Before You Say “I Do”
Before you say I do, before you make the investment, before you hang the sign, before you set up the company, there is something that you should know. Small businesses are similar to a marriage – no one goes into the venture thinking that it won’t work out. Yet a significant portion of small businesses fail. According to the Small Business Administration, as many as 30 percent of small business startups fail within the first two years of the honeymoon – and up to 50 percent within the next three years. Do the math and you’ll come up with a staggering 80 percent failure rate among small businesses within the first five years. The odds are stacked against you, but our business model is based entirely on helping small business owners maximize growth. To avoid the pitfalls that cause other businesses to fail, you’ve got to understand what business failure is, the reasons why small businesses fail and what it will take to be part of the remaining 20 percent that achieves success.
Just like someone whose marriage has ended in divorce, failed small business owners often blame anyone but themselves. They look for factors outside their control as scapegoats for the downfall of their business endeavors. They blame the economy, the government, their partners or their employees, just to name a few. If you dig a little deeper, the real root of the problem can often be revealed in a lack of business acumen, inadequate resources or insufficient capital. Without exception, these issues are ultimately the responsibility of the small business owner.
Lack of Business Acumen
Making the transition from an employee to a small business owner can be extremely difficult. The disciplines that you have developed as an employee are totally different than what you will need when you step into the owner’s shoes and start running the show. The reality is that many owners’ expertise lies in accounting, law, medicine or some other discipline unrelated to day-to-day operational concerns. Don’t assume that you can just open a business and find clients or patients lining up outside your door. It takes skill and experience to drive business your way. Identify the areas where you lack expertise and look for consultants, partners, professional services or employees to fill in the gaps.
For small business owners, relationships mean everything. The right relationships result in a strong foundation, but incompatible or incomplete teams translate to inadequate resources. What team resources can you leverage to balance your own strengths and weaknesses? Too often, new business owners attempt to do it all themselves. This strategy may work in a one-man operation for someone whose goal in life is to only work by himself, for himself. Unfortunately, it’s an ineffective strategy for running a full-scale business. Instead, you need the right team and the right advisors. One of the most powerful tools you can use to increase your chances of success is to learn where to turn to get the right resources to fit the needs of your business. That won’t necessarily mean consulting with your best friend or hiring a former co-worker. Your selection process should extend beyond friends and family. Looking for the lowest price may also not be the best decision-making criteria. The truth is you get what you pay for. Locating and utilizing the best resources possible is one of the keys that will differentiate your future between dissolution and success.
The number one reason why marriages fail is because of money issues, and small businesses are no different. The amount of capital available to you at the time you establish your new business is a critical determinant of the success or failure of your business. Simply put, your available capital is the sum of your cash, lines of credit or trade credit for the business. For most start-up businesses, the costs incurred within the first two years far outweigh income – except in the case of acquiring a business that provides income on day one.
One of the largest and most common problems is muddying the line between business expenses and personal expenses. Separate your personal life from the business. Resist the temptation to remove cash from business accounts to satisfy a shortfall in your personal budget. While it’s true that the business should provide income to the owner, too-frequent personal withdrawals cause undue hardship. Plan withdrawals that are sufficient to maintain your household needs and stick to the plan.