Common challenges facing entrepreneurs and small business owners

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners will know that building and successfully running a business can be one of the most challenging, rewarding, exhausting and satisfying ventures you could ever take on. Starting and building a business creates a number of challenges that could derail operations, staff morale, or impact market success.

Through our partnership with AusIndustry to deliver the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme, we have worked with over 1000 small and medium businesses since 2015 via a network of skilled business advisors and facilitators operating around the country. The insights below present some of the lesser-known issues you should think about when starting your own business.

Team building

How do I find – and keep – smart and talented individuals in my business? How will I motivate my staff to help my business succeed?

Picking the right team for a new or already established business can be stressful and difficult. Factors such as cost, skills and capabilities, as well as cultural fit all need to be considered during the workforce planning and recruitment stage.

In order to build and maintain a high performing and cohesive team, entrepreneurs and small business owners should:

  • Look for the right “cultural fit”. You can teach skills and capabilities, but you can’t teach a positive and inclusive attitude. When recruiting, search for candidates that demonstrate a positive and proactive approach to their work. Extend your search to social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You may be able to reach a broader pool of candidates! By recruiting staff that demonstrate collegiate and collaborative behaviours, you will be able to create a more positive culture within your business. As a result, you will find you have a more exciting environment, and your staff will be more motivated and passionate about what they do.
  • Create a framework to guide activities and behaviours. A framework – or a system – outlining expectations around work, engagement, activities and behaviours will ensure that staff understand how their role contributes to the overall business vision. This framework could be as simple as an on-boarding process for new starters, or weekly meetings discussing activities and any new challenges. This framework will allow you to define and refine the “business vision” and hold staff accountable where activities and actions don’t align to overall objectives.
Problem solving

Most start-ups and new businesses often run in constant “crisis mode”. Each new day brings challenges that often need immediate resolution. What happens if my staff don’t turn up? What do I do if my suppliers haven’t delivered my product? How do I put together a compelling and effective marketing campaign?

To ensure you manage challenges as they arise with a proactive and long-term approach, you could consider:

  • Developing a decision-making framework. One of the first things you should do in your business is define a set of principles that will guide your actions and decisions. For example, your business may decide that it will not pursue opportunities that generate a commercial return below a specific number. Or, your business may focus on growing its presence in a particular market, so will take on new opportunities related to this market. These types of principles will guide decision making and provide your team with more clarity around the purpose and vision of your business.
  • Make a decision and back yourself. When running a small business, you often need to back yourself and “go with your gut”. Remember that you have achieved a lot with your knowledge and experience, so when faced with a series of problems that need to be solved – make a decision and back yourself. Saying that, you need to be open-minded and flexible enough to change your mind if required!
Cashflow and financial management

Cashflow is one of the most critical components of success for small business. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners find that generating smooth cashflow can be difficult. Businesses that do not exercise good cashflow management may not be able to make the investments they need to grow, pay their suppliers or staff, or they might have trouble borrowing money to invest back in the business.

In order to strengthen the cashflow in your business, you could consider:

  • Reviewing your payment terms and following up on overdue accounts. Increasing cashflow through shortening your receivables period may be a good long-term strategy to strengthen your cashflow. Enforcing payment discipline should be a core component of your payables operations. This might also increase the level of contact you have with your customers – which may also improve your customer service!
  • Looking at potentially reducing your overheads. There may be some ways you can reduce your costs such as unnecessary power or water costs. For example, there may be ways in which you can turn off or reduce power on the weekends, or roster staff in an efficient way (without diluting operations or customer service). Another alternative is relocating your office space to a location with reduced rent and power costs. However, these decisions should be made by putting the needs of your customer, and staff first.

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