The thing about starting a business is that challenges will keep coming along the way. After you have overcome 1 challenge, another one comes along. There are also times when you haven’t even overcome 1 challenge and another 1, 2 or more comes along the way. This is the part and parcel of entrepreneurship. Nothing comes easy. Every part of the way is tough but there is a satisfaction that you get from overcoming these obstacles that you will not get from anywhere else. With every challenge you overcome, or couldn’t overcome, we grow. We learn from it. When we can’t overcome it, we seek help. We talk to people and we ask for help. Over time, we learned how to embrace these challenges and we learned to expect challenges. When you start to embrace and expect these challenges, you become more prepared and will be able to handle these challenges like a champion!
These are the challenges that we faced when we first started out. In fact, some of them, we are still facing.
- Underestimate the level of difficulty of running a business
Who knew that running a business can be so tough? It seems so easy because every entrepreneur seems to have it so easy. They seem to be making big bucks doing nothing! So how difficult can it be? Again, this blog is very specific to Small Bosses, bosses who are mostly doing everything themselves or with a partner without any employees or very few employees.
Things get tough when you expect it to be easy. Running a small business yourself is tough because you have limited resources, limited time yet you have unlimited tasks to complete. We thought it’d be so easy, to just get registered, get a shop, get a good product to sell and bam! Everything will be smooth sailing. The truth is that there is just so much more work that needs to be put in. As a Small Boss, you have to be the Finance Department, Sales Department, Operations Department, Marketing Department, IT Department, Customer Service Department, Research and Development Department. Basically, you are everything. You will find that you will be particularly good at some departments, but horrible at others. That’s when you start feeling stuck.
- Not having enough Finances
Money is always an issue in business. Yes, you probably had enough money to start the business. But do you have enough money to sustain the business? How long can you sustain your business without any income, with the money that you have?
In Singapore especially, everything is so costly. Without money, you can’t survive.
Would you consider taking in money from investors? How much? How should it work out? Should you take money from investors? Why yes or why not?
We have had so many offers from investors from Day 1 of our business, but we chose to reject all of them because we wanted full autonomy and control over our small business. Is it really a wise choice? Till today, we are still learning. There are times, that we ask ourselves, how different our lives would be now, if we had accepted any of the offers. But we never regretted the missed opportunities because we are still waiting for the right people to come along.
There were so many times, we wanted to give up, simply because we didn’t have enough cashflow to sustain the business. Without money, you won’t be able to buy new stocks, to get better marketing, pay for any kind of services that would benefit your business, or even pay the salary of your staff.
You need to take photographs for your product? Money.
Marketing or advertisements for your product? Money.
Hire people? Money.
Transportation or delivery or shifting your goods? Money.
Licenses to start the business? Money.
Renovation for your shop space? Money.
Website for your business? Money.
Every damn thing is money, money, money.
Plan your finances well. It will make or break your business, no matter how good an idea or product that you have.
Your customers won’t come to you. Sure, if your product is so good, they will come to you eventually. But what if they come to you 2 years later? Can you sustain and wait?
How do you even let them know how good your product is? If they don’t know how good it is, how can they come to you?
Never stop and wait for customers to come to you. Be proactive. Go out and get the customers. Being passive is never the way to run a business.
We were aggressive when we first started, until we got complacent and decided that we are good enough, and wait for customers to come to us. That’s when everything went downhill.
Don’t wait. Be aggressive, be hungry.
- Not Knowing How to Use Social Media
We thought that just having a Facebook page and Instagram account with occasional photos were enough. We didn’t have money to hire someone to do it for us, so all we could afford was some un-instagram worthy photos just to keep our accounts alive.
The truth is, there is so many things that you can achieve with social media. For small business, this is even more crucial because this is your only way of communicating and maintaining a relationship with your customer. With no budget, I began reading all the books and materials that I could find online, and borrowing e-books from the library. I also observed what our competitors were doing and got inspired. Don’t ever copy them. But your competitors can be an inspiration, a starting point for you to do even better than them.
- Thinking that we can manage everything ourselves- not hiring, not trusting anyone, not letting go
In fact, this is still one of our biggest challenges up till today. This will happen, most probably to your first business, just as how it happened to us. We nurtured and grew this baby of ours. We want so badly to keep it close to us forever. We want total control of it. We believe that nobody else will do a better job than us. It’s true, because it’s so hard to hire somebody that will put in their heart and soul to your business that they have no part of. This works. But you won’t be able to grow your business without delegation to free up your hands and time to do something else that would make you even more money.
It all boils down to the directions and goals for your business. If you want to grow, you have to let go. You can’t do it with 1 or 2 people. You need more people. Having said that, it also doesn’t mean that you hire any Tom, Dick or Harry. You will still have to keep hiring, till you find the right person.
Every Small Boss has different set of challenges because everyone works and thinks differently. Every Small Boss also has his/her own strengths and weaknesses that might help and hinder their start up process. What are yours? What kind of challenges did/ do you face? Do you have any suggestions or thoughts for us? We’d love to hear from you.