Challenges, stressors small business face

There will always be challenges to face.

Challenges and stressors always present a right and wrong way to address them

There are right ways and wrong ways to approach your future challenges. Doing nothing is not an option as the struggles will continue. Starting and running a business is a big achievement. However, maintaining profitable growth and sustainability is the larger challenge.

There are many challenges and stressors that face every business whether they are large or small. You have chosen the challenges with the biggest impact to address in this post. Overcome your limiting beliefs by prioritising the suggestions in this post and start to action them.

Every business has challenges

There will always be challenges and things that cause you stress. Different challenges for different people.


After 50 years the following key things have materialised and survived the test of time and are still important for a modern business, non-profit or community. In my experience, it is impossible to address all the issues and challenges you need to, in a short period of time.

Obviously, there are more issues that will impact your business. However, the ones listed here will have the biggest impact on the challenges you will face and therefore should be high on your priority list.

These are challenges, but not death sentences. One of the worst things a start-up can do is to go into a business without considering the challenges ahead. You’ve looked at some things that can help make these challenges easier, but there is no avoiding them. An important step in overcoming a challenge is knowing the size of that challenge and how to deal with it.

Focus on a lifestyle business. The sooner you match the lifestyle you want with your business interests, the sooner you remove many challenges and stressors.

Health and well-being can arguably one of your biggest challenges

Far too many business people think they are invincible and will live forever. While many are risk adverse they still make mistakes and ignore their personal health.

Stress and fatigue only add to your burden

The hours, the work and the constant pressure to perform can test even the most passionate individuals. Most business owners, even successful ones, suffer from stress and fatigue from overwork. Most work much longer hours than their employees. This is often because they fear that their business will stall in their absence. They avoid taking any long breaks away from work to recharge, their work/life balance is out of wack.

When fatigue sets in, the weariness of the long hours and the variable results can lead to rash decisions about the business, including the desire to abandon it completely. Finding a pace that keeps the business humming without grinding you down is a challenge that comes early (and often) in the evolution of any business.

There is a right way and a wrong way

If you are lost and confused, why not reassess you work/life balance.

Working hours and your work/life balance are critical to both your health and the outcomes you want to achieve. I always thought that the harder I worked the more successful I would be and the luckier I would become. This is only right to a point, simply because if your health is not good, or are on the wrong track or using the wrong strategies you will never get where you want to go. Stress and ill health will continue to follow you.

Stress and Eustress

Most people understand the negative side of stress, correctly referred to as distress (dis=bad). Only a few, however, are aware of the positive stress, namely Eustress (eu=good).

The degree of stress which any stressor will cause is dependent on:

  1. The degree to which the stressor is present. In other words, the more of the stressor, the greater the stress it produces. So, for example, if a small headache causes some stress, a large headache will cause more stress. If a small argument causes a small amount of stress, a big argument will cause even more stress.
  2. How the stressor is perceived (different people will view stressors differently). As a result, one stressor might produce distress in one person and eustress in another.

Much of the skill involved in dealing with stress comes down to weighing up the gains and losses. If the gains from attending to the situational encounter outweigh the losses, then the outcome is eustress. On the other hand, if the losses outweigh the gains, then distress is a likely result. This could be viewed as risk management or cost-benefit analysis. Nevertheless, sometimes there is no escaping loss, threat or harm and learning to cope is required.

A stressor is any event or condition that initiates a stress reaction. There are many kinds of stressors: from burnt toast to a negative bank manager. Here are a few of the stressors in business

The frustrations or stressors you can be having in business

  • Low belief levels in what you do.
  • On a treadmill, day in and day out.
  • Undue family and other relationship pressures.
  • Financial problems.
  • Sales declines, or expectations in performance not met.
  • Disappointment in you and your business and community.
  • Being surrounded by negative people and negative influences.
  • Poor or no direction, focus and lack of action.
  • You have caught the procrastination disease.
  • Not knowing what it takes to succeed.
  • Frustrated with the painfully slow progress in trying to build a profitable business?
  • Overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done.
  • Just plain exhausted from trying to juggle too many projects.
  • Chronic health issues.
  • Can’t adapt to all the change taking place.
  • Competitive issues.
  • Working long hours with no rest and recreation.
  • Peace of mind is only a dream.

The first step in any stress management or emotional wellbeing plan should be to eliminate unnecessary stressors in your life.

