Have you ever wondered, “Why do so many entrepreneurs work so hard and are usually stressed?”
Maybe you’re experiencing some of this yourself?
Do you ever ask yourself, “Why is it so hard to run a business?”
No success story seems to have come easy. In fact, for many entrepreneurs, life can be so challenging, sometimes it’s tempting to just get a job! Why is that the case?
We’ve been asking our clients the same thing and to help them and below are what we aim to cover in this article:
- The 5 Most Common and Biggest Business Problems faced by entrepreneurs?
- Tips on Growth Strategies for large and small businesses alike
- Why there’s no easy and quick fix to one of the most common questions “How to Grow My Business?” BUT how getting it right means that 100% growth spurts are achievable for even part-progress on the right track!
It’s very rare to hear about an entrepreneur who didn’t find challenges in growing and running their business. In working very closely with over 130 different businesses from agriculture, financial services, technology, property, logistics, cyber security, physical security, health, nutrition, professional services and many more, you may be surprised to hear that businesses of all different shapes and sizes face very similar challenges. In this blog post, we’ll cover the Top 5 Problems faced by Entrepreneurs and Business Owners.
The surprising thing is that fundamental problems remain similar whether a business turns over $100,000 per year or $10BN per year. These aren’t the only challenges businesses face, but in working with a wide variety of businesses primarily as close “Right-Hand” Advisers and Business Strategy Consultants; we’d almost need to be completely blind not to notice the patterns.
We’ve been really fortunate to work with some amazing businesses and entrepreneurs, from micro start-ups to corporate-funded start-ups. Where the business owners literally put the business on their credit card, live with their parents and work from home; or start-ups who have gained investment of $40m+ in capital and need to satisfy their shareholders.
On the other end of the scale, we’ve worked with businesses that are mature and have been in the family for 30-40 years; and publicly listed companies that are over 180 years old.
From teenagers running web-based businesses to BRW billionaires in Australia and super high-net-wealth entrepreneurs overseas – we have gained priceless insights into business challenges around the world. The mind-blowing thing is, although the type of business, industry, location, ownership structure or personality of the CEO may all be different; there are common patterns which are VERY similar when it comes to fundamentals!
This is good news, because finding patterns allows for accelerated learning, which helps avoid costly trial and error. The bad news is, 90% of the success depends on implementation. Knowing what to do doesn’t make doing it any easier, but it can make it a lot simpler.
So here are the 5 main challenges we’ve found to be common across businesses. Note: These are not the only problems faced; they are just the most common ones that every single business we’ve worked with has encountered. Yes, that’s right… every single one has struggled in one or more of the problem areas listed and zero have escaped!
The 5 problem areas are:
- How to get more customers or how to increase sales with existing customers
- How to hire, manage, train and retain staff
- Financial challenges – How to gain control of business finances
- Business strategy – What is it? How is it done? How to build a good strategy?
- Leadership – How to become a better CEO & become a better leader?
Unless you’re planning on staying small, it’s highly unlikely that you’d have all of these areas under control for very long. What you can do is improve these areas in a way that won’t have you dying from stress on a daily basis and actually make running your business more enjoyable!
Let’s understand these issues so we can minimize them.
1. Sales – How to Get More Customers or How To Increase Sales
This had to be one of them, right?
Absolutely. Even though a business may be killing it, the moment they start to grow and put more staff on, invest in their infrastructure or systems, enter new markets, or basically just spend money; the requirement to sell more becomes a top priority to cover the added overheads.
Why can it be difficult to get more customers or increase sales to current customers?
Well, there are two parts, which are separate, but highly connected, that entrepreneurs often miss.
Attracting customers (Marketing) requires addressing the fundamental strategic aspects as well as some heavy technical aspects. Let’s take content marketing through social media for example.
- The “Strategic” aspects you’ll need to focus on can include:
- Content creation
- Deciding on your target market
- How you’re going to promote and how you’re going to convert a customer.
Then there is the technical aspect:
- How do I upload and share content to social media?
- How do I create and manage social media ads?
- Where do I store leads and how do they flow on to the sales team?
- How do I track analytics and customer behaviours?
2. The bulk of the detail is in “Implementation”, and it’s hard to know how everything works, so a lot of ‘fiddly’ time is spent figuring things out.Without getting the strategic part right, it can be really easy to burn a lot of energy on something that leads you down the wrong track, wasting a lot of time, and getting little results. Without good implementation, the best strategies in the world are absolutely worthless!
Next, we come to making the transaction (Sales). This is where your customer pays you and as a result, funds land in your bank account.
