What is the single biggest problem you face as a small business owner?
Over the holiday weekend, I asked this question to a few of my fellow small business owner friends and here are the three most common answers.
1. Not enough customers.
What are you doing today to bring new customers to your small business? Seriously. Start tracking every effort to market your business whether it is your monthly networking breakfast, that hour per night you spend on Pinterest or optimizing and promoting and your new blog. Quantify it and come up with a rough cost per new customer for a given period. New customers are the cornerstone of new revenue that puts you in charge of your decisions. More revenue makes it easier to make advertising decisions. Now perhaps you can afford to pay for a phone list of the neighborhood where you just spent all that money on that 5×7 mailer. Maybe you can even afford to pay someone $10 an hour to telemarket for you with an optimal script. Turn those leads into enough revenue to buy a bigger list. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Takeaway: If you are reading this blog, you are quite likely the best possible Brand Ambassador for your small business. Work it like it’s your job.
2. Not enough good help.
This rings true for every small business to some degree unless you’re a sole proprietor and lone employee. We aren’t all lucky enough to find interns or apprentices that come free or at a discount and have the added bonus of usually being quite eager and industry specific.
If you can’t really afford a paid channel, the options beyond word of mouth aren’t as slim as you may think. Craigslist ads might cast the biggest net, but we all know what kind of time it takes to sift through 50 to get 1 maybe. Indeed, Job Seeker, CareerBuilder aren’t cheap, but may be the best approach if you need folks now. One alternative we’ve found successful is reaching out to local colleges (squeeze your connections who are alumni) to see if you can get some real estate on a job board specific to your industry. Alternatively, if your website gets a good amount of traffic, why not make a quick Jobs page with a concise description of areas in which you need help? (When you’re not hiring, just switch this up a little so it is vague enough to convey that there are no open positions.) Track how many visitors the page gets. Post a link to it on your Social Media channels. Put a $5 targeted boost on the Facebook post and ask your friends to spread the word.
Takeaway: Stop dreaming about another “you” walking in the door with his or her resume. (And if it does, don’t talk about it!)
3. Not enough money to fund any growth.
This goes right back to number 1. Borrowing can be a slippery slope, especially if you make any moves tainted with desperation. You have an operating budget. Rewrite it. Find ways to make forecastable cuts and use them to fund a new expense: Growth Strategy.Develop a plan on how to best use that money by attaching a detailed Growth Strategy to every dollar. Whether it is investing more money or time into your website’s content, your website’s SEO, your business’s off-page SEO or any other marketing avenues, track your actions and your directly associated results to come up with a real ROI. I guarantee more customers will result, followed by more revenue to sponsor growth.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of your P&L. No matter how much you hate those numbers, think of it as an opportunity to improve your business every time you recrunch them. There might be a Gamechanging idea hidden in there somewhere.
I hope you appreciate my unscientific survey. I find immense pleasure in talking to other small business owners to hear about their challenges because some of them are my challenges. Or were.
As always, I appreciate any comments or insights. We’re all learning.