As we close the first quarter of a new year there are several themes of this new year that I have been consistently hearing, sometimes personally experiencing, and seem to be prevalent among our community of Christian business owners. Some of it not great news. However, there is some good news… as we approach Easter, we have the good news that Christ has risen and is alive today. He is with each of us. And secondly, although not quite as inspiring… you are not alone.
Isn’t that important? To know that you are not the only business owner in the whole city who is not killing it on every front. Many of us make it seem that way. Let’s just talk about the good things… no one wants to hear our problems.
5 Common Small Business Struggles
The reality is that we are all experiencing some good and some bad. This first quarter here are the most common struggles affecting small businesses in my network:
Slow business – from retail to service companies, restaurants to engineers, manufacturers and distributors, there has been a theme of business is slow. I wrote a post about this several years ago that is still applicable. What to do when business is slow is sort of a guide to how to make the best out of this time. Another more recent post may help generate ideas on how to stimulate sales.
Turnover – and of course, as it is with Murphy’s Law, it is mostly the businesses that are not slow right now that have the most turnover. Go figure. A client asked me the other day, “Is it just me?” Nope…of course not. We recruit for clients and it feels like we are seeing fewer great candidates too. You may want to download our ebook Hire Standards. It is an excerpt of our 3 part guide Hire Power, that you can purchase here.
Computer issues – one day our email went spotty on us. A couple of our team members complained they weren’t receiving certain emails. Others said their email wasn’t sending. Our hosting company explained after several phone calls and many different points of contact- we are having some capacity issues but it will be fixed soon. When exactly? Soon. So, we decided to move to Office 365. Since it has One Drive and Skype and other cool apps, we can get rid of a bunch of other tools. We move. Email works but now my Office products that used to be seamless are now clunky. And how can Skype not be self-explanatory? Maybe we should have moved to Google? What? Noooo screamed several other clients, we have been having trouble for months.
It’s a conspiracy. All of the companies have banned together to make sure small business owners have to use several different solutions for each service they need. Google, Office, Dropbox, Basecamp, Evernote, Go To Meeting… we can’t need all of them, can we?
People problems – outside of turnover, small business owners really don’t like dealing with people problems. Whether it is a performance issue in one of their lean team members, squabbling between employees, or an overall disengagement or morale problem, these can create bigger issues than all of the other temporary problems above. The most important thing you can do when you are having any kind of people issues is to address the issue. Too often we hope they will just go away. As leaders, our lack of attention only serves to exacerbate the problems. You are the owner. It is your problem too. And it is your job to address.
Stress – we think of big business and demanding corporate jobs when we think of stress. But it is prevalent in the small business community. Just the three issues above create significant stress for small businesses. Many haven’t scaled enough that a few slow months can be handled with ease. Cash flow problems arise pretty quickly. And most of us do not have 2 or 3 deep of any position. If you lose someone without much notice, it can be a race to fill a gaping hole. And computer issues… they stress everyone out.
There are several ways to combat stress:
- Take care of your health.
- Look to your Savior: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7.
- Pray about your business.
- Focus on solidifying your foundation – productivity makes us feel we are doing something and we will have peace knowing we will be better prepared when things turn around.
- Talk to someone – a business coach or a counselor can help you to personally deal with stress better and provide guidance to help change your circumstances.
Sometimes Empathy Is More Helpful Than Encouragement
I remember one time a client was going through a particularly bad time. They may have been experiencing all five of the issues above. Usually I try so hard to just be an encourager. To remind them of their past success, to promise our help, to try to give tangible solutions or action steps to help resolve the issues. It is in my nature. After all, I am a coach, an encourager.
That day I must have been feeling the pressure of my own issues (yes even coaches and counselors have issues). Instead of encouraging, I empathized. I shared a similar problem I was experiencing. As the words escaped my lips, I immediately regretted it. I am supposed to be the coach, not lean on my clients.
I looked up and there were traces of tears in my client’s eyes. He said, “wow, thank you for sharing that. You always seem like everything is perfect in your business, life [whatever we were discussing]. It actually makes me feel better that you have struggles too.”
He didn’t say it in a malicious, I wish you harm, way. No, honestly, he just wanted someone to say…
“You’re not alone!”