Although a relatively simple concept, this action may require significant environmental interventions for some. If you need to better manage your time do so. If you need to develop a better social support network or get out of a destructive relationship then go for it.

Lifestyle challenges can be overcome

The concept of work and life being two separate things has gone. Today all aspects of life are blending into one. It is harmony,  not work/life balance, that everyone should be striving for. A work/life balance seems to come automatically when all aspects of your life are working in harmony.

Lifestyle choices

You always have a choice. Accept your current situation, or accept the responsibility to make the necessary changes. What is the time to make the changes to living the lifestyle you have always dreamed about? It’s never too late for you to become the person you’ve always wanted to be and live the lifestyle you seek to enjoy. Start unleashing your creativity and become action orientated.

When will your dreams and talents be realised and your aspirations fully unleashed? Do you really think your desired lifestyle will materialise without actions of boldness and courage? So, trash your current thinking and get on board with the new normal with a modern mobile workplace environment and live the lifestyle you crave.


Stability doesn’t always come easy, to find it you might have to risk it. Personal stability is a lifestyle characterised by appropriate and well-thought-out decisions, consistent behaviour and happy disposition. It’s often overlooked, yet it’s a key component of success and well-being. Stable people tend to have long, satisfying relationships. They do well in their jobs and businesses. Their lives are relatively free from unnecessary drama and they make good decisions regarding their health and finances.


Often people become concerned with being able to make sufficient money to sustain them at a level they have been used to. Overcome this by becoming more financially savvy and make the effort to create a good business model, business plan and budget, Don’t spend more money than you bring in. If you’re in debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. Cut up your credit cards, you can do without expensive credit.

Community engagement

Isolation and loneliness can be a big challenge. Most people like people and to be involved with them outside of business. Most successful businesses become involved in community activities and support local charities and community service organisations. It’s good for the people they support and it is good for them.

Community challenges tend to dissolve when people come together to unravel them. Some find it difficult to make new friends if the lifestyle change means a new community.Good communities don’t happen by themselves, so learning to become involved is important.

Family becoming frustrated

When a lifestyle change is finally undertaken, the family can become disorientated and disappointed that it is not what was expected. Whenever you make a lifestyle change, fully discuss what is involved and take you family on the journey with you, it can be too late once you have committed without them.

Systems and processes

A big challenge for many starting a lifestyle business find that they no longer have the resources they were used to. They now have to do more mundane jobs themselves, they no longer have the people or extensive technology they have been accustomed to. Seek advice, technology and communications have never been cheaper or easier to use.

Adjust to a new pace of life

Some make the lifestyle change and within a short time find that the slower pace of life is not what they are really looking for, they miss the hustle and bustle. Face reality and stay energised. Lean into the tough challenges instead of pulling away. Pulling away is usually  your instinct when the going gets tough, just as you pull away from pain.

Challenges can be overcome

It’s truly fascinating how successful people approach their challenges and stressors. What many see as impenetrable barriers, they see challenges to embrace, stressors to be removed and obstacles to overcome. Their confidence in the face of challenge is driven by their ability to let go of the negativity that holds so many otherwise sensible people back.

Successful people know that caring about what other people think is a waste of time and energy and quickly end bad relationships. When they feel good about what they are doing, they don’t let anyone’s opinions take it away from them. No matter what other people think of you, one thing is certain, you’re never as good or as bad as they say you are. Your success is driven by your mindset. With discipline and focus, you can ensure that challenges and stressors never hold you back from reaching your ambitions.

Don’t give into challenges and stressors that you really can do something about. Like most people, you have more strengths then you realise, you just have to focus and work on them. It is better to face your fears now and enjoy the reward than to give up on your dreams and let your struggles continue.

Learn about entrepreneurial attributes

When I learned that I was a ‘classic’ entrepreneurship, I started to understand myself. I started doing what entrepreneurs do best, but doing it on purpose. Starting a business can present more challenges and stressors than most people can cope with. You have to be able to live with uncertainty and push through barriers until you hit smooth waters and life becomes easier. It can take years to learn how to run  a business well, but you will find the attributes of entrepreneurs will calm the waters and do it more quickly.


The old saying “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”, is still alive and well today. However, the way you go about it has changed enormously over the last few years. Without sound objectives, strategies and actions, progress is painfully slow. You continue doing the same old things and putting up with the same old problems and frustrations. Your strategies show the approach that will be used to deliver the outcomes you want.

