The financial snapshot of a small business usually reveals no deep pockets, no angel investor hovering in the corner, waiting to help out. Running a small business is the simple tug-of-war between passion to be the one in charge; to create a product or expertly deliver a service; to offer knowledge or skill to the benefit of paying clients without micromanagement of a boss. To do things on your terms. The passion must outweigh the obstacles for the venture to succeed.
What obstacles do most small business operators face?
1. Employee retention. How to find, hire and retain the top talent? Small business owners can't always compete with the benefits packages, vacation allotments and retirement options that larger corporations can afford. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a rising national quit rate. Without doling out costly raises, how do you keep your best employees?
A staffing and recruiting company in Chicago says workplace culture is an answer. Find perks that don't stretch your budget in unreasonable ways. Offer flexibility in scheduling, get to know your employees' strengths and tailor their job around those strengths, offer a positive, supportive culture to nurture happy employees. Money is not always the number one motivator. Work to discover what motivates your best employees.
2. Marketing expertise/direction/budget. Every small business owner must learn to craft a marketing plan and devise a budget to support the plan. Mine your community for free resources for small businesses such as seminars, free consulting services and college interns and mine the internet for ideas on stretching your marketing budget.
3. Access to the best technology. Budget constraints affect all areas of operation when you're running a small business. How do you put technology to good use when you can't afford to invest in the best? Look to the cloud. Experts suggest reducing the amount of hardware in favor of moving your IT infrastructure to the cloud.
Going mobile is also a "must," according to experts. "Mobile solutions account for a growing share of small business technology budgets when we compare findings over the past four years," says analyst Laurie McCabe of SMB Group. When looking at how to structure your technology budget, mobile solutions emerge as investment worthy.
4. Financing. Bank loans for small businesses have rebounded in the past months. A stronger economy points to easier access to funds. But if you're mired in loan applications and paperwork, look to other options for funds. Over 20 percent of small businesses have looked to online lending options, favoring smaller and shorter-term loans, cash advance options and overall faster access to increasing cash flow than they can find through traditional lending.
Time management. Do you have time for a time management class? Chances are you're devoting more than a 40-hour work week toward growing or running your small business. Many articles on time management suggest starting each day as a planning session. Prioritize tasks for the day, write a reasonable, achievable to-do list. During your day schedule and adhere to uninterrupted time to get things done, but also plan for interruptions.
Balance for small business owners is crucial. In addition to scheduling your workday, schedule in time off to engage with your friends, family and in activities you enjoy. Take vacations, indulge in hobbies and make yourself a priority.
Embarking on self employment and small business ownership is a step that requires dedication, knowledge and resources. Going into the game knowing what struggles may come gives you an advantage--and every advantage helps!