Running your own business can be incredibly rewarding but challenging. From managing the day-to-day aspects of running your business to serving your customer to managing the long-term finances, health, and business volume, there's undoubtedly a lot to juggle.
So, what really weighs on the minds of small business owners? And, more importantly, what can they do to help relieve these worries?
We asked small business owners to share their secret fears in an anonymous survey then selected five of the most common responsesto share with you, along with tips on how to alleviate these fears—no matter what size your business.
1. The burden on one's personal life
"I worry that success will ruin my personal life. I also worry that failure will ruin my personal life. I worry that too much of my identity is wrapped up in my work. What would happen if I couldn't work at some point?" (Design Business)
Ask any business owner that question, and you'll probably hear something similar. While running a business can be tremendously rewarding, it can also be a drain on your finances, relationships, and time. Interestingly, both failure and success can weigh on business owners. Running your own business is often an extension of your self-worth and personal value, so that fear is often a common thread.
What's a business owner to do?
For starters, make sure that you're sharing these fears with your family, friends, and business partners. Having open dialog with the important people in your life can help them know how to best support you as you cycle through the highs and lows of business ownership.
Also, make sure you put a priority on spending time with the people in your life, and don't skimp on things like personal time off or vacations. One study found that fewer than half of business owners polled planned to take vacation this year. Make sure you're taking time to enjoy the benefits of business ownership and investing in friends and family too.
2. An empty schedule
"My fear is that I show up to the office and there are NO patients on the schedule." (Medical Office)
Running a small business can vary from day to day. That's why a common fear of business owners is an empty schedule or incredibly low volume sales days. Those fears may be an anomaly, but a day's empty schedule or low volume days can add up over time and affect your overall bottom line.
One way you can help alleviate this fear is to put together a long-term marketing plan and form a team you can trust to make sure that your pipeline of prospects and leads is continually growing. Otherwise, you may spend much of your time today worrying about whether you'll be busy enough tomorrow.
For many new business owners, the reality of this fear can come up unexpectedly. Business may be humming along, and suddenly, you'll hit a dead space. But by continually promoting your business, you can help alleviate this fear so you have time to focus on what you do best—run your business.
Another important thing to keep in mind is what your game plan would be for an off-peak day. Have a list at the ready of promotions you could use to fill an empty schedule; along with an email database you could easily reach reference to drum up business in a pinch.
3. Poor sales
"My fear is not getting enough sales." (Auto Sales Business)
Similarly, not closing enough sales is a typical small business fear. Make sure that your marketing is focused not only on driving interested consumers to your business but also on converting those leads into sales.
Take advantage of tools that help automate the follow-up process for your business, so that each new contact is quickly replied to and your team gets regular reminders on which prospects to call. Add in lead-nurturing emails, and you can stay top of mind with interested prospects to help them choose you.
Finally, make sure your entire team knows how to be sales-minded, from your front lines all the way to support staff. Make sure everyone knows that they can affect your sales—and the success of the business!
4. Wasting money on marketing that doesn't work
"My fear is wasteful spending on advertising." (Medical Clinic)
Today, the options for marketing your business are vast and growing all the time. Where should you advertise? What should you offer? Who can you trust to help manage this, and most importantly, how can you know whether all this effort is actually boosting your bottom line?
Small businesses can alleviate the fear of wasted advertising dollars by using a system they trust. Be sure it helps track everything from incoming calls to the actual business you get from each advertising source so you can see the true ROI of every marketing dollar you spend. Then, it's importantly to regularly evaluate your marketing and advertising program so you can adjust as needed and invest more in the programs that are driving results.
5. Financial failure
"My fear is failure and ultimately going bankrupt." (Contracting Business)
At some point, every small business owner has struggled with the fear of bankruptcy or financial ruin. Let's face it: This risk comes with running your own business. Sadly, last year, about 33,000 small businesses went bankrupt according to the Small Business Administration. But the good news is over 28 million small businesses are currently on the other side of this fear.
What's important to realize is that many things can influence the success or failure rate of a small business. That's why it's critical to focus on the aspects you can control, while being aware of other factors of influence.
Stay updated on local and industrywide trends. Make sure you have a vetted business plan in place along with a business adviser or team who can help you foresee and manage potential issues. And keep your mindset focused on success, so that you can make progress each and every day.
Though you shouldn't let fear cripple you, remember that there can be such a thing as a healthy fear—whether you take this and let it lead you to the path of success.
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It can be reassuring to know you're not alone in your fears as a small business owner. You don't have to let fear shut you down. But by communicating with your friends and family, working with trusted partners, and continually keeping your focus on the effect you can make, you can push past your fears and stay on the path of success.
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