There are well-known strategies you can use to make your business deliver the outcomes you want, wishing and hoping is not one of them. One of the keys to success is having a good enough plan that it helps you to control all aspects of your business. Every time I have a refocus of my vision I had a surge in performance.

Where do your interests lie and what are you passionate about? If you don’t understand the ‘why’, the why you do what you do, how do you expect to get to where you want to go. If you then fail to focus on your customer’s problems, frustrations, wants and needs, don’t expect to achieve the outcomes you want. Less is more, so only work on what is essential to achieve your goals.

Values are the glue in any organisation

Values are critical and should be your #1 guide in planning your future direction, as well as day-to-day activities. It took me years to understand why others didn’t have the same values as I did and how incongruent values cause eventual breakdowns in relationships and even organisations.

Conquer your fears before they conquer you

Fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. Danger, on the other hand, is real. Fear will always be there when you put yourself out of your comfort zone and that isn’t bad as it means you’re at last making real progress. Fear is actually essential, it is your survival signal and what has kept you active and thinking about your future.

Making mistakes and getting things wrong

I have experienced the frustrations and trauma of getting things wrong. You feel so stupid. But, when I analysed it I can see where I went wrong. Usually, it was because I did not put enough time into thinking things through, or I swayed against my better judgement, or I acted on bad advice.

Of course, I learned that I was not the only one to ever get things wrong, it is a natural part of having a go. It is from your mistakes that you learn the most. Show me someone who has not made a bad mistake and I will show you a non-achiever. They have usually done very little with their life.

The lows make you appreciate the highs. Doing things faster, better and cheaper than anyone else usually, leads to a tired person ageing quickly. In the early days, I was too busy to document my best strategies as I went along. I kept inventing new ones instead of refining what really worked.

Trust is what good relationships are built on

If there is no love there is no trust. If there is no trust then productivity will always be low and mistakes made. Most of the time you probably accept the thoughts that bombard your mind every day as the truth, and worse, you act on them. Your thoughts come from your beliefs and your beliefs about the world were formed from your family, friends, and other influences in your life. You have to develop beliefs and trust that will support you well. If you don’t challenge your thoughts and instead accept them as the truth, you are setting yourself up for some difficult challenges.

You have to develop beliefs and trust that will support you well. If you don’t challenge your thoughts and accept them all as the truth, you are setting yourself up for some difficult challenges. If customers do not trust you or your organisation, don’t expect them to deal with you.

Attract and retain a quality workforce

Success depends on having the best talent in place for now and for the future. It’s can be an important competitive advantage. But, it means  looking at the quality, not the quantity, in your current and future people.

It is important to create a workplace that attracts, retains and engages employees and contractors no matter what the economy is doing. Talented and skilled people are always in demand. The more skill and talent they possess, the more likely they will leave you for another business. You should not only be concerned about retaining good employees but also focus on creating an environment that makes them as productive as possible.

Today good employees are demanding a flexible working environment. They want to work from their home, the beach or the customers’ premises and work at any time of the day or night. Technology and communications make this possible as businesses become more and more virtual. Happy families lead to happier employees and it is the mobility that makes the work/life balance practical and affordable.

Analytics provides a basis for improving decision-making

You need to know what is going right and just as importantly, what is going wrong, in order to uncover ideas and opportunities.  Ideas and opportunities for both your customers and your business. The ‘Business Health Check’ and the old SWOT analysis are important tools. The SWOT analysis was one of the very first tools I learned about and today is still one of the most useful analytical tools.

Metrics give you a choice. To find out what is really going on, or to keep in touch with what is happening in the marketplace. If you are closing your eyes to reality, a good set of metrics can help you to open them and respond more decisively.

A choice framework can move you to a new level of operations

It may be necessary to re-position your business in order to accommodate the many changes that are happening. The way you do business today and into the future will be vastly different. How you have done business in the past, could well be bound up in poor choices.

The following model gives you four distinct choices. Zero repositioning should in almost all cases not be one of them.

  1. Creative Repositioning – Something different, opportunities not yet acted upon.
  1. Gradual Repositioning – Planned, continuous adaptation to the environment.
  1. Radical Repositioning – A discontinuous shift to a new position, which has hidden dangers.
  1. Zero Repositioning – Maintain an unchanged face to the market and be at its mercy.

