Entrepreneurship doesn’t come with a rule book. It’s always exciting to start a business from scratch, more so if it’s your very first. It’s fun to dream about making it big or having several outlet stores with your name on them, but the first step towards becoming the next Jack Ma or Jeff Bezos is to set your business up correctly and manage all obstacles effectively.
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” — Henry Ford
Are Start-ups Susceptible to Business Obstacles?
Challenges are everywhere. Generally, all businesses, and start-ups, in particular, are not exempted from the myriad of challenges faced today. Starting your business is like planting a tree. First, you have to invest your time and money. Then, you must take manure it while expecting nothing in return. Obstacles are part of the bigger picture, but as your start-up blossoms, it makes all the patience and hard work worthwhile.
Regardless of whether you’re an amateur or an experienced entrepreneur, there are obstacles that will always come up, such as establishing your company’s brand and authority, beating the competition, or struggling to make a profit. However, as a new entrepreneur, you’ll have a few unique obstacles that you must overcome. Depending on your own strengths, your personality, and your business background, some of them will be easier to overcome than others. In the ultra-competitive business world, while entrepreneurs face many challenges, fortunately, contemporary times have delivered more resources for tackling those problems than ever before.
That’s why we’ve come up with a comprehensive list of Business Obstacles You Will Face as a Start-up, solutions to help entrepreneurs like you get started the right way, and to run your business efficiently. Generally, this article will help first-time founders identify and overcome a number of obstacles when:
- Launching the start-up;
- Building a team; and
- Penetrating the market.
Obstacles When Launching Your Start-up
Many 9-to-5 employees who hate their jobs secretly wish they could start a business of their own. Now may be the best time to start your own business, but it’s not always that simple. There are many challenges that come with the decision to start a business.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi
If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, be prepared for the following major hurdles from the onset:
1. Abandoning Your Current Job
Thousands today are miserable in their current jobs and careers and the first thing they think about is starting their own business.
If you have already decided that you want to dedicate your time and efforts towards starting and nurturing a successful start-up business, keep in mind that you’ll face challenges managing another career simultaneously. It’s possible to manage both careers during the infancy stage of your business, perhaps during weeknights and weekends. However, launching your start-up business successfully and growing immensely requires your full attention from the onset. Therefore, if you want to seize as many opportunities as they come, quit your day job.
But take maximum caution. The perception of the risk-loving entrepreneur who gives it all up to take a giant leap of faith into the unknown is a far-fetched truth. Do not fall for the commonly misconstrued belief that in order to succeed, entrepreneurs must be “all in.” Let’s pause for a moment and ponder on the bleak truth that 9 out of every 10 start-ups will fail. Some quick facts reveal that 30% of new businesses fail in the first 2 years of operation, 50% in the first 5 years, and 66% in the first 10.
Quitting a promising, steady, long-term career for something unpredictable is scary, especially if you’ve never run a business before. Unfortunately, there’s no specific formula to address this.
- Simply think through your decision logically, and follow your instincts.
- Create a well thought-out business plan along with a rehearsed pitch to increase your chances of finding an investor.
- Create a professional website, an active blog, a LinkedIn page and a Twitter account to enhance your online presence.
The life of an entrepreneur is not desirable, especially in the beginning. As a start-up, everyone has different ideas about how to run your business and how you should grow. You can easily get discouraged when everything seems to go haywire: when your decisions are questionable, when your sales are bad, when your business is not growing as fast as you had projected, and many other negative outcomes. If you keep your guard down, self-doubt creeps in, and floods your mind like a plague through the following questions.
- How long will your business exist?
- How profitable will your business be?
- Will customers like your product?
- Will you be able to give yourself a steady pay check?
If you can read them again, none of these questions have a solid, reliable answer, even if your start-ups was launched on a great idea and you have all the resources theoretically needed to succeed.
- Having a good support system, which includes family and friends who know your goals and support you unconditionally, along with entrepreneurs who can objectively advise you on the direction of your business.
- Work on your goals and task lists. When you feel like you are not motivated, revisit your to-do list to remind that you have to constantly work towards your lifetime goals. Doing this often reassures you that you’re one step closer to business success.
- Take time to find your own identity and vision for your company, and come up with the best business model that resonates with your finished product for every market.
3. Founder’s Fatigue
Recently, I met an old friend who had started a promising business over one year ago. He bluntly said, “I need a break from the word entrepreneurship, I’m leaving the country.” Then it dawned on me! Starting a company require relentless input, and to make your business grow through all obstacles and successes, you must be creative around the clock. The constant self-regulated work patterns and regularly working in isolation with blurry end goals can suck the energy out of you.
Founder’s fatigue is what owners feel as they stare up that steep slope to the next level of success whether you know or don’t understand the task ahead. While it’s natural, founder’s fatigue intensifies when problems arise and you have to manoeuvre through them constantly.
Remember, regular day jobs have fixed, predictable, and cyclic schedules. You also enjoy sick days, paid holidays, and, get your pay check at the end of every month. When launching your start-up, everything changes completely. You are likely to spend more hours working for fear that your business might fail in their absence of your employees.
