Thomasina R. Legend
As fashion designers, entrepreneurs and creative enthusiasts, starting a new business can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. There are many factors to consider, including location, size, employees, quality control, etc. You'll face many challenges when starting your own business. Growing a company and providing jobs for other people might be a big motivator for many, but it also comes with challenges. Working for yourself can be a lonely, frustrating and challenging experience. Understanding how to deal with potential problems will help you give your business the best chance of success.
This guide outlines how to deal with some of the most common challenges you'll encounter and how you can overcome them to give your business the best chance of success.
Failing to plan
One of the greatest struggles of many creative entrepreneurs is failing to plan. A lack of planning can mean your business runs out of cash or isn't set up well for vital activities such as marketing or dealing with suppliers. Business owners who plan and set themselves objectives are more likely to succeed. Planning is a core part of your strategy to have a successful business, so it is crucial to implement this within a business plan covering everything from promotion, marketing, staffing, budgeting, and sales. It is also essential to ensure you regularly review your business plan to keep abreast of any eventualities.
Many ideas hit stumbling blocks and fail because entrepreneurs do not test run their ideas to know if they are in demand or need. Without enough people willing to buy your product or service, you won't succeed at the start-up stage. Demand is very important, and you must take the time needed to research if what you have created or want to create serves a need or is something that people will want or need. Market research is an essential part of your process, so spend ample time making sure you research as this will show you the target market size and if it's' worth proceeding with your business idea or not.
Poor and ineffective Marketing strategies
Like everything else, marketing trends change constantly and are expensive to run. It can be easy to get caught up in the latest marketing trends that end up costing you more than the sales they generate. Most start-ups operate on small budgets, so investigate different marketing methods. Is there a low cost or a cost free way you can reach your target audience? Consider outsourcing your marketing to an expert if you lack the time and skills to do the job yourself. Measure all the marketing activities you do and adapt your tactics if necessary. If you have funds for marketing, invest wisely in the most appropriate tactics.
Lack of knowledge & poor skills
Many people have great ideas but lack time to invest in the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in their area of interest. There is a lot of information out there about starting and running a business. As a first-time entrepreneur, you'll need to absorb as much information as possible about starting, running and scaling a business. A lack of knowledge and skills can lead to costly mistakes that you can avoid in the first place. You'll also need to overcome enormous demands on your time and energy setting up a new business. Take time to learn about the industry you're entering into and your competitors within the industry. Read business advice websites, attend events, join business groups and seek mentors. Building a business requires a lot of work, so you need motivation, lots of energy and of course, confidence is just as important and necessary.
Poor financial planning is one of the biggest reasons for the failure of start-ups. It is essential to plan for all aspects of your business. If your costs are greater than your income, your business will not succeed. Create cash flow forecasts to forecast your sales and profit and loss. You can then predict the inflow and outflow of funds from your business.
One way to manage cash flow is to obtain funds, but raising funds can be challenging, and it can be challenging to know where to raise funds for your business ideas. Research the types of funds open to you and collect the information you need to share with investors, such as business plans and cash flow forecasts. When you have prepared these documents, show them to family and friends, as they might know someone who can help financially without you having to get a loan. If getting a loan is the way you intend to go, then research interest rates and how that can affect you going forward.
Having the wrong people in your start-up can be very disruptive. A negative employee can quickly damage team morale and productivity. It's tough having to fire someone, but it's also tough not to offer them a fair chance to try and get ahead of the game. But remember that the wrong set of people can destroy your business before it even takes off. Take the necessary time needed to research and investigate the people you plan to bring on board. Look for people who share your values and have valuable experience. Encourage transparent and open communication with your staff so you understand their strengths and weaknesses. This may also help you deal with staff issues if they arise.
Being a leader is an integral part of starting a business. Take the time to learn and build yourself up as a leader and if you're' unaware of how to do that, seek to find ways to develop your leadership skills. Learn also to be clear about your business's mission and vision. Employees should understand their objectives, the company's overall goals and be fully on board with the business's direction. Make sure staff remain motivated and ensure they have a strong sense of self-worth and wellbeing.
Productivity and Managing your time
It can be easy to get distracted and focus on the wrong areas when running a start-up. Time management is an area people greatly underestimate and then struggle with. Wearing many hats and commanding many responsibilities come with the territory of being a start-up business owner. It is easy to get distracted and pulled away from the tasks that need your immediate attention. Learning to plan and prioritise will keep you ahead of the game where your goals are concerned. There are now several apps that help in these areas, so consider using time-management apps to create lists of tasks you can tick off as you go. If you have an essential task to complete, find a quiet area and turn off email, app and messaging notifications. Don't' be afraid to outsource tasks as well, and delegate when necessary.
Many entrepreneurs hit a roadblock when it comes to their health because the early years of a start-up demand every ounce of your time and attention. It's' a slippery slope area because there are no clear boundaries. This, in turn, takes a toll on the body, mind and entire being of an entrepreneur, which is very detrimental because if you're' down, your business will be down. The saying health is wealth is not an understatement but must be embraced and taken seriously, especially as an entrepreneur, as your working hours are not as defined as a normal 9-5 in the early months and years of your business. From the get-go, you have to put boundaries that help you structure your days and help you navigate the day-to-day workings without inflicting unnecessary stress and damage to your entire wellbeing and health. Prioritise sleep and take the needed breaks, as well as healthy eating and regular exercise. Sharing your challenges with others should not be a thing of shame, but something you know will bring you knowledge within a group of other entrepreneurs. Seek to join and network with like-minded individuals on similar journeys as you, and learn from them. A mutual exchange will be beneficial for both parties.
Image: Mamour Majeng @mamour_majeng shot by Axle Jozeph @axlejozeph