When managing a small business from the ground up, it’s all too easy to be afraid of your company’s shadow. From finances to marketing, the tasks that lie ahead may be so daunting they tempt you to hibernate — but you shouldn’t. If you know what to expect and how to plan for challenges, you set yourself up to embrace challenges instead of run from them when they occur.
So with that in mind, here are five ways to prepare yourself for the impending challenges your small business will face.
1. Set Clear Goals. Every new task is daunting when it hasn’t been broken down. Knowing you need to find new customers feels overwhelming, for example, until you turn it into specific, tangible actions (create an SEO-friendly website, launch an advertising campaign, attend networking events, etc.). Rather than looking at all the aspects of running your new business as one giant mess, sit down and identify your company’s ultimate purpose (e.g., to sell computer software), and map out clear goals for achieving that — regarding marketing, finances, product inventory, hiring and so on. Then identify sub-goals for achieving those goals. When you’re finished, you will have a clear strategy for facing business challenges head on.
Tips for effective business goal-setting:
2. Prioritize. You can’t tackle all your goals at once. You can’t be everywhere at the same time. So, rather than giving up in the face of these limitations, prioritize. Look at your list of goals and figure out which is most important for each day, and why. Start with the biggest issues (e.g., generating cash flow) and work your way down (redesigning business cards).
3. Track Everything. If you set up metrics at the very beginning of your business to track expenses, costs, and time, you will save yourself a great deal of headaches in the future. As a very small business you might start tracking with spreadsheets, but as you grow it will make more sense to transfer data to software or cloud-based services that can digitize your receipts, organize expenses and so on. Eventually, when profits justify it, hire an accountant or full-time bookkeeper. One of the most important and potentially stressful aspects of running a business is managing its cash flow.
4. Get Help Where You Need It. Every successful business owner knows you have to delegate, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. According to IT Business Edge, “Most entrepreneurs don’t like to give up control of any aspect of their business. Facing the fact that they can’t do it all on their own and that they must learn to rely on others to complete certain tasks (and not necessarily exactly how they themselves would do them) can be a very hard reality to swallow.” Trying to do everything by yourself is the surest path to failure. Take a look at all your business goals — which tasks should be outsourced? Does your budget justify hiring an assistant? Do you need someone with online marketing knowledge to design your website? Will it make sense to hire a graphic designer to craft your logo, or do you truly want to try it yourself? There is no shame in knowing when to seek help — in fact, it’s one of the things that separates savvy businesspeople from the ones who throw in the towel.
5. Network and Collaborate. Even if you cannot hire outside help, find ways to work with other people. “Burnout is a very real risk for soloprenuers,” says blogger and business strategist Michele Christensen. “One of the recurring themes I come across in my work is that business owners work too hard for it to be sustainable.” Join networking groups for business owners in your area. Meet up with friends in the industry. If you find people with whom you can regularly talk shop and bounce ideas, you may find yourself not only refreshed but reinvigorated.
Put the strategy back in your small business planning by thinking through the ways you will approach challenges ahead. By outlining your goals, prioritizing, setting up tracking and metrics early on, delegating, and networking, you set yourself up for success.
Do you run a small business? If so, what aspects of management have made you want to run for cover? What advice would you give other business owners for staying afloat when things get tough?