The complete list of small business challenges…

  photo by Paul Kehrer

Running a business is a uphill climb, even in the best of times (although the views from the top make it worthwhile).  Regardless of the kind of business you have and how far along you are in that business – there’s some kind of challenge facing you.  It could be something significant, if you don’t take the right path you could fall off a cliff or it could be the kind of challenge that just wears you down over time.

I had a great opportunity the other night to take an informal poll and discussion with about 20 small business owners here in Kansas City and get some great feedback on the types of challenges they’re facing.  I was holding a demonstration ‘event’ for the Peer Group Advisory boards that I run – looking for potential members for a new board and it gave me a great excuse to ask everyone to share a big challenge that they’re facing in their business today.

And we got some great answers…

There was a pretty good mix in the room, mostly service businesses with some established business owners and a lot who were relatively new to their business.  Many were on their own – solopreneurs, but several had employees and a few with partnerships and collaboration arrangements.

In all cases, they had a challenge on their mind – here’s what was shared with the group:

Staying Organized

Life moves fast these days and there are a lot of moving parts…that’s even more true for business owners and several people indicated a significant challenge with having a clear idea (and focus) on what needs to be done and staying on top of it.

Finding new business / Lead Generation

It’s not surprising that finding business and generating new leads was a big challenge for a lot of people.  Although several people mentioned this (or a variation of this) as their top challenge, it came out in a few different ways.

  • Looking for marketing that works, getting some momentum
  • Getting in front of the right target market and decision makers
  • Being consistent with new business efforts (feast or famine problems)

All common challenges (unfortunately) but still difficult to deal with.

Backing Off

We only had 1 person bring this up at the meeting, but I’ve run into a lot of people that are challenged by this (I think that’s partially due to the entrepreneurially approach).  Specifically his challenge was finding a way to put things into perspective, stop pushing so hard and learn to relax a bit.  In this case, the owner has had a successful business for over 11 years…but he’s only had about 4 weeks of vacation total in all of that time!


They say the first step in solving a problem is recognizing you have one, so in this particular case a couple of the business owners are at least on the path to a solution.  A lot of business owners I talk to don’t recognize that they have become the bottleneck for their business…if every significant decision or activity has to pass through any one person, there’s a serious problem.

Recognizing that you as the business owner doesn’t delegate but needs to is indeed the first step to solving the problem! 

Finding (and keeping) good people

As we discussed at the meeting, there are a lot of great people out there looking for a job, but from a business owner’s perspective it can be very difficult to find the right ones.  Get the people right and you’ll get the business right, but first you have to know what you’re looking for and then you still have to be able to find that perfect fit.


Keeping with the people theme, there was a challenge with getting employees (and business owners) the right skills that were  needed to really get things to take off.  There were a couple of issues with training – one was cost, being able to afford training and find the time for it.  The other issue was finding the right kind and the right provider of training.  There are thousands of providers out there, but a lot of them don’t actually deliver what you need…so how do you know where to go?

Time Management / Productivity / Getting things done

This was alluded to by almost everyone, but a few people raised it as their primary challenge as well.  It’s different from staying organized or focused – they know what needs to be done, they just don’t seem to have the time to be able to do everything!

I think most of us can relate to that – we would all like to get more done!

What am I missing?

This was a great group of business owners and we had a fantastic discussion, so this is a pretty representative group of challenges, but I’m wondering if we missed anything?

What challenges are you facing that aren’t mentioned here (or that you might be facing sometime soon).  Share your thoughts in the comments below – I’d love to hear about the challenges that are out there (and then we can start talking about solutions!).

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

1 thought on “The complete list of small business challenges…”

  1. Guna says:

    What about Plan B for the Employees?

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