This article was originally posted on University of Mary Washington’s Center for Economic Development blog on January 26, 2022.
Running a small business is not a walk in the park. When I started my staffing agency five years ago, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. Certainly, I anticipated demanding work, long hours, and restless nights. I had witnessed previous generations of women in my family juggle business ownership and family responsibilities. And, of course I knew about the complexity of managing people and processes. I soaked in much experience and knowledge from my prior careers in healthcare and sales management.
So, I am here to tell you that nothing quite prepares you for running a small business until you are in the middle of it. It is like swinging from tree vines through a thick jungle with unpredictable animals in your path. You make decisions, advance to the next branch, and feel the warm sunlight only in time to prepare for another round of complexity.
For me, I enjoy navigating the day-to-day challenges. As a small business with many large competitors, I sometimes feel like the underdog, which makes me work harder overall. I try to make confident decisions based on input and what I see up ahead. If I make a mistake, I use that as a lesson for next time.
If you want to start a business, you will need to be aware of six potential challenges that may get in your way.
Staying on top of technology is key and improves your business operations. Because of the demand for employees to work remotely, you’ll need to have collaborative technology. With consumers having access to everything at the tips of their fingers, you want to make sure your technology is not stuck in the 20th century (e.g., paper employment applications). If you do not have an Information Technology Department, research hiring vendors for your software needs and have a local company to support your website, email, and hardware needs.
Social Media & Online Presence
With every generation using social media, it’s important to determine your social media and online presence strategy based on your buyer personas. When starting your business, one of the least expensive ways to start marketing your business is through social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn.
- Your posts should help drive individuals to some action on your website or build brand awareness.
- Start on one or two platforms and adjust. Facebook groups are popular right now, so investigate incorporating that if it fits your business model.
- Also, make sure you’ve set up a Google My Business account, have a mobile-friendly website, and are looking at your website and social media traffic to help you adjust your strategy.
Recruiting and retaining employees can be difficult. Your compensation and benefits package must be attractive to lure and retain employees into your business. When adding benefits, consider making them flexible. Potential employees are not looking for long workdays or answering your emails in the evenings. Everyone is motivated differently, it may be monetary, work/life balance and/or growth within a company. To create and develop leaders in your organization, ask for your employees’ feedback when developing the business’ strategic plan. We all play off our strengths and opportunities.
As the owner, you have many projects and deadlines to manage. It’s impossible to think you can tackle all those within a short timeframe, so you need to prioritize realistically. You also need time to reset along with your team. Make sure you block time off your calendar to help with the reset and restart, so you avoid burning out and maintain energy.
Trust and Succession Plan
You must trust your team. If you trust them, they will trust you are moving forward in the right direction. Empower your team to make decisions and handle the process. It gives you time and energy to focus on growing the business instead of staying at a plateau. Always put a plan in place for succession. I have seen firsthand what can happen when there hasn’t been a succession plan in place, and it can hurt the business. Many things can happen to make you incapable of running your business, so if it does happen you know your team can handle it.
Team of Experts
You want to make sure you have experts when bumps in the road happen. You want to build relationships with the following professionals: lawyer, CPA, financial advisor, mentors, small circle of trusted advisors, and a banker. These individuals will help guide you in the right direction.
Is running a business difficult? Yes! Will you make mistakes? Yes! But those mistakes help you learn and grow. I always tell my team if it weren’t for this mistake or that mistake, we would be stuck in the hamster wheel.
Are you ready to get started? Download the small business checklist so you don’t miss a step.