Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to talk to the owners of two relatively new businesses in different parts of the country. One is a commercial cleaning company and the other is a manufacturer of specialty ice cream. The passion that these owners possess is very common among small business owners. They have invested most of what they own and decided to bet on themselves to start the business. While these two businesses could not be more different their problems were remarkably similar. What struck me even more is that these problems resonate with all small business owners regardless of the industry or age of the business.
Time: Both of the business owners told me they were exhausted just trying to keep up. It’s no wonder. When you work sixty to seventy hours week after week it is exhausting because small business owners wear many hats. They are the salesperson, the head of operations, the bookkeeper and so much more. Every one of these roles requires time and the truth is that the less skill you have in a particular area the more time it requires to get the job done. You can’t make more time so what do you do?
Some might say outsource some activities such as accounting, payroll or other routine tasks. While that is a great idea it takes cash that many businesses simply do not have. I think a better answer is to really consider everything you are doing and simply stop doing some non-essential activities. Do you really need to track all your time? Do you have to do a face-to-face meeting… or would a quick phone conference work as well? Are you overseeing the work of employees that are perfectly capable of handling a task?
Stop doing things because you have always done them and get picky about what you will or will not do.
Talent: Almost every business owner I know laments that they cannot find good talent. The cleaning company said it was hard to find people who were reliable and that turnover was an issue. The ice cream manufacturer simply hated to spend the money until the company was in better financial shape. To find good and reasonable talent I believe that we need to look outside the traditional recruitment efforts. Consider hiring an older worker who wants to find a part-time job that they love to keep them active and engaged. Use social media to get the word out if you are looking for younger workers. Ask current employees to help you find workers using their network. They are your best recruiters because they will only find good people that they want to become part of the organization.
Treasure: It seems as though this has been a constant problem for small business owners. Many fund their start-up using savings or rely on family and friends. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012 had provisions that were supposed to increase access to capital for small businesses. One of those authorized equity crowdfunding for the general public. Those final rules went into effect on May 16, 2016. I must admit that I find this topic very confusing, as do many others and businesses must be very careful if considering this as an option. To find out more you can go to https://www.sec.gov/rules/final/2015/33-9974.pdf
Whether your company is in start-up, growing from a first-stage company to a second stage company or a mature organization, the problems are real and it is just a matter of degree. Time, talent, treasure… we all understand the struggle.