To overcome founder’s fatigue it is important to keep your eye on the big picture and make the most of your business idea through the following ways:
- Find a balance between work and play with the intention of solving every problem and coming up with effective solutions promptly.
- Constantly communicate with your team on a number of ideas to ensure you maintain a forward progress. Otherwise, you’ll end up exhausted and abandon everything.
- Every day, spare one hour for yourself. Do not talk about business, turn off phone and email notifications, play your favourite sport, and watch something you like. You will realize that these moments will become the perfect time outs for you to keep you motivated.
4. Raising Capital
You want to start or grow your business, but you have little capital to fund all your projects.
Yes, you need money. You will be in trouble unless you’re extraordinarily lucky to have enough cash from sales or investors. When you start a new business, getting sufficient amounts of money to keep everything running is not an easy task. Cash flow issues will delay key processes, such as the rollout of products, hiring key staff, fitting out new offices, etc. Unless you have enough savings from your current or previous day job, there are high chances that you will money problems from the onset.
When it comes to funding a new business, experienced entrepreneurs usually have an advantage over newcomers. The former might have a pool of capital from a previously sold business or a steady stream of revenue for funding cash flow in their new business. New entrepreneurs who have to start from scratch must network crazily off the bat and think through all funding options before landing on one. With little experience in the industry, it won’t be easy, but the process will definitely help you hasten the rate at which you achieve your business goals.
- Plan to have at least two years of solid funding from your private savings or venture capital investments.
- Seek the help of multiple investors to boost your working capital.
- Unlike the more experienced entrepreneurs who already have an established network of potential investors, you’ll have to work harder and dedicate enough time and effort into creating a business that is attractive to investors.
Obstacles When Building Your Team
This is especially hard if you’ve never run or managed a team before, but even if you have management experience, picking the right team for a start-up is stressful and difficult. You may have launched your start-up successfully. The roadmap looks stellar, but there’s one unpredictable factor that emerges: hiring the right employees. If you are a sole proprietor, this might not be an obstacle. Otherwise, if you want people to complete some of the daily tasks, you must have the knack to hire and manage the right individuals.
“Great companies are built in the office, with hard work put in by a team.” – Emily Chang
Expect the following obstacles when trying to build an effective team.
1. Recruiting Employees
It may seem like a fun experience, but in reality, this could turn out to be a very stressful issue. Even advertising the vacancy for “qualified” candidates can be exhausting, let alone evaluating countless resumes and interviewing clueless candidates who may look confused about the task at hand. Unemployment is low and it is harder to engage talented professionals for new job opportunities.
Conversely, hiring often require a lengthy interview process along with assessments for skills and personality and some candidates may end up abandoning the process early. This is a major challenge, especially when you about to hire a potential candidate, not knowing that hundreds of other recruiters are reaching out to him at the same time.
- When recruiting team members, ensure you balance the costs and the benefits first.
- Secondly, be extra careful with the candidates’ characters and personalities. Some individuals could be fantastic at performing specific duties, but they might lack the prerequisite interpersonal skills to work in a start-up company.
- Target passive candidates who already have a job because you’ll be meeting their needs and that of your business at once.
- Highlight the benefits that the job candidates would enjoy beyond the typical salary package, e.g. team happy hours, dog-friendly workspace, fully stocked kitchen, etc. Most candidates, especially millennials, need to know that your company cares about their needs.
2. Not understanding the development process
Business owners are often required to be well-rounded experts in many areas. This obstacle arises when you lack the skills to understand the specifics of certain business processes. If your start-up is part of a certain industry, let’s say, food and beverage, there are many processes that you must incorporate into your business to achieve a smooth flow, for example, technology. If you don’t have a tech background, or the required skills to understand what’s going on with the development, it might be difficult for you to manage the product development.
To run a start-up development team effectively, you need to know how it all works and understand the basics of, for example, mobile/web engineering, design, and testing. Learning from scratch won’t relay save you the agony because you it’s a lengthy process to become a Mr. or Mrs. Know-It-All at this point, and it’s a more time-consuming affair.
- Get a dedicated chief technology officer (CTO) who will take care of all the aspects of product development, design and testing. The CTO ensures that the software gets delivered on time and runs smoothly.
3. Delegation of roles to team members
Since employing many workers is a costly affair, a number of start-up owners choose to work with a versatile team that can handle various responsibilities. You delegate or outsource tasks, but it seems every time you do, the team members mess up and you have to waste precious time re-doing them. It’s sensible to avoid recruiting specialized personnel, for example, a technical writer for an Agile project to save costs. Even though you might struggle to align your product development with other business processes, always avoid allowing your developers to carry out the testing.
Before distributing the roles, ensure each tech team at least consist of a project manager, designers, developers, and QA engineers. You can also include a product manager or business analyst depending on the scope of the project as well as the various elements you have already taken care of.
- Set up regular meetings
- Organize business trips
- Allocate roles and responsibilities clearly.
