The number 1 challenge for small business owners may well be burnout. You wear too many hats and work too many hours. The smaller the company, the worse the problem increasing the odds of failure every day. You were fresh and inspired when you launched your company. Meticulous about the appearance, cleanliness and customer satisfaction. Now, anything short of the roof falling-in takes a backseat to the crisis of just keeping-up. Dirt, grime, outdated signage, filthy restrooms, torn upholstery, burnt-out lighting, bad background music and unreliable HVAC are some of the telltale signs of a struggling small business. These are all symptoms of a much larger problem, bad management. You may be a great person but you cannot be a good manager if your business looks like this.
How do I overcome this? Start with evaluation.
- Employees: Do they appear well-trained, capable, motivated, punctual and engaged? Probably not. If you are overwhelmed in your role they do not respect you and take advantage of your predicament. Don’t confuse a friendly demeanor with respect. The two are unrelated. They are relying on you being too overwhelmed to risk losing them over poor performance so they put in a minimal effort.
- Finances: Are you current with your financial obligations? Do you have sufficient cashflow to meet short-term and long-term needs? Can you afford repairs, upkeep and improvements? Are you current on your state and federal tax obligations? Are you fully insured?
- Products/Services: Everything has an expiration date. Are you catering to a dying industry? Do your products lag behind current trends? Are your customers aging out of the marketplace?
- Location: For street side businesses this remains the largest determining factor for success. You may want to consult a commercial real estate broker to answer this question with certainty.
- Media/Advertising: This category is bigger, more complex and more competitive than ever. The most common mistake usually sounds like “Oh, I’m thinking of doing a website. My niece is into all that stuff and you know young people, they’re always online.” By those standards, your local Uber driver should be qualified to race Formula 1.
- Reputation: Take a good long look at your reviews on Yelp and Google and evaluate your reputation in the marketplace.
- Business Plan: Do you have a current business plan? Do you follow it? Do you update it as needed?
- Advisory Board: Do you have one? An advisory panel of professionals meeting quarterly can help in ways you cannot imagine.
- Employees are difficult to rehabilitate. You probably need a new face. One with great supervisory skills to hold staff meetings and ride herd establishing and maintaining high standards for your workforce. Most likely, you will end up replacing the entire crew.
- Consider taking on a partner or an investor or simply a bank loan. The right partner can be a good choice if they are a good fit, will participate in the workload while agreeing on clearly defined terms of your relationship. Terms are typically the hardest part. A silent investor is another option as long as you’re not signing away your business to merely become an employee yourself. Bank loans can be difficult to get but not impossible. With some guidance from a qualified financial professional you can find capital somewhere. The devil is always in the details.
- Products and services. Talk to your customers and listen to the marketplace to see how relevant your industry is and how you are doing within this space. Always consider the average age of your clientele to determine if they are aging out. If these are problem areas weight the option of selling against adapting against closing the doors.
- A professional business plan. Nothing is more valuable than a business plan. It will define viability and when followed it will keep you in the safe zone. When the plan is ignored companies tend to fail. Some are under the misconception that these plans are only for new companies. Untrue! The better the plan the better the outcome regardless of years in business.
- Social Media is a business as deep as law, medicine or construction. It involves real training, ever-changing trends and skills, legal implications, and $$$. It’s not free, not new and not optional. You don’t need to be the expert but it is as necessary as electricity. Very, very few companies are niche enough to survive without a quality marketing and media professional.
- If you were reading these reviews would you be a customer? If you are seeing largely positive or even mixed reviews, it may be fine to rehabilitate your image. If you are suffering from one scathing review after another, you may want to consider rebranding for a fresh start. The majority of consumers make choices based upon these reviews. There is rarely a compelling reason to bail a sinking ship. A fresh start has its advantages and rebranding isn’t always a huge undertaking.
- Develop a great business plan. Be detailed and through. This is your roadmap and you will be glad if you follow it.
- An advisory board is not terribly common among small businesses but they are valuable and rarely disbanded once you try them.