The top concerns of small business owners may vary slightly from year to year, but there's no denying that owning and operating a small business (of any size) is not for the faint of heart.
Two recent surveys point to key concerns many small business owners share. In a March 2015 State of Small Business Report conducted by Wasp Barcode Technologies, owners and executives of more than 1,000 small businesses offered insights into issues generating the most concern.
For companies with 11-50 employees, the breakdown was as follows:
- Growing revenue - 48%
- Increasing profit - 43%
- Cash flow - 42%
- Hiring employees - 29%
- Raising capital/funding - 21%
For companies with 51-100 employees, the top business challenges were:
- Growing revenue - 45%
- Hiring employees - 45%
- Employee healthcare - 40%
- Government regulation - 36%
- Increasing profit - 32%
Even with these pressing concerns in mind, the Report found that "small businesses are bullish on the economy [and] optimistic on growth in 2015."
A more recent look at small-business concerns, the American Express OPEN Small Business Growth Pulse, surveyed 1,000 small businesses with $250,000 or more in annual revenues. Nearly half (49%) stated that coming up with ideas aimed at growing their business "keeps them up at night," as well as concerns about cash flow issues (36%).
Both surveys suggest that there's plenty to occupy the minds of small business owners these days. But the concerns don't stop there. Here are additional sources of worry shared by most entrepreneurs:
Depending upon a single client
For some businesses, serving one primary client generates the greatest single source of revenue. Obviously, the ideal solution is diversifying the client base to minimize the risk that a sole client may be late in paying for products or services rendered, or worse, chooses to take their business elsewhere.
Most small businesses experience a patch of slow sales from time to time. Perhaps the best way to lessen anxiety, says Caitlin Spillane at Thaney & Associates CPAs, comes from "reaching out to loyal clients with great deals and incentives to increase their purchasing habits."
Any sort of revenue-related inquiry is an unwelcome prospect for small business owners. There's no sure way to prevent an audit from occurring, but the best possible defense consists of diligently maintaining accurate records, keeping copies of all business correspondence and being forthright and transparent with your accountant or tax preparation professional.
Taking care of employees
Business owners are naturally concerned with the welfare of the people they hire to work in the business. This may be especially true among family-owned businesses and other tight-knit companies where people have worked side-by-side for many years. These concerns can sometimes be alleviated by fostering a culture of open employer-employee communications and a respect for the needs of employees beyond the workplace.
Business owner fatigue
As we're constantly reminded, there are only 24 hours in a day, not nearly enough time, it seems, for a small-business owner to get everything done. The problem is compounded by those who aren't comfortable delegating key tasks to their employees and insist on doing everything themselves. This leads inexorably to fatigue and burnout, both of which contribute to poor decision-making and a resentment toward others. No simple solution exists, but small-business analyst Andrew Beattie reminds us that it's something every business owner faces: "Finding a pace that keeps the business humming without grinding down the owner is a challenge that comes early (and often) in the evolution of a small business."
Paychex offers resources that directly address the top concerns of small business owners. From payroll and human resources to accounting and finance, you'll find a wealth of information and support for your own small business.