Starting a new business is scary and thrilling at the same time. Maybe you spent years preparing for this moment. Your life savings may be on the line. Family might depend on your success. Whatever the specifics, you can be certain you’ll have to work hard to overcome some hidden challenges and rise above.
According to Statista, in 1994, there were a mere 569,419 startups, but in 2020, there were 804,398. The number of people chasing their dreams grows every few years, but with more growth comes more competition.
If you want to rise above others in your industry and become one of the breakout success stories and unicorn startups, you must find and overcome the hidden challenges every new business owner faces. Here are six things common to organizations less than a year old and how you can navigate choppy waters.
1. Managing Your Time
When you first open your company, you may be a solopreneur or have a skeleton crew. People wear more than one hat and must figure out what tasks are most important so they are as productive as possible.
As the owner of a startup, you might call on leads, fill orders and do a bit of marketing on the side. Time management is vital to your success until you bring in enough revenue to farm out some of the work or hire full-time employees.
Come up with a system where you classify tasks as most important to least important. Focus on the top tier tasks first to ensure they’re completed, such as filling orders. Ask for help when you need it and enlist the services of family and friends until your business takes off.
2. Keeping Up With Technology
With the COVID-19 pandemic, more people work from home today than at any time before. One of your biggest challenges as a new startup will be building team cooperation and processes while encouraging at least some remote work options.
You may also meet with clients via Zoom, Google Meet and other digital conferencing platforms. Make sure you present a professional image. The background is an essential part of your professionalism when meeting online.
You can invest in an inexpensive green screen that attaches to your office chair and put up any scene you’d like. You can also blur your background or sit in front of a blank wall. If you do choose to have elements in the background, keep them related to your business and remove any personal items or family information both to keep focus and to separate business and family.
3. Managing Customer Relationships
Customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the most important focuses in the early days of a business. Your top clients are the ones who’ll help you grow by referring you to others and sending you repeat orders.
Invest in CRM software so you know when it’s time for a customer to reorder. Keep track of their preferences, reach out on birthdays and other special occasions and seek ways of meeting their individual needs as a client.
The better your CRM is, the more likely your new patrons will remain and help you grow.
4. Overcoming Cash Flow Issues
In 2020, Facebook reported small businesses were hit particularly hard from COVID-19. About 31% of smaller firms in the United States were no longer operational and 70% shut down in March 2020. The ones that reopened had ample emergency funds and kept cash flowing even in the midst of a pandemic.
While you might not face such extreme circumstances as a new startup, there is always potential for disaster. Planning ahead for the worst case allows you to keep enough cash on hand to operate even if you must shut down for a few weeks. Have a Plan B, Plan C and even a Plan D for what you’ll do if you experience a natural disaster or other event.
5. Standing Out From Competitors
Did you enter a fairly competitive field? Perhaps you were the first with the idea, but copycats started and now nip at your heels. Nearly every small business fights against the competition at some point in its lifespan.
You must learn to differentiate yourself from the competition and stand out in your industry. Start by asking what the unique selling proposition (USP) is for other companies like yours. What do they promote as the benefits of doing business with them?
Now, look for a hole where you excel. What can you do better than all those other firms? What is your USP? Once you know the benefits of choosing you, you can market them to your target audience.
6. Finding Excellent Employees
Companies everywhere are having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill open positions. If you’re in the restaurant industry, you may have even more trouble.
As a small startup, you can only afford to pay so much in wages without going broke. What incentive can you offer people to come work for you as opposed to a large corporation?
Think about how you’re different. If you don’t already have a strong company culture, develop one. Are you family oriented? Perhaps you offer an onsite daycare, extra sick days for when children are ill or even paid leave for when an employee gets a new puppy.
What makes you special and what can you offer bigger organizations can’t compete with?
Take a Solution Mindset
There are just a few of the issues you might run into with a new startup. Each business experiences unique challenges it must overcome. Learn to take a step back and look for out-of-the-box solutions to big problems.
Pull in the expertise and knowledge of your staff. Get a mentor who has built their own business and ask them for advice. Be open to trying new things until you hit on the combination that works best for your brand. With determination and a plan, you can overcome any hidden challenge and turn it into an advantage.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.