The Challenges Facing SME’s

The world of business is changing rapidly and it can be a real struggle to keep up to date with the latest trends and developments to attract and maintain your existing customers.  A business needs to continuously adapt to new marketing channels, in particular the ever growing online market that is expanding at an incredible rate.  Most businesses can now tap into a global customer base for selling or gaining an insight into buying trends.  Never before has a business owner been able to access so much useful information while at the same time experiencing confusion by the speed of change.

One side effect of these rapid changes and growth I see as a business mentor is that no business owner can be an expert in everything. This has always been the case, but it has never been more apparent.

Here are a few of the challenges facing business owners that with the help of a business mentor can be overcome.

Increased Selection & Competition

It’s never been easier to start a business. Gone are the days when it took weeks, months, and a myriad of forms to get your business started. Now if you can buy a domain name and register your business online, you’re in business. However, staying in business is a much more complicated matter.  While business expertise was once an expensive and time consuming endeavour, you can now find experts online for many questions that you might encounter.  There is help to starting an online store, for example, for getting business cards and marketing materials all at a very reasonable cost.  The ease of starting a business creates a much broader level of competition.  You might find different business competing for each product you sell and new business that focus on a single item and spend all their time and focus on being the very best at just one thing.  This increase in overall selection and more focused on quality and customer service will make it more difficult for businesses of all sizes to retain customers who can change their suppliers with the click of a mouse.  It’s a battle of perception, focus, and marketing. Business owners who master these elements and provide a great customer experience will win the sale and the loyalty of the customer.

Marketing & Customer Loyalty

Along the same lines as increased selection and competition is the challenge to market to potential customers effectively and retain your existing customers. Technological developments such as phones, social media, texting, email, Facebook etc are making it easy for businesses and individuals to get their business message out there.  Figuring out the right marketing channels is vital for businesses to be successful.  Where are your customers and how do you best reach them and what is the right messaging?  Once you get a new customer, how do you keep these customers when they are constantly barraged by competitors of all types, sizes, and locations, trying to convince them that they can do it better or provide it cheaper?  Identifying what your customers want and doing a better job of giving it to them will make all the difference in your company’s future.  Business owners need to spend more time figuring out how to go above and beyond to keep existing customers, while at the same time figuring out how to cost-effectively reach new customers without competing solely on price, which always ends up to be a race to the bottom.

Employing The Right Talent

Without exception, every business I speak to says that one of their biggest challenges is staff and in particular finding the right staff, retaining them, and ensuring they buy into the vision of the business.   A small business is almost like a family, and like many families, they can work well, or they can be dysfunctional. In a small business, the main staffing challenge is personalities and skill.  When you work in a small environment, each team member’s personality can have a huge impact on the harmony and productivity of the business. The key is to learn how to deal with different personalities, figure out what drives each individual team member and tailor your management accordingly.  Many business owners struggle to find the right person to fit in with the right skills for their business.   Because of changing technology, businesses are struggling to find qualified workers with IT skills, problem solving abilities, and deductive reasoning skills.

Fatigue

It’s tempting to try to do everything if you’re a small business owner with long working hours resulting in added pressure. Fatigue, one of the most commonly overlooked small business challenges, can leave you disorganised, forgetful and cranky, not paying as much attention to clients as you should, and making mistakes.

Business owners have to pace themselves, which includes embracing strategic delegation, something that for any highly motivated individual isn’t an easy task. Start by identifying business elements that don’t require your expertise, such as mailing, and take on an assistant, even part-time, to help out. After all, it’s an investment that frees you up to do what you do best!

It’s important to get on top of these things, because taking time out is critical for your health and wellbeing.  Get into the habit of segmenting your day by analysing when and how you work best, the time you’d like to put into leisure or family and create schedules that identify key activities and how long they’re likely to take.

No Direction Or Planning

This problem prevails because of not creating a thorough and detailed business plan. Many new business owners are so excited about setting up their very own business that they fail to prepare a proper business plan. It helps in focusing on the goals and mission of the business. It determines the financial situation of the business, the road map to follow, market research and analysis of the competition. A business plan is basically a long term investment in your business.

Working On Your Business

It is a very common theme for business owners to be busy working in the business and spend little time working on the business!  Business owners can get consumed by paperwork, satisfying customers and doing all the necessary things in keeping the business running. They fail to fulfill some other equally crucial tasks. It is important that you take a day or even a few hours to analyze your business. Determine which area needs attention, do an inventory review, review cash flow of your business, review social media analytics and customer analysis.

Innovation

Unfortunately, there are many new businesses that stick to the age old book rules. They don’t try to create an innovative culture and even big businesses sometimes struggle with innovation. People get accustomed to the work culture and they don’t think outside the box. Business owner can sometimes stay away from change and resist whatever changes that take place in the business. The best thing to do is to be open to innovation. When bringing a change, sit down and plan how you will implement that change and carry out a SWOT analysis to keep you focused.

Running Solo

Coping with everything alone is also one of the most common mistake new business owners make. They believe that they can manage everything and don’t need any advice or help form anyone. Initially, they do seem to be successful in this strategy as the cost is low since they handle everything. However, as the work starts growing gradually, the workload takes a toll on the business owner. Mistakes start being made and the quality of work starts decreasing. Sometimes it can result in losing customers. This is why this strategy is not successful in the long run. Hiring two to three employees is more beneficial for a start up business. It is better to pay a small amount to your workers than lose double the amount in the future.

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