As a small business owner, you are likely to run into several challenges, right from the moment when you decide to pursue your business idea to the many unexpected curveballs that will be thrown at you by regulators and the economy when your venture is more established. Running a business is hard. Sometimes the hardship associated with starting and running a business is indeed similar to that which comes with a voluntary exercise—the kind where you are excited and pumped up—but it is far more likely to be the kind where you spend most of your waking hours plagued with constant worry and uncertainty. The point is, running a business comes with its ups and downs and sometimes you may find it difficult to climb out of these ‘downs’. Today I have compiled some tips which can hopefully help the small business owner weather some of the difficulties he/she may encounter in his/her entrepreneurial journey.
What doesn’t kill you will not make you stronger
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” and he has been quoted countless times ever since in efforts to reassure those among us who would have happened to hit some rough patches in our endeavours. This statement, and its many other variants, sounds incredibly wise especially when you are the deliverer or the challenges you are facing are relatively mild. Unfortunately, when you are facing the kind of challenges where there are no simple answers in sight, these kinds of quotes begin to sound exactly like the empty platitudes that they are.
Nowadays most psychologists completely disagree with Mr Nietzsche’s sentiments a more accurate statement would be the one that states that “what does not kill us makes us weaker”. Using the case of running a business venture as an example: if (human) nature were allowed to take its course, those business failures, setbacks and hard times which do not lead to the ‘death’ of the business are nevertheless more likely to breed stress and uncertainty in the mind of the entrepreneur. This means that instead of expecting a stronger you to naturally bounce back from difficulties, as Herr Nietzsche supposed, an actual effort is sometimes needed to recover from hardship and failure.
At this point, the advice to network is probably one of the most cliché, but during hard times e.g. those of economic upheaval and uncertainty such as those we are currently experiencing in Zimbabwe, staying in contact with other small business owners is important for reasons beyond mere camaraderie. As business owners operating in the same economic environment, you can share ideas, strategies and experiences. Suppose you are running a small grocery store, you can reach out to other people who are in the same line of business and find out useful information like which products sell well, new suppliers etc.
Filter your news
Once upon a time, working men and women were limited in how much news they could consume on any given day. Nowadays technology allows news to be delivered to you throughout the day. Unfortunately this ability to stay up to date at all times comes at a cost which may range from mere distraction to constant stress and anxiety. Depending on your sensibilities, politics, values etc. being subjected to a constant barrage of news can be extremely counterproductive. While, as a business person, you cannot constantly bury your head in the sand, you can still limit the kind of news that you see. One of the best ways of filtering out important and useful news from all the pointlessly agitating noise is only reading from specialist publications i.e. those which only cover a narrow range of subjects or topics.
Read motivational material
In the past I have criticized motivational speakers and writers for spouting content which is generally lacking in substance—most of it is merely supposed to induce an emotional reaction in the reader i.e. the “motivation” in question. To their credit, most of these people are indeed excellent at building up motivation in their audiences. Sometimes when your business runs into the kind of difficulties which you cannot readily navigate your way out of, all you may need is a little motivation to keep you going and stave off despair until the excellent business person inside you is ready to kick in.
Conduct frequent SWOT analyses
A SWOT analysis is a business tool used to assess a business against the environment in which it is supposed to operate. While most businesses only conduct these during the planning stages, many would benefit from their being conducted more frequently, particularly when the business in question is operating in an uncertain or constantly changing environment. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
- Strengths are internal factors which are considered to be working well and lend the business an advantage in the market or against competitors. These should be developed and built upon.
- Weaknesses are damaging internal factors which disadvantage the business in the market. A business must work towards eliminating or reducing these.
- Opportunities are external factors which are considered to represent good prospects for the business. These should be pursued and capitalized upon.
- Threats are adverse external factors that pose potential harm to the business. After identifying threats that face it, a business can either avoid these or come up with countermeasures.
At the end of the day, in the real world, failure and shortcomings are all too common and should not deter you from pursuing your goals. Also, perseverance and persistence are more valuable personality traits in an entrepreneur that any semblance of perfection.