Why Your Small Business Isn’t Working

a man at a computer is frustrated

You built it and….they didn’t come. Here’s why.

You thought building your small business would be the hard part. After you made a business plan, put the money together, built the logo, created the workflow built the website and a thousand other potential problems were solved by the hard work and imagination you put into this idea. You crossed every i and dotted every t 😉 and threw open the doors. The figurative tumbleweeds have rolled in ever since. Now you can’t understand why your amazing idea isn’t making you the next 21st century billionaire. Business is like a combination lock. You can have most of the numbers right and still not open the door. The following is a list, in no certain order of what you may be missing to get the ball rolling and your small business working.

You thought you could do business on your own.

Entrepreneurs think they can do it on their own, so they try to. They become so busy doing the marketing, the accounting, the management, logistics, brand identity, online presence, sales, operations and on and on that they don’t do any of it well. Most small business owners don’t get to start with a wage or a salary. They work for free with the promise of income from profits. The money usually goes to the team members you have to have, whether full-time, part-time or 1099 freelancers, in order to succeed. You didn’t build a job, you built a system and a machine that will make you money over time, but for now you have to put some form of a team in place to help you do your dream well. You cannot do this on your own. It takes a village. So get that village working for you.

You thought your small business idea was amazing.

This is the toughest of all the problems. I’ve watched as retirees cashed out their retirement to start the next big frozen banana treat, wedding rental business and Italian restaurant, only to learn that no one wanted what they sunk their life saving in. Unfortunately, if you didn’t test the concept, you lost. There is no substitute for inexpensively testing your idea BEFORE you sink your fortune, or borrowed money into it. If you spent all your time on branding and website design, only to open up to crickets, you missed a huge opportunity. Always make a few, cheap sales, before you invest in anything. Surveys and opinions aren’t real. When someone hands you money for your idea, then you can start, but not before.

Your math was wrong.

That bicycle cost $1500. You just knew that your bike shop could sell those bikes for $900 dollars and make a profit. You outsold your competition only to find you owe more that when you started. Now you see why the competition hates your new small business since you bought their customers away. Customers who were barely paying for their business have driven you to the brink of disaster. The unknowns are killers. Insurance, taxes, advertising, maintenance fees and on and on will sink and underprices business model faster than a torpedo sinks boats. In the age of launches and promotion we’ve lost the art of the slow start. It’s crucial that you know the numbers before you try to start. That means going into this understanding that there are costs you don’t yet know. Learn them, face them and price accordingly.

Your business location doesn’t make sense.

This is not an insult. It’s a common mistake small business owners make. They create a better mouse trap and sell it at the airport. Their art is the most beautiful thing in the lawyers office who gave them cheap rent. They have the nicest sail boat in Arizona. It’s really easy to get this wrong. You have to make sure your customers look at your offering and love it. Most people want to have the only business in town. This is usually bad thinking. If there isn’t a version of what you do near you, there could be a reason. Make sure your entire idea makes sense.

You got bad advice.

You paid a “coach” to tell you what to do, only to learn that they didn’t know what they were talking about. Check out this video explaining some of the fakery I’ve seen and what to look for before you take advice.

Take the time to flesh out your idea before you put a ton of energy, money or time into it. If you’ve already started it, don’t be married to bad ideas or practices. Kill what doesn’t work, fix what needs fixed and dig in. You may need an outside set of eyes to be open and honest about what isn’t working. Business is like a combination lock. You may have most of the numbers right and just need one more to open the lock. Or you may have them all wrong. Sometimes it’s easier for someone else to see which is true. Go start your thing, but start it right.

Take care.