How to overcome 10 business challenges you might not have seen coming

New entrepreneurs expect a whole raft of challenges when they start their business, but some come along quite suddenly and smack you in the face.

The good news is you’re not on your own. Many of these challenges will be common problems that all business owners face, so your friends and rivals are being confronted with the same stuff. The question is, how do you overcome them?

Those pesky cash flow problems

You’re not naive - you don’t expect instant, easy profit. You still need to keep an eye on your cash flow though, and have a business line of credit as an insurance policy in case you have any problems.

The main culprit is usually late payments. Staying on top of invoicing doesn’t guarantee they’ll get paid, but offering your customers incentives for early payment might get them to sort their invoices out a little bit faster than usual.

Managing your time, even when you feel you barely have any to manage

Poor time management can stall the growth of your business because it zaps your productivity. Automated technologies are one way to improve performance and operations - they take all the admin out of doing admin.

It’s also worth setting measurable goals for yourself and your team, rather than being overly ambitious, and planning and tracking the time you spend on each project. You’ll soon see where time’s being wasted and where you can claw it back, and it helps you identify what’s contributing to return on investment and what isn’t.

Get up from your desk

A change of scenery can be as good as a rest. Make sure you regularly leave your desk to put mental and physical space between you and your work. When you’ve been working hard and that laptop screen’s looking awfully bright, it’s good to get some space.

Talk to colleagues about something non-work related (no need to feel guilty, we all do it) or even just have coffee down the road from the office. It’s simple, but it can work wonders.

Keeping your team motivated, because you need them

Your staff are everything to your business, so you’ve got to hire cleverly and treat everyone well so they want to stick around. Staff will appreciate being recognised for their work - there’s nothing more demotivating than being ignored.

Manage performance closely to make sure people feel noticed, and reward them. Most people like flexible working and after-work drinks, so you can’t really go wrong with those.

Not being able to delegate or manage

Most small businesses are quite - well - small. It’s still really tricky to manage a small team though, because roles can be less delegated and specific. There are plenty of management consultants who’d love to charge you a fortune to identify the weak spots you can probably see for yourself.

Instead, keep communication simple, have clear team-wide goals, and learn when to delegate and who to. If you trust your team, assigning responsibility shouldn’t be an issue.

Lack of direction

Many entrepreneurs struggle to focus consistently on the main goal of their business, because they feel they have to spread their efforts out quite thinly. Your business plan is your roadmap though, and it needs to be a fairly strict guide.

Everything you and your team need to do to reach a specific goal should be on there, whether it’s short or long term.

Doing things the way they’ve always been done

Even if your startup is creating something new and exciting, your processes could still be downright old fashioned. SMEs that are struggling in a competitive market need to be especially innovative, come up with new ideas, and grow in new ways.

Analyse every step of your sales, service or supply chain process and find the weaknesses, delays, and high costs. Focus on one area at once, and you’ll start seeing costs cut and profits increase.

Retaining clients

Holding on to existing clients can be pretty stressful, and it can take a lot of energy and resources to try and please them.

A good approach is maintaining whatever attracted them in the first place, sticking to your unique selling point, and being willing to adjust to their needs. Being responsive, attentive, and personable also plays a big part in keeping them happy. Just be nice to work with, basically.

Broad, general marketing strategies

A scattergun approach to marketing your business will rarely work. As with most things, research, planning and evaluation always pays off. Develop an understanding of your customers, where they are online, and speak to them in their own language.

The definition of ‘high value content’ changes depending on where you market yourself, there’s no one-size-fits-all.

Ignoring problems until it’s too late

Small businesses are less resilient than larger enterprises, and they feel cash flow problems more deeply. If you can see problems emerging, ignoring them is potentially lethal for your business.

The more advanced your cash flow reporting, the more time you’ll have to make sure your business has enough cash to see it through both hard times and busy periods.

Balancing speed and quality

There rarely comes a time in a small business’ life when growth and resources are in perfect harmony - you’re either moving too quickly to keep up, or everything feels frustratingly slow. Learning to manage a happy medium will save you and your team a lot of stress.

It’s up to the business owner to scale up without sacrificing quality, and to remember that not everything can be managed personally.

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