Avoiding dependence or risk the business

For many businesses, especially those with a small number of employees, client dependence and supplier dependence can cause huge challenges. If a business depends on a single customer, or supplier for more than half its income, that should immediately raise a red flag. If that’s the case, the business is totally reliant on the one client or supplier to stay operational and profitable. Diversifying your client and supplier base needs to be a priority if growth and stability are also goals.

Modern marketing needs to be a top priority

Marketing is changing fast and business will be wise to consider these changes as they plan for their future. First, there will be a need to be increasingly skilled in the use of technology and marketing platforms.  The creative side of marketing is critically important in developing clever marketing campaigns that work.

Smaller businesses have more potential for success than ever. The more significant successes will go to businesses that have a flexible and effective online strategy. A strategy that can rapidly respond to changing requirements of decerning customers. Social media is causing more and more people to get their recommendations from others online. Businesses that have a significant online presence will be at the forefront of lead generation. Marketing will increasingly involve things like the following:

The sooner you act the sooner you will overcome modern marketing challenges

  • Being found in a globally competitive marketplace is critical.
  • The customer experience must be exciting when prospects find you.
  • The importance of your website should not be underestimated.
  • Social media will be playing an increasing role in marketing.
  • Content marketing is leading most marketing efforts today.
  • Competitive advantages are important to any competitive business.
  • You will be looking at marketing platforms sooner than later.
  • Global competition seems to come from nowhere.
  • Speed to market should not be overlooked.

Many businesses go international from birth. Today this is not an after-thought as more and more businesses are seeking the opportunities in the international marketplace just to expand their businesses. This is being facilitated by all the new technologies and communication platforms becoming available.

What is having the greatest impact on smaller businesses is the ability to scale very quickly by using technology. Smaller businesses used to be thought of as local mom-and-pop shops. But now it is possible for a small business to be at the centre of the world, selling its products worldwide overnight. Smaller businesses can partake in the digital revolution and expand their business more readily than larger competitors. By partnering, they can sell their products worldwide using online business partners, without having to figure out the logistics and making large capital investments.

Action orientation

Finishers are winners. Making good business decisions is important, but making sure that those decisions are implemented is also critical to your success. If you are action-oriented, you’re the type of person who gets things done, whether on your own or through other people.

You make good on your own commitments, and you make sure that other people do as well. Whatever you need to do, you follow through on it, procrastination is something you have put behind you. You close each meeting by getting the people involved to clarify who’s responsible for implementing which tasks, as well as when the tasks should be completed.

Clarify accountability, making certain that each person is clear on exactly what action steps they are responsible for, and by when. Ambiguity is the enemy of executing against any business plan. However, a certain amount of latitude and flexibility should be allowed. If there is one thing people don’t like, it’s being micro-managed. Allocate the tasks and allow people to decide how they will carry them out. This alone will greatly reduce your challenges and stressors.

Outsourcing could be a matter of life or death

You may think that outsourcing marketing services are a waste of time, or a waste of money, or both. However, the reality is that your failure to diversify your business by outsourcing could actually be limiting your earning potential along with your capacity to compete. Outsourcing could hold the key to increased revenues and profits along with a more stable business.

Service providers hold the key to your outsourcing success in the digital marketplace. As businesses move to become more digital, opportunities are arising for service providers to play a crucial role. No longer can you know all there is to know about your business, its product mix and the marketplace. This is why smart businesses are outsourcing everything that is not their core business and they are enjoying a more stress-free business.

If you are concentrating on the day-to-day activities, the ones you should be outsourcing, you can look forward to slow-to-no growth. If you are trying to do it all because you don’t want to pay someone else to do something you can do, you are the problem in growing your dream business.

Something happens between the time you start, and the time you realise your profitable growth is hard to pin down. In many cases, people think they can ‘do it all’ wearing too many hats. If you want to stay in business today is the best day to delegate and start outsourcing.

Know your key numbers

Having enough cash to cover the bills is a must for any business, as it must be for every individual. Both your business and your life will emerge as a capital drain that challenges you to become more financially savvy, In order to meet the financial challenges, you must either be well capitalised or be able to pick up extra income to shore up your cash flow when needed.

Money management becomes even more important when the business has a growth spurt. Although handling business accounting and taxes may be within the capabilities of some, professional help is usually a good idea.

Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business

When I first started in the agricultural machinery business, I immediately started making sales, but there was no cash in the bank when it came time to pay the bills. I had never heard of ‘cash flow’, never mind what to do about it.  Within a couple of months, I became desperate and sort the advice of an advisor. Wow, what an eye opener it was learning about cash flow management. Managing cash flow is often the biggest challenge most businesses and non-profits have and is one challenge that you must get on top of.