We can address sales in three parts:
- First, you need to address the Science of Sales
- Then, there is The Art of Sales, which directly impacts customer experience and
- Lastly, be able to Lead, Teach and Inspire a team to sell and hit targets (If you have a team or want to build one).
We once had a client who wanted to build a sales team, but no sales staff member would stick for more than 3 months. Some people would leave within one week! Our client thought they might have just sucked at hiring, so they got us to hire a team for them. We used a thorough process to build a team, but guess what? Within 3 months, the entire team were all gone again. We stopped the hiring and firing process, took a step back and looked under the bonnet to figure out what was wrong.
What did we find? Absolutely no sales plan or strategy at all!
The ‘science’ behind selling was incomplete. What initially looked like a “people” problem, or a “hiring” problem turned out to be something completely different. There were over a dozen ’causes’ that were creating symptoms clouding the real issue. To give a few examples
- It became quickly evident that an unclear sales process was confusing sales staff.
- Missing documents and marketing material caused sales staff to stumble, especially when customers were interested. By the time documents were developed, the opportunities were missed.
- Vague expectations on roles, responsibilities and KPI’s. This created role crossovers, gaps, and confusion about who is responsible for delivering outcomes.
- The business’ message and value proposition were so hard to understand, that it didn’t just confuse customers, but their own team as well!
- Poor leadership
- No training
- Poor culture
- And the list goes on…
Here is a short tip on sales From my book, “100 Business Insights”
Selling is not just an art – you need to develop a structured sales plan.
People often associate sales with smooth talkers, people who have the
gift of the gab, and people who are charismatic. Truthfully, some of the
best salespeople I’ve met are quite the opposite. The best salesperson I
know is not a smooth talker, but just a genuine guy, and people like
him, trust him, and buy from him. The key is, that the best people don’t
just rely on their talking ability, whatever your style is, you need a strong
The Art of Selling is another story, and this is what our particular client in my example had been good at.
He was able to sell despite all the missing components that his sales team needed. He compensated through being really good at the Art of Selling by:
- Knowing his industry inside out
- Being 100% confident and making up processes along the way.
- Remembering the details off by heart
- Being super passionate and,
- Being able to answer any question asked by his customers…
But when it came to his sales team, who were all new; they didn’t get a chance to learn, let alone perfect the ‘art’.
New hires don’t have the advantage of dozens of years of history to wing it and be successful. They are flat out trying to understand the processes, policies, and politics within their new environment. They’re in a new company, with new people and new rules. They need systematic knowledge transfer just to catch up!
A certain level of science in the transferring of knowledge is needed so that the art can be made effective. That’s why one business can hire a proven seller in one company, but when they come and work for a new company, the results can be completely and shockingly different! Sales teams need leaders who can lead, teach and inspire a team to sell and hit targets.
But doesn’t a CEO, manager or entrepreneur know this?
Well, don’t feel bad if you don’t, because it can elude even the smartest and most switched on person, as “inter-relationships” are often invisible and the number of variables is high.
Think of a 2-digit pin. After enough guesses, even if you don’t know the pin, you’ll end up guessing it. But what about a 4-digit pin? You can be there for a week trying as many combinations as you can think of, but you’re not going to get far.
What about business then – where the combinations could be almost limitless with no right answer…?
This is why 96% to 99% of businesses fail, there are many, constantly changing variables which force companies to adapt or die! This is why even huge companies that seem invincible, fall.
Don’t let this scare you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the prize for getting it right is often life changing.
There are many ways to grow and protect your wealth along the way. We are just being real and open about what we’ve come across. I’ll dig into more detail about gaining customers in one of my next blogs. Let’s continue to the second biggest problem.
2. People – How to Hire, Manage, Train and Retain Staff
At every workshop or seminar that we’ve held, we’ve asked the question: “How many of you experience people problems within your team”? 100% of hands go up each and every time. No exceptions. Ever.
So why is the people side of business so difficult? Apart from all the inter-relationships across the different functions mentioned earlier, there are 5 Key Areas that generally don’t get enough attention or investment. They include:
Most entrepreneurs don’t put enough thought and rigour into the hiring process. Even large companies can fall into the trap of hiring someone they know, or wants the job; rather than going through a solid process to hire the best person AND best fit for the company.
Now that a business has just committed anywhere from $50,000, $100,000 or more into recruiting a staff member, do they provide first class training to help the person (your massive investment) get really good at their job, every single time?
Actually, forget “first-class” for the moment. How about just enough training? If you do, you’re a rare exception! Most businesses throw their new hire into the deep end and expect them to figure things out. That’s great if you pick up a superstar, but for the most part, people need a little training every now and then.