4. Limited pool of local talent
You will find it an uphill task recruiting the best and the brightest specialists locally. As a smaller start-up, it will be difficult competing against larger companies when trying to select a solid local candidate into your office. Most specialist candidates prefer established companies in the local market because they aim for long-term success. If you are lucky enough to land a suitable local candidate, they might randomly disappear in the course of a project.
Always be ready to replace this type of worker by hiring abroad. You will experience some limitations when looking for a proper team member from the local area, but ensure you don’t flood the whole team with foreign individuals. Generally, hiring some people from the outside often makes sense.
- Go global and hire software developers remotely.
- Build a strong, remote teams that have all the capacities to design, develop, test, and support the product.
Obstacles When Penetrating the Market
Once a start-up company enters a new market, it strives for market penetration by reaching new clients or customers and potentially boosting profits. The main objective behind the market penetration strategy is to launch a product, enter the market as swiftly as possible and finally, capture a sizeable market share. Market penetration strategy doesn’t work for all products, and market leaders frequently use other strategies.
“Adaptability and constant innovation is key to the survival of any company operating in a competitive market.” – Shiv Nadar
The following are some of the challenges start-up business ventures face when they decide to penetrate new markets:
Business is a competition. Competition is a business. No one ever said it was going to be easy, and despite having a great product or services, the market is always crowded. New start-ups need to deal with competitors fiercely and logically; and if they don’t, they’ll be left far behind. When dealing with competitors in the same industry, it can be intimidating, especially if you are comparing yourself to companies that have been around for ages.
However, competition is healthy for your business as it keeps you from getting complacent, motivates you, pushes your limits, and helps you use your resources more pragmatically. As a start-up, it may not seem like the competitive nature of the industry is a good thing for you. But actually, it is. Competition makes you innovative, focused, and persevering. After all, every business in your niche will be scrambling to have a bigger slice of the pie.
- Identify your competitors and their products as well as what they are doing. Are they offering a new innovation? Applying a new strategy? Can these work for you? Ask yourself these are questions as an opportunity to find answers that will give you a competitive edge.
- Find your strengths and build on them. Rather than playing your competitors’ game by imitating what makes them sell, focus on your own advantages. Finding your competitive edge and exploit it to spell the difference between bankruptcy and record-breaking sales.
- Monitor your numbers (costs, sales, revenue, prices, and market shares) so that you know where you stand in the market.
- Seek help and advice from experts. Engage with them and be aware.
2. Choosing a marketing strategy
Many start-ups lack the ability to choose the best strategy to market their products and services. In order to maximize your return on investment with efficient, targeted marketing they are always torn between a number of strategies, such as print, online, mobile, advertising, etc. The chosen strategy can be very painful on the expenses of your start-up company if you fail to execute it in the right way. Many businesses do not receive the right return on investment (ROI) on such expenditures.
In view of this, you should validate the marketing strategy to be in line with your business idea accordingly. Your unique selling proposition always lies in what you are offering that your competitors lack. Or if you can’t offer something different, at least communicate what you have in a different way.
- Find a way to be different or at least market yourself in a different way and you’ll win some of the market share. For instance, choose a market niche.
- Outsource your marketing strategy to a firm that is proficient at creating marketing plans and placing ads.
- Come up with a comprehensive marketing plan and include the marketing activities you will undertake to motivate purchases.
- Constantly educate your target market and keep them informed about your products. Keep updating your progress until your value in business is loud and clear.
What are some specific unforeseen business challenges start-ups might face today?
Just as a sailor prepares for a sudden storm, and a pilot stays vigilant for an unpredictable bad weather, so must an entrepreneur be ready for whatever comes. Unexpected challenges can come in the form of:
- Bad debts from customers
- Decreasing working capital
- Inadequate stock or inventory
- Inconsistent government policy
- Loss of market share
- Not being able to make payroll
- Unexpected law suits
- Unexpected resignation of staff from sensitive office
- Unpaid bills and taxes
Who can be considered as a successful start-up entrepreneur?
Successful small business people have certain common characteristics. This checklist is not comprehensive, but it can give you an idea of whether you measure up as a successful start-up entrepreneur. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I persevere through tough times?
- Do I have a strong desire to be my own boss?
- Do the judgments I make in life regularly turn out well?
- Do I have the ability to conceptualize the whole of a business?
- Do I possess a high level of energy that is sustainable over long hours?
- Do I have significant specialized business experience?
The above obstacles can be tough, but these simple tips can point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to admit you are having a hard time. After all, no one said it was going to be easy. There will be times when you want to give up, but sooner, you will soon find yourself on the other side. Bluntly, you can’t hide from or completely avoid all these obstacles. The good news is that you probably won’t face all of them and even if you do, it won’t happen at once. However, you have to be aware of their existence and prepare for them as much as you can.
“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan
The bottom line is that there’s no easy road towards successful entrepreneurship. If you have a great business idea, and you want to use it to launch a start-up company, our business development experts at Tianlong Services can help you get through all obstacles towards establishing a successful start-up business. The greatest businessmen of modern times also faced difficulties, pitfalls, and even failed, but they stood up and faced all challenges head-on.