Working capital

I still find it hard to understand why so many businesses think they have all the money they need to keep afloat and achieve their aspirations. Very few have a good understanding of what ‘working capital’ means and they wonder why they never have any free cash and they continue to struggle with the challenges.

Capital raising is often one of the biggest challenges

Many small businesses interested in raising capital increasingly turning their attention to crowdfunding. This new type of funding is gaining traction and understanding, as guidelines and new platforms are being created.

It pays to start small as you don’t require much capital. Capital is needed when you have learned how to run your business properly and at this time it will be more readily available to you.

Risk management should be a concern

Supposing you are hit by a bus. Will your business still produce income the next day, week, month, or however long it takes for you to get back on your feet? A business that can’t operate without its owner or key people is a business doomed to fail.

Many businesses suffer from founder dependence. This dependence is often caused by the founder being unable to let go of certain decisions and responsibilities as the business grows. In family businesses, the children often become frustrated and don’t want to be part of the family business. Meeting this challenge is easy in theory, but in practical terms, it starts with a well conceived Succession Planning. This is a big challenge for many because it usually involves compromising, which many find hard top accept. Protecting your family, business and yourself should be a top priority,

Creativity and innovation can overcome the challenges

Change the conversations you have

Changing conversations is a simple thing to learn and really understand, and what a huge difference it can make. Change the conversations and you immediately start to change the situation you find yourself in.

The cost of growth can be too high without innovation

Some people in business think growth is all that matters, making bigger and bigger profits. What they don’t realise is that there is a cost to growth. You have to keep learning new things as you have to look at your business differently each step of the way.  Don’t be one of those people who never seem to find time for the things that really matter, finding real and sustainable solutions to their challenges and stressors.

It is often far better to direct your creativity and innovation towards improving your customer experience, and making your business more sustainable. It you want to grow, what will you base your growth on? You will continue to see a split between those businesses positioned to take advantage of the major trends and those that aren’t.

Don’t be slow to act on good ideas and opportunities

I have lost many good opportunities because I was too slow to act. The speed of getting things done has always been critical.

Knowledge management should not be overlooked

You can’t know everything, but you can know what you need. Every time I engaged with a facilitator or mentor I had a surge in performance. I only had a handful of these people in my life, but what became crystal clear was that I had to manage the information and knowledge I was acquiring and needed to acquire. Learning and acquiring new information and knowledge is now more critical than ever. Most challenges and stressors come about because of a lack of knowledge and understanding.

Taking notes

How many times do you see people at seminars and other functions, not taking notes and thinking that they can remember it all? Well, I wasn’t that smart I had to take notes. Over the last 50 years, my notes have grown into a massive resource around the key things I was interested in, small businesses, non-profits and their communities.

  • Keeping a Journal. Write about your dreams and goals.
  • Leverage the ideas and opportunities you have in your notes.
  • Keep updating your knowledge base as new information comes to hand.
  • Always have some index, or 3×5 cards in your pocket, never leaving a good idea to memory.


Thanks to all the people who have helped me along the way, including the people who wanted to stab me in the back. You can always learn something from a bad connection, even if it’s only to learn not to make the same mistake again. I have heard it said on many occasions that “you can’t know enough people”. Well, I believe that but they must be the right people and people who will support you along your journey.

Play to your strengths, play where you can win

Make the lack of business and marketplace knowledge and the right experience, your biggest challenge.

  • What have you been given but you don’t realise its value. Reassess what advice you are being given.
  • How have you learned  the best? Books, advisors, workshops, seminars and conferences, trade shows or from other businesses.
  • Know how important a regular Business Health Check is and what to do about having them.
  • Most don’t know what they know  – big issue knowing what you don’t know.
  • Gone are the days when all the knowledge you needed was passed down from generation to generation.
  • Lack of work does not cause businesses to fail, it is more likely you don’t have the knowledge to do what is right to make things happen.
  • Learn how to leverage the information and knowledge you have.
  • Seek value in practical training and assistance.
  • Don’t stick rigidly to old beliefs.
  • Don’t think technical skills are all you need to run a business. Management skills are the other half.


Quotable quotes

“Don’t envy what people have, emulate what they did to have it”. Tim Fargo

“Many put too little time into their future success and just go ahead regardless”. Peter Sergeant.




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