Here’s what I wrote about training in my book
Invest in training! But make sure people use what they’ve learnt.
What’s the use of hiring talented people if you don’t maximise their
value in your organisation? Invest in your team. Train them or send
them for training externally. And, get your team taking action and
applying what they’ve learnt, right after they’ve learnt it; otherwise,
The scary thing about “managing” is that most managers are not trained to be managers!
Think about it…
If you operate your own private business, have you received extensive training on how to be a good manager? Have your staff who manage other team members been trained to excel at management? Probably not.
Now, even if you’ve been trained, are you great at it? Are you a brilliant manager or are you figuring it out along the way? We’re not even talking about leadership yet, that is a whole different ball game altogether.
Do you have a systematic way of improving your staff to their potential beyond their current role?
The difference between training and developing is that training makes your staff better at their job while developing your staff prepares them for what’s beyond their job. This is a critical part of succession planning.
- Do you have someone who can take over your role in the event you can’t run the business for a period of time?
- Will that person have someone who can take over their role if they do move up to take your role?
Developing yourself and your team will help you get to new heights. Apart from not having the right people on board, developing your team for succession planning is one of the missing elements facing many businesses. Some businesses do this from time to time, but the benefits of developing staff are often long-term in nature, so team development usually takes the back burner.
How are you going to keep an asset you’ve invested all that time, energy and knowledge in (not to mention financial investment you’ve made)?
Do you have a systematic retention strategy and plan which encourages your team to stay?
How do you keep great team members who may be receiving offers from your competitors, suppliers, customers or just the general job market?
One problem with 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs we’ve met (yes, a scary number) is that they don’t even get financial information provided to them at all, apart from their tax return once a year!
You might be asking yourself… “How do I Gain Control of My Business Finances”? The first step is having the right information.
- Do you have access to the right information that you need to make business decisions in a timely manner?
- Do you even get a profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement every month at the very minimum?
Most business owners don’t, which is not surprising to see why they don’t even like the numbers.
- Do you get forecasts for sales over the coming few months?
- What about cash flow and working capital forecasts or KPI reports with lead indicators?
If you do get all these, you are one of the rare ones! “High 5” to you!
Secondly, let’s say you do get the information above, ask yourself:
- Do you feel like you have clear financial visibility? Or do you feel like you’re still blindfolded?
- Is the information you get structured right so that you can make clear decisions?
- Is the data clean? Are transactions being classified and recorded in the right way and put in the right hole? How do you know?
- Do you have ways to systematically check and make sure?
If you don’t, then you may be getting a whole lot of wrong information, and basing big financial and business decisions on the wrong scoreboard. Does that sound a little risky?
Here is a quote from my book “100 Business Insights” which talks about this.
“Understanding financial performance is key to being able to
adequately run your business.
Business is like a game, and like most games, it has a scoreboard.
Understanding how the scoreboard works helps you make decisions
about what to do in the game. If you don’t know how to read, interpret
and analyse the scoreboard, then you don’t really know how to play
The next challenge is, when you do end up getting the right information, and you have complete visibility of the scoreboard, do you actually understand it? Or does it look completely foreign?
Do your financials look like this to you?
The thing is unless you own an accounting firm or are in financial services, as entrepreneurs most of you never did an accounting degree, so it can be difficult to understand what all the numbers mean. In our experience, even seasoned finance professionals find it a challenge to understand the meaning behind numbers they prepare. Because they are so technical and specialised, they can overlook the bigger picture.
The third and probably hardest part to deal with is actually playing the game. Going out and improving sales, managing the bottom line, and making sure there is enough cash!
Running out of cash is like running out of jet fuel, you only have to run out once! And if you don’t know how much is REALLY left in the tank, because your scoreboard isn’t correct – Whoops!
By the way, have planes run out of fuel and crashed before? Absolutely. Do businesses run out of money and crash? Absolutely.
If you’ve made it as far as getting across all of the above, then that’s fantastic – and again – extremely rare. Give yourself a pat on the back!
Now it’s time to fly the business safely – do you know how to do it? Are you able to control the buttons & levers in the cockpit? Do you know what actions to take that will actually make an impact on the numbers and create the type of results you want? Or are they just a bunch of numbers to you? And what about the times when things go wrong? (which wouldn’t be that often in business right? Not!).
How do you handle it? How do you cope with the stress and lead your team to victory?
Tune in for part 4 and 5 of this blog to find out about Business Strategy, Leadership as well as finishing off with some of our big AHA insights moments!
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