Small business owners deal with all kinds of challenges. That’s the other side of entrepreneurship: You get to be your own boss, but a myriad of issues will now fall into your lap. That goes for external matters (dealing with clients, sales and competition) and internal issues (professional development, hiring the right people around you).
Here are a few examples of the constant concerns that small business owners may face.
Some entrepreneurs may take the I’ll-do-everything approach, but that is unlikely to be a sustainable model. Find the right support staff, then let that staff support you. Alison Podworski examines this in a story on LinkedIn, noting that Type A personalities often encounter this issue with delegating.
“We all have one major problem: letting others take over our projects,” she explains. “But, how many of you ‘control freaks’ are feeling overwhelmed in your job? Your responsibilities continue to grow, lists get longer and frankly there’s just not enough time do everything. I’ve recently had several conversations with small business owners who have said that they are overwhelmed. They’ve gotten to a point where they have to let some of their responsibilities go. Besides running their business, they are trying to do public relations, marketing, social media, blogging and maintain their website.”
Small business owners should not tolerate this kind of behavior among employees. The last thing a customer or client should see is an employee displaying anything less than professionalism. Tia Benjamin examines the next steps in a story for Demand Media.
“Identify the unacceptable behavior that you have observed,” Benjamin writes. “List the behaviors objectively; don’t label them as immaturity, which will make the employee angry and defensive, and may prevent him from revealing any deeper issues contributing to his actions. Explain why the behavior is a problem for the organization — for example, it has a negative effect on customer perception and trust. Tell the employee that if the behavior is not corrected, he will be subject to discipline and even discharge.”
Competition is everywhere, and a smart entrepreneur will analyze all facets of that before launching a business. Once it’s up and running, the best bet is to stay professional in dealing with the competition. As Mike Kappel writes for Entrepreneur.com, “Don’t play dirty.”
“There’s no reason we can’t get along,” he explains. “Competing businesses can actually co-exist within a community and even cooperate on occasion. Even when a competitor pulls a dirty trick, like stealing your customer list, don’t retaliate. If your competitor is willing to stoop that low, chances are that customer service is not their top priority. Your customers will come back once they realize their mistake. Just take the high road with competitors.”
If a small business owner notices a sudden decrease in sales, it’s not time to panic. It’s time to take on the challenge, and analyze ways to turn it around. As Caron Beesley writes for the U.S. Small Business Administration, when customers start abandoning your business, the next step is to review the business strategy.
“There has to be a reason why they are leaving your business,” Beesley says. “Identify what your customers are seeking that you aren’t able to provide. This will involve looking at all areas of your business — your location, your products, your staff, your brand, and so on. Use this information to refocus your operations based on what your customers need, not on what the competition is doing. If your customers appreciate your services and need your products, they will typically remain loyal. Yes, many will check out the competition. But if you are doing everything right, there’s a good chance they will come back to you.”
Low Energy and Effort
It’s inevitable that business owners will face less-than-motivated employees. Train them all you want, but as Jeff Haden writes for Inc.com, “You can’t train enthusiasm.”
“When in doubt, hire for attitude,” he writes. “You can train almost any skill, but it’s nearly impossible to train attitude. See the candidate who lacks certain hard skills as a cause for concern, but see the candidate who lacks interpersonal skills and enthusiasm as a giant red flag.”
The Prospect of Change
Keep an open mind. That can go for relationships with clients, employees and advisers. If an idea didn’t originate from the small business owner, that’s OK. A good idea is a good idea. David K. Williams explores this concept for Forbes.
“Opening up your mind to new ideas allows you to the opportunity to change what you think and how you view the world,” he says. “Now, this doesn’t mean you necessarily will change your beliefs — in fact, the process may actually reinforce your current beliefs more strongly — but thinking with an open mind gives you the option of creating positive change and stronger results.”
Let’s say a small business owner is an immediate success. Customers, employees and community members all sing his or her praises. An ideal scenario, sure, as long as the owner stays grounded. Those who develop a sense of arrogance may find that it is detrimental to continued success. Guy Winch lists several signs of arrogance in business leaders in a story for Psychology Today, including low self-esteem, incompetence and being unwilling to tackle their weaknesses. Here are five ways that Winch says this can hurt the business:
- “They make subordinates feel helpless and unappreciated.”
- “They do not mentor junior colleagues and they lack ‘good citizen’ behaviors.”
- “They do not motivate their teams.”
- “They create a poisonous workplace environment.”
- “They impede the effective functioning of the organization.”
A sour office scene makes for unhappy employees. Make an effort to have fun in the office now and then. Not that you’ll turn a software company into Chuck E. Cheese’s, but the occasional outing or gesture can lighten the mood and give employees a boost. Jay Steinfeld, CEO of Blinds.com, explores some ideas in a story for Inc.com. Examples include making the office more colorful, keeping games around for a diversion and throwing office parties. One that could be particularly fun — a “decorate your area” contest.
“Give each employee a nominal decorating allowance and challenge each employee to decorate on a theme,” Steinfeld explains. “Or encourage departments to develop an overall theme: Our customer-service department hangs extreme sports equipment from the ceiling — reminding us all that we go to extremes for our customers. Our accounting department chose a pirate theme, since they’re always looking for buried treasure.”Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community