By Seth Richtsmeier

As a small business owner, you’re always looking for ways to improve performance and grow sales. This means identifying and resolving issues affecting your team’s performance.

But do you know where all these issues lurk? Time to find out what’s causing the squeaky wheels in your business.

Some obvious issues can be disgruntled employees stirring up dissent or unhappy customers taking aim at your online reputation.

But the reality is, managing a small business comes with plenty of challenges that can hobble success. It could be cash flow, employee relations, finding customers, managing workflow or something else.

To set your business up for success, you need to be ready to grease any squeaky wheel that comes around. Consider the following five common small business challenges your company may be facing, and the strategies to help you overcome them.

1.   Administrative Tasks

Daily administrative tasks like bookkeeping and payroll are tedious but essential for running any business smoothly. For a small office, it can be hard to find the time and personnel necessary to get these administrative duties done.

According to one survey, 24% of small business owners spend five to 10 hours a week on miscellaneous administrative tasks. This leaves less time to grow the business through sales and customer service.

Administrative tasks disrupt more than just business owners. Ninety-four percent of small business employees perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks, too. And 44% say these tasks affect their daily efficiency and productivity.

Finding ways to automate administrative work can improve the mental well-being of your team. Sixty-five percent of workers say they’re less stressed at work when they’re able to automate manual tasks.

Examples of administrative automation may include:

  • Estimating
  • Employee time tracking
  • Payroll management
  • Reporting
  • Appointment booking
  • Staff scheduling

2.   Employee Recruitment and Retention

The current labor market is a competitive place. The mismatch of existing talent to skills being sought, paired with a shockingly low unemployment rate (the lowest level in half a century) makes it even more challenging to attract and retain employees.

In fact, 55% of small business owners said their number-one business challenge is recruiting and retaining personnel.

When it comes to filling open roles, it can be hard to compete with large organizations. These companies can invest more into the process through paid ads and expensive headhunters. Or they can win more talent with higher salaries and better benefit packages.

In comparison, small businesses generally work with modest budgets.

And to make the recruitment process even more challenging, small businesses often want employees who can be jacks-of-all-trades. Someone who’s willing to tackle their day-to-day duties as well as support the business in any way needed.

To attract top talent, focus on building and marketing an employer brand that gets candidates excited about working for your business. Then use these tips to retain your best workers:

  • Extend a competitive salary and benefits package
  • Offer flexible work conditions when possible
  • Implement employee appreciation strategies (like staff appreciation days)
  • Provide career development opportunities

3.   Marketing and Advertising

Building brand awareness and attracting new customers is the only way your business will thrive. But 19% of small businesses have said marketing and advertising is their biggest challenge.

While big brand names can invest thousands of dollars into hiring marketing professionals and creating effective ad campaigns, small businesses have much smaller teams and budgets. That makes it challenging to launch marketing activities, produce new content and increase brand visibility.

Luckily, plenty of options exist for small businesses with limited funds for marketing. Rather than spreading the jam too thin and investing small amounts in lots of different marketing channels, focus on investing more in the channels you already know work for your business.

For example, prioritize social media sites (like Facebook) that allow you to better target your audience. A narrower focus allows you to tailor your advertising to potential customers who would be most interested in your products or services.

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4.   Supply Chain Disruption

Supply chain disruptions are hurting businesses of all sizes these days, but small businesses with limited resources are feeling the pinch much more. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 40% of businesses have been significantly affected by supply chain issues.

Delays in shipping and manufacturing will leave you waiting longer than usual for materials or products. And you may be forced to pay higher prices due to a rise in demand.

To offset these disruptions, focus on building relationships with your suppliers and being transparent with customers to set realistic expectations.

5.   Time Constraints

Running a business with a smaller workforce means you’re taking on more responsibilities than you can manage — human resources, sales, customer service, accounting and more. Twenty-one percent of business owners list time management as their biggest challenge.

Managing your time more effectively starts with prioritizing tasks and setting both short- and long-term goals for your business.

Short-term goals could cover any tasks that can be accomplished easily, or within a limited timeframe. Long-term goals could include any larger-scale initiatives that require sustained effort over a longer period.

When creating and prioritizing goals, make sure they’re SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based). Setting SMART goals gives you a roadmap for how to tackle a project, when it should be completed and what completing it looks like.

Then, look for ways to improve your efficiencies and free up more time by automating or outsourcing certain tasks or responsibilities.

Finally, set aside some time just for yourself. In business, there’s always work to be done. But turning off your work notifications for a few hours (at minimum) each evening gives you much-needed time to rest. The next day you’ll be more productive and ready to run a better business.

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