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5 challenges of running a small business - and how to overcome them

Written by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce | 26 Nov 2019

Running a small business can be incredibly rewarding. In the early days, every step is celebrated; the launch of your product or service, your website going live, your first paying customer, your first hire. And as you continue to raise your profile and expand your customer base, the more fulfilling it becomes.

But running a small business is far from easy. There are common challenges felt by small business owners across the country, from staffing issues to balancing quality and growth, to staying passionate about what you do. But how do you overcome these challenges?

1. Hiring new talent

Never has there been a time where companies have found it so hard to find the people they need to grow and succeed. The skills gap and the tightening job market is putting increasing pressure on businesses to attract the most valuable talent.

Hiring new talent can be particularly stressful for small business owners, who are likely to feel under-resourced in the first place. This can sometimes lead to quick, short-term decisions that aren’t always right for the business in the long-term. Then there’s the cost of hiring - and subsequently onboarding - new employees. And this is all before you’ve even talked about salary.

To attract the best talent, you need to be a company that people want to work for. This starts with treating your current staff well so that they become advocates for your business. Investing in culture is also key, as for many people, particularly younger generations, culture is a primary factor in choosing a company to work for. Flexible working options, a focus on health and wellbeing, as well as feedback and development, are all key things your culture needs to get right to attract people to your business (and retain them).

If you haven’t already, why not also sign up to networking events or groups in the local area? This will help you to raise the profile of your business in your area which could lead you to connect with local talent.

2. Retaining staff

In many small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, there is a tendency to depend on one or two people to carry out 80% of the work. But what happens if one of those employees leaves? The impact will be huge.

Retaining quality employees is crucial to the success of your small business. There will always be things you can’t avoid, like employees going on maternity leave or relocating to a different area. But taking care of your employees is crucial for ensuring that your best workers continue to work for you, not your competition. Be sure to show your staff that they are valued and appreciated. Show them you trust them by giving them more responsibility, show them you value their personal growth by providing opportunities for learning and development. Cultivating an environment that people want to work in, offering support and regular salary increases are also important for retaining your staff.

3. Balancing quality and growth

Often, small business owners find themselves stuck in a tug of war between delivering the best experience possible to retain their current customers and carving out time to grow the business. But at some point, all businesses have to shift their focus onto growth. The predicament is in how you do so without sacrificing the qualities you’ve worked so hard to put into place?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer. As a business owner, it’s impossible to put 100% of your effort into both at the same time. This is why it’s important to let go of things and hand responsibility over to others as your business grows. It might be that you can’t personally manage every client relationship or inspect every detail of a new product. The key is to find a way to navigate that path without hurting your business.

4. Staying passionate

The chances are you didn’t get your business to where it is today without being passionate about it. But it’s only natural that the hours, the work, and the constant pressure to maintain and grow the business will get to you at times.

To help you through the daily grind and stressful moments, maintaining that passion is crucial. Otherwise, the quality of your product or service will suffer, it will be felt by your customers, and they’ll go elsewhere.

5. Being 'on your own'

As a small business owner, you have full control of everything that happens in your company; you have the final say on all decisions, you provide the direction for the company, and the working lives of your staff are in your hands. But it’s impossible to know everything and it can sometimes feel lonely, running a small business. You may not know the right step to take next, how to boost morale or how to handle an HR issue. Sometimes it might just feel like you need another opinion, someone to advise and give a fresh perspective.

The first step in overcoming this is making sure you have a great team around you that you can rely on to help guide you in the right direction. Having a team of people that you can trust, who can offer their expertise or just an ear, can be transformative.

You might find value in connecting with other like-minded business owners in your local area, as they’ll understand the challenges you face and you may even learn from them. Networking events can be a great way to connect with other business leaders in a friendly and welcoming environment.

At the Chamber, we believe that businesses work better together and that you don’t have to run your business on your own. By becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce you’ll have access to networking events in your area, helping you to build your peer network and foster meaningful relationships. Plus our extensive knowledge of local business means we’re a trusted source of support and advice for growing companies like yours.

Becoming a Chamber member

Attracting and retaining valuable staff members, juggling the day-to-day management of the business with growth ambitions, and remaining passionate about what you do under all this pressure, are challenges that are felt by small businesses across the country. At times it can also feel like a big weight, doing it on your own. It’s not uncommon for business owners to feel like they need additional support or advice to help propel them forward.

At the Chamber, we offer a range of benefits to support you, as a business owner, and to help you recruit and retain the right people with the right skills.

Bedfordshire Business Manifesto 2019/20

Topics: small business

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