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10 Reasons Most Small Businesses Fail and How You Can Buck the Trend

10 Reasons Most Small Businesses Fail and How You Can Buck the Trend

It is estimated that as much as 33% of US small businesses will fail in the first two years. While this might seem disheartening at first glance, it’s probably not as bad as it seems considering the number of entrepreneurs who experience runaway success.

In this article, we’ll look at the ten most common reasons for small business failures, as well as how you can position your company to buck the trend.

1. Lack of Capital

Most entrepreneurs start out with a brilliant business idea. However, many companies are not equipped with enough capital to start or take the company to the next level. The sad truth is that without the right capital injection, many great ideas are doomed to wither away after a couple of months.

The key to solving this problem is to invest the time in determining the costs associated with starting and operating your business. Try not to overstate profits but instead, do the necessary research to make sure you have the working capital that is needed to sustain the business.

The next step is to secure your funding. Many entrepreneurs will turn to family and friends to avoid having to dilute their equity by getting a private investor. However, private loans are an excellent way to ensure continued funding for the business, especially in the start-up months.

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2. Cash Flow Problems

Having just an adequate amount of funds is inadequate. Not having sufficient finances at the right time is a major problem for many small businesses. Handling cash flow is essential to keeping the doors open. However, due to unforeseen events like late payments from clients, unexpected costs, or mistakes in forecasting, a huge chunk of small businesses frequently find themselves running into cash flow issues.

To overcome this common problem, you will need to put in the time to develop an in-depth cash flow forecast; this can be a time-consuming and intricate procedure, so utilizing technology to automate this process can be helpful. Additionally, it’s good to have a ‘cushion’, so if unexpected expenditures turn up, which they inevitably do, you’ll be able to cover them. Planning is the key to overcoming cash flow issues in a small business.

3. Issues with Delegation

Some entrepreneurs are so personally invested in their vision that they feel that they are the only ones who can do it right. Not only is this impossible in many cases, but it is also inefficient and causes burnout. A business owner who fails to train and delegate could face a serious problem if he is out sick or has an emergency.

Entrepreneurs must learn to invest in a team of staff members who can be trusted. The key is to train and then delegate. Effective delegating will leave the business owner to focus more on growing the business and identifying opportunities.

4. Ignoring the Competition

While business competition is healthy for the economy, they can be a threat to the small business owner. An entrepreneur who does not understand his rival may be setting up his business for failure. Often a company is not aware of the competition in their niche until it is too late.

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To maintain your competitive edge, make certain to do an analysis of the competitive landscape. Additionally, continuously monitoring your competitors will enable you to benchmark yourself versus them, learn from their errors, and most importantly not fall behind.

5. Inadequate Customer Demand

Many small businesses think that the product or service that they provide is the best and never consider whether there will be a market for the business.

It is important to conduct thorough marketing research and make sure that your prospective consumers desire what you’re offering. In a lot of cases, it may simply be a matter of tweaking your product or service, so it aligns with what your target audience wants.

6. Failure to Advertise

It doesn’t matter if you have the very best product on the market if your clients do not know about it. With the increase in internet marketing, small businesses who do not invest in digital means of promoting their products and services may be setting themselves up for failure.

Advertising is not always expensive. There are many low-cost options available to small business owners on a budget. There are also free alternatives available such as social media and email marketing. The key is to research and find out the combination of promotional products and platform that will be best for your business and your target audience.

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7. Business Idea Isn’t Profitable

Unprofitable ideas are often the result of a good initial business proposition, but soft financials. If the client acquisition costs are higher than the income that they generate, then the business model is either incomplete or just doesn’t make good sense.

The solution to this problem is planning and research. Before starting a business ensure you understand the cost of customer acquisition and how much you are willing to pay to maintain a profit. If your research reveals a high cost to get the product or service into the hands of the customer, consider ways in which you can cut cost or increase your income.

8. Not Going Digital

With a growing number of people spending time online, small companies cannot make the mistake of only focusing on the brick and mortar of the business. Many companies are now finding success in the virtual marketplace.

At the most basic level, if a small business wants to be successful, it must maintain a professional website. In the era of social media and digital marketing, a small business owner may find great opportunities to promote his products and services to clients all over the world.

9. Poor Leadership and Management

Poor leadership and management can be the demise of many small businesses. When individuals at the top who are in charge of coordinating everything, aren’t doing their jobs properly, the rest of the firm falls apart too.

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A successful business requires leaders and managers that can influence, motivate staff members, and make certain things are working smoothly. It is important to invest in your human resources with training.

10. Changes in the Marketplace

Sometimes small business failure has nothing to do with the day to day operations of the business, but external factors such as the economy or the presence of a brand-new disruptive technology that makes your business outdated.

Not all external factors are out of your control. Preparation, research, and planning can help a small business owner adjust to a changing marketplace.

Small business success is possible despite the daunting statistics. Being armed with information as to the pitfalls many entrepreneurs fall victim to is a good start to making your business successful.

Featured photo credit: rebrn.com via i.imgur.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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