning more than you might have at your day job, becoming an entrepreneur opens up possibilities that just aren’t available when you’re working for someone else.

However, all of those benefits come with responsibilities and new challenges that you may not have had at your 9-to-5. We asked our entrepreneurs about the most common challenges they face when running their businesses and have put together some useful tips to help you overcome them.

What makes being an entrepreneur challenging?

As rewarding as entrepreneurship can be, it also comes with some unique challenges that you’re unlikely to face working for an employer. Entrepreneurs are ultimately responsible for everything that goes into making a business flourish, including marketing, sales, hiring, quality control, budgeting, and customer service.

They also face the challenge of starting a new project from the ground up. While established businesses have momentum in the form of existing clients and earned trust, new businesses have to work hard to establish themselves.

While you can’t predict every difficulty that will come up in your business journey, being prepared for common challenges can help you set up a plan for dealing with them. That’s why thinking about the following challenges in relation to your business can save you time, effort, and money in the long run.

9 business challenges every small business struggles with (and how to fix them)

Regardless of what field you’re in, there are common challenges many small business owners struggle with. By knowing what they are, you can do your best to plan for them and navigate obstacles as smoothly as possible.

1. Finding your first customer

Finding your first customer as a small business owner can be a lot of work. A larger company may already have a customer base in the form of an email list, a social media following, or even a large enough network that they can rely on getting new customers through word-of-mouth.

Many new businesses find their first customers among friends and family, so one way to navigate this challenge is to contact people throughout your entire network and see if you can find potential customers there. Keep in mind, customers also like to see some social proof that your product or service is as good as you say it is. As a small business, it takes time to build an online presence and gather testimonials that can help build trust in your brand.

2. Increasing brand awareness

Brand recognition is an important component of marketing since customers typically need to be exposed to a new brand several times before buying from them. Brand awareness can come from online marketing or offline marketing, mentions in the media, speaking events, or even hearing others talk about your brand. It is not something that can typically be established overnight, which makes it a challenge for small business owners.

For many businesses, building a strong social media presence is an excellent way to build brand awareness in their target market. Attending events and looking for ways to partner with other businesses can also be an effective means of increasing recognition for your brand.

3. Maintaining quality as you grow your business

Growth is a major goal for every small business. But any business owner will tell you it’s difficult to maintain the same standards of quality as their business flourishes. This is true for both product and service-based businesses.

Growing at a sustainable rate is often a good approach. You may be tempted to take on every business opportunity available to you, but if you cannot deliver well on those opportunities, your business may ultimately suffer.

4. Lead generation

While the best tools for lead generation vary from one industry to the next, larger companies have access to expensive directories and databases that smaller businesses can’t necessarily afford. Luckily, with the help of Google, you can probably produce a lengthy list of leads. They may not be perfectly tailored to your business, but as long as you can get comfortable with the fact that they won’t all be interested in your product or service, you are sure to find some successful leads.

5. Delighting your customers

The things that delight customers can be quite expensive to produce. From custom packaging to engaging websites, it can be difficult for a small business to finance these elements of a delightful customer experience.

However, as a small business, you also have an edge over larger businesses in that you can offer a personalized touch. For example, for a product-based business, try including a handwritten thank you note with each order.

6. Hiring talented people

The hiring process can be a challenge because you may not be able to afford the cost of onboarding or a competitive salary that larger firms can offer. One effective way to work around this is to work with a freelancer or independent contractor instead of a full-time employee. As gig work becomes more common, there are many very talented people offering their skills on a project basis.

7. Managing a busy workflow

Whether you’re working on your own or have a small team, the reality for entrepreneurs is they wear many hats. You may be in charge of accounting, shipping, lead generation, sales, implementing a marketing strategy, and more. Since your time is a limited resource, this makes managing workflow a major challenge.

The key to successfully staying on top of all your tasks is to delegate or automate as much as possible. You can look into hiring a virtual assistant to help with certain tasks such as customer service or explore software options that can help you with email marketing, accounting, and other tasks that take up your time.

8. Managing money

Maintaining an adequate cash flow may be the biggest challenge for many small businesses. Running a business comes with many expenses, and you don’t necessarily have a lot of sales or new clients in the beginning to cover them all. This can lead to a cash flow issue.

Taking the time to write a thoughtful, comprehensive business plan and creating a business budget is critical to good money management. Proper planning and a well-defined business model will help you avoid running out of cash and ensure you maintain a healthy cash reserve for when truly unexpected expenses arise.

9. Scaling your business

Growing your small business is an exciting stage. It means there is enough interest in your product or service that you can start offering it to more people. However, it’s also a challenging stage for entrepreneurs as it can come with many costs and unique challenges. For example, if you open a successful food truck and have enough interest and brand awareness that you are ready to open a few more, you have the costs of buying additional trucks, developing menus, getting licenses, and hiring and training staff. With multiple locations, you also need managers you can trust to operate the trucks to your standards.

For a product-based business, you may have to find a new manufacturing partner that can handle larger volumes. This can lead to potential quality issues or supply interruptions.

One way to make scaling your business go more smoothly is to access extra funding to finance the changes. Whether you opt for a business loan or a small business grant, having some extra capital as you go through the challenges of scaling will be helpful.

How you can manage these small business challenges

While you may not avoid these common small business challenges, you can get ahead of them by preparing and thinking about how to tackle them before they become too big. Since each industry and business is unique, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to each of the challenges we’ve looked at here. But taking a few moments to brainstorm how you can navigate these common difficulties will build your confidence that you can handle whatever comes your way.

Every business starts somewhere, and many of these challenges are familiar to all entrepreneurs. Navigating them successfully requires planning and research specific to your business sector. But if you can successfully manage these common challenges, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great business leader.

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