Despite your big dreams of entrepreneurship – despite all you did to raise the capital, to attract the talent, to increase visibility and to build a strong and successful business – it looks like your business is failing. Like it or not, it’s probably your fault.
Though sometimes businesses fail due to genuinely chaotic market forces, more often, businesses fail because their owners and leaders didn’t act correctly in various respects. It is possible to salvage your business, but first, you need to recognize exactly how you are failing in your responsibilities.
You Have the Wrong Expectations for Your Business
Every entrepreneur has dreams of making it big – of making it so big, that they earn a spot on the Forbes’ World Billionaires List. They fantasize about their business being a household name, about cultivating prestige and profits with unprecedented ease, about building a business so successful that its strategies are studied for years to come. Of course, these dreams rarely come true, but that doesn’t stop many young entrepreneurs from believing they might.
If you impose these expectations or other similarly lofty hopes on your business, you will be focusing on the wrong goals and driving your startup toward failure. Instead of pursuing some difficult-to-explain concept of wealth and success, you should set more reachable goals. Success looks different at different stages of business growth.
You Don’t Have Any Leadership Experience
You might be the only leadership your small business currently has. Fortunately, that gives you more direct control of your workforce; unfortunately, it means you are directly responsible for their successes and failures. If you don’t know how to function as a leader, you are likely leading your businesses to rock bottom.
This is one of the easiest problems for entrepreneurs to fix. You can find opportunities to bolster your leadership experience everywhere. For one, you can return to school to pursue a degree that explicitly prepares future leaders for their roles; you might consider an MBA or something more specific like an education administration degree, depending on your business’s industry. You can also join clubs or groups to practice your leadership skill or try to apply leadership lessons in your social life.
You Don’t Know Anything (or Enough) About Your Competition
No business exists in a vacuum. The businesses around and adjacent to yours impact your ability to find success, so it is critical that you understand your market and your competition well before you launch your startup. How your competitors operate might influence your business strategy, driving you toward a niche or away from a specific marketing tactic.
If your business is flagging, it might be the result of insufficient research. Fortunately, you haven’t missed your only opportunity; you can still perform market research and benefit from its insights. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to performing adequate research on your competition:
- Determine what you want to know. This will target your search and give you deeper insights into the areas of business you are most concerned with.
- Use research tools to cut costs. Your local small business development center and the SBA offer help in developing customer surveys that can provide information at low cost.
- Hire a consultant to help research. If you aren’t skilled at market research, you should invest in someone who is.
You Are Kind of a Wuss
Entrepreneurship isn’t for pansies. Risk is laced into every business decision; you risk your investments, your profits, your time and your energy any time you move your business in any direction. Business leadership necessitates risk-taking, so if you are paralyzed by the idea of risk, you might need to find a new profession.
It is possible to become more comfortable with taking risks. First, you should strive to learn as much as possible about risks associated with different courses of action. This gives you greater insight into less risky decisions and allows you to plan responses should certain risks impact your business. It is also beneficial for risk-averse people to partner with risk-takers; these personality types tend to bring balance to a business and build success.
You Aren’t Interested in What Others Have to Say
You started your business, but you likely aren’t the only person affected by its successes and failures. You may be the business’s founder and owner, but you aren’t the only one with business experience and valuable ideas. However, too many entrepreneurs ignore the thoughts and opinions of those around them, believing themselves the only ones knowledgeable or skilled enough to solve problems.
By listening to those around you, you might sooner recognize threats to your business’s productivity, efficiency and success, giving you more opportunities to overcome risks and thrive. Perhaps the most important skill to a leader is the ability to listen, and you should apply this skill as often as possible – especially if your business is showing signs of failure.
- Book Review: Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
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- Risking to Win: How to Improve Performance by Taking Risks
- Growing Your Business by Outsourcing to Freelance Marketplaces
- Project Management Best Practices