Business owners’ biggest worries

Unless you relish risk and its potential for a higher rate of return, you’re unlikely to go into business with no plan of how you’re going to succeed.

Most people, if put under pressure, can at least come up with what it takes to survive, and if you’ve taken an informed decision to start up in business in your own right, you’re probably more than capable of thriving.

So what is it that keeps business owners awake at night – and what can you do to overcome those nightmares?

The voice of reason

First of all, don’t immediately assume that your fears are unfounded. That’s not to say that your business is falling apart either, but if something is nagging at the back of your mind, it might be worth looking into it.

Business leaders often get to where they are because they indulge this sixth sense for when something could be done better, or could be made more profitable – so try to be aware of your concerns and act on them, don’t just shut them out.

The right people

One of the biggest worries is whether you’ve hired the right person for the job, so keep a close eye on new recruits and consider putting them on a probationary period during which time you can let them go, no questions asked.

Freelancers and interns are a good way to get some skills onboard for the short term, as you may be able to access some talented individuals on a short-term basis – and you can usually extend the arrangement if you want to keep them working for you.

Internships in particular can often be a precursor to permanent employment, and can be a good way to gradually scale up the size of your workforce if you’re worried about paying a full salary to someone too soon.

Market expansion

As a small business it’s unlikely that you have reached full market penetration, but in a competitive niche that doesn’t stop you from worrying about your growth potential.

There’s not a lot you can do to increase the size of your niche, so consider whether you could flesh out your offering with after care and support services too, or provide ongoing maintenance, repairs and replacements to keep people coming back to you for new hardware if appropriate.

Eventually though, if you’re operating in a very small niche you will hit maximum penetration – and then it’s time to look at ways to diversify if you want to expand into other areas.

Skill level up

Your own capabilities might be an area of concern. Not everyone suffers from a lack of confidence, but if you’ve never run a business before, it can be pretty daunting.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you, whether that means other SME owners at small business networking events, or friends and family who have no experience in business.

Just because someone is inexperienced, it doesn’t stop them from making a good sounding board – and often when you bounce your own ideas off of someone instead of listening to theirs, you can find your own true path towards your future professional development.

Forecast the finances

Finally, of course, it all comes down to money. You may get personal satisfaction out of running your business – perhaps you’re lucky enough to derive your income from something you would willingly do as a hobby – but your workforce depend on you making the money you need in order to pay them their wages each month.

Money is inevitably one of the biggest worries for growing firms, when one bad month could easily wipe out your company’s savings, so try to plan ahead – and do that by forecasting your finances more accurately.

In times of growth that means looking at your average increase in orders during the previous months, and predicting whether you can sustain that pace of growth to keep more money coming into the company.

When growth plateaus, it’s not time to panic necessarily – it just means you have to work with what you’ve got, rather than the anticipation of more in future months – and it can be an especially good time to look at where you can cut back to maximise your profits without actually doing more work.

Accurate forecasting and a clear understanding of your cash flow position is key to feeling more confident about your company finances – so if in doubt, consider hiring someone to keep an eye on this for you and report back on a regular basis.