I walked out my door the other day to a curious sight. There was a group of ants moving a dead worm across my sidewalk. I know it sounds a bit foul, and honestly it was a little bit. But, what fascinated me, was how big the worm was compared to the minuscule ants moving it. I even pointed it out to my children who were equal parts mesmerized and disgusted. Of course, I couldn’t pass up a teachable moment to my kids on working together to accomplish a goal. Then the moment passed and off we went to another day.
So why am I telling you this? Because as I sat down to write today, that image of the ants keeps popping back into my head. The size discrepancy alone between the ants and the worm (it was a really big worm) should have been enough to make the ants not even attempt what they were doing. But it didn’t. The ants just came up with a solution to the obstacle.
As a small business owner, sometimes I feel a little bit like those ants. Facing big obstacles, that at times seem overwhelming. But, like those ants, our job is to come up with ways to solve them.
Lack of Capital
Many entrepreneurs raise enough money for start-up, but the successful ones are the ones who have a plan to cover capital for the first two years. You can’t expect instant profit, no matter how amazing your product or service is. Securing funding until your profit starts covering your expenses is crucial.
Understanding just how much it costs to run your business is also imperative. Many businesses that fail in the first two years, grossly underestimate the amount of money needed to produce and sell their product. This means that many great businesses shut their doors before they even have an opportunity to succeed.
Hire for Your Weaknesses
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." --Henry Ford
Not only do you need qualified people in the industry you serve, but you need those who strengths compliment your weaknesses. It can be tempting to hire those people most like you, but overloading on certain talents while limiting others will create holes in your business. Figuring out your strengths and weaknesses may not always be as easy as it sounds. There are many skills/personality tests you can take and give to potential hires to evaluate limitations.
In our organization, we have found success with a specific process for interviewing, testing, re-interviewing and then hiring. The first interview is done with management only. The second interview is with the potential employee’s specific manager and myself. Our testing module involves skills testing with an accounting test we created and a personal profile that gives us insight into how the person will fit in our organization.
Put a group of people in a room day after day and workplace drama will arise. Not dealing with it directly can and will have a negative impact on your business.
So how can we resolve said drama effectively? First, know the personalities of team you are putting together. That is where the personality tests mentioned in the above section are also very useful. Avoid putting the most caustic personalities together.
Secondly, make sure that all roles are clearly understood and defined for the whole group. This will help eliminate the “protecting home turf” mentality and that employees are not overlapping processes.
Make sure that you also have a workplace dispute policy in place with consequences clearly stated. Follow through on the consequences is essential for this to be effective. People will be less likely to engage in gossip and drama if they know what the consequence for this action will be.
Finally creating a workplace environment where employees feel valued and appreciated will go a long way in preventing drama. Be specific with praise. Don’t just say “good job”, point out why they did a good job. Spend time with your employees. Give them little surprises, like leaving early or group lunches.
Incomplete Marketing Strategy
No matter how amazing your product or service is, if your potential clients don’t know who you are and what you provide, then you will fail.
Make sure your plan includes your target audience and defines in detail their purchase habits: what they like, when they like it and where they like to get it.
Set a specific and attainable marketing budget, then work out a consistent schedule and message. Don’t just throw a whole bunch of stuff out there and see what sticks.
Once your plan is in place, make sure you are evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Ask your clients how they heard about you and keep a report going monthly. This will give you a good idea what it and what isn’t where to focus more of your money and efforts. Your strategy may undergo several revisions as you see what avenues are more successful than others.
Moving Your “Worm” Together
As I write this, I think back to the obstacles I have faced as a small business owners and those I am currently facing. Know that you are not alone, and I would be happy to discuss any of these with you further. We can be like the ants at the beginning of this writing, moving obstacles together.