It took guts, but you finally started your own small business. Now, it's going to take grit to keep it going.
Starting a business is no easy task, and if everything is going normally, you're likely feeling beset on all sides by significant challenges. Guidant Financial, which helps people finance small businesses and franchises, and LendingClub, a U.S. peer-to-peer lending company, surveyed more than 2,600 current business and would-be business owners across the country to discover the most common problems entrepreneurs face.
Not surprisingly, certain commonalities quickly emerged. The top three hurdles were a lack of capital, difficulty marketing, and struggles with time management. Fortunately, plenty of entrepreneurs have gone through the same issues before you, so you can glean advice from others rather than reinventing the wheel.
To overcome these common challenges and create a successful business, start by being honest with yourself about your business's struggles in these three areas.
Challenge #1: Your marketing and communications plan isn't focused.
Marketing and communications has a steep learning curve. While 95 percent of small business owners are tackling some of it themselves, only 46 percent would call themselves savvy marketers, according to Constant Contact. For those with the budget for it, a paid marketing strategy--working with influencers, launching a Google Ads campaign, etc.--can provide a significant boost to revenue. Of course, if you can afford paid marketing, it might be best to hire an actual marketer rather than making your own title even longer.
Even if an outsourced marketing manager isn't in the cards just yet, you'll want to start with the cheapest strategies you can put in place yourself.
Creating social media pages is a great place for a new business to start. Instead of getting your business on every platform (a daunting task), stick with the ones that are most relevant to your audience. Make sure to deliver content in the format your audience expects whether that's written, video or podcasts.
Challenge #2: You're overspending on talent.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you're probably not as well-funded as you'd like to be. You've heard the saying "It takes money to make money," and that never seems as true as it does when you're staring a growing list of bills in the face and you haven't even gotten around to payroll yet. Consider meeting some or all of your needs by outsourcing.
Outsourcing has some big advantages over hiring a full-time employee, and the first is the savings. Keeping people on salary gets expensive, and you're paying them whether or not you truly need their services that week. Hiring a freelancer means you only pay for the help you need when you need it, and as many freelancers work remotely, you can hire from a labor pool that includes talent from all over the world.
No matter what aspect of your business you decide to outsource, Michael Burdick, founder and CEO of Paro, a firm focused on accelerating the freelance economy, points out that when your freelancers feel well-connected to your company, they'll likely be happier and more productive. He elaborates: "Try to stay in regular touch even during downtime; the freelancer will appreciate the contact." Keep this advice in mind to make sure your outsourced team members feel like a part of your team.
Challenge #3: You're leaving time on the table.
Of course, managing social media pages, writing blog posts, and producing podcasts all take time, which brings us to our third challenge: There are only so many hours in the day, and you have a business to run. Small business owners are struggling to find the time to get everything done.
Fortunately, you can use technology and tools to cut down the amount of time spent on tasks. Utilize tools-like HubSpot's customer feedback software-that perform these tasks automatically. They'll be far more efficient and just as effective.
How you prioritize your time also makes a huge difference. You have the hours you need to do what's necessary for your business-you just have to know where to look for them. For instance, David Disiere, founder and CEO of QEO Insurance Group, describes how he makes time for one of his priorities, reading books: "Those few minutes between meetings or in waiting rooms are excellent times to sneak in a few pages. Instead of reaching for your phone to scroll through Twitter, grab a book." Take this same approach to reclaim otherwise squandered time for those tasks you never seem to complete.
It's probably not surprising that being an entrepreneur or small business owner is a challenge. After all, if it were easy, everyone would do it. The good news is many people have gone before you, leaving behind a blueprint for how to overcome these common struggles. Use it to gain insights that can help turn your new business into a lasting success.