Last week I was asked in an interview, “What are the challenges facing owners of small businesses?” It was a simple yet thought-provoking question.
My mind raced as if I were engaged in a chess game considering many possible answers, all complex and specific, and then I realized that each answer I was considering was a subset of just two equally simple possibilities. I replied that, from my perspective as a business coach, owners of small businesses are faced with just two challenges:
1. Making their business profitable and sustaining that profitability, and 2. Insuring the future existence of the business in a dynamic marketplace.
While they sound simple at first blush, both challenges contain within them a swirling list of complex secondary challenges. They depend on many variables such as the industry they are in and their position in that industry, the stage of the business -- from start-up to preparing for retirement -- the geography the business services from local to international, the size of the business by sales volume and / or number of employees, the ambition level of the owner from “I want to make a decent living” to “I want my business to grow into a mega-conglomerate.” My questioner’s eyes grew large, and then I was asked for an example.
Since we are all familiar with the establishment of coffee shops over the past decade or so I used that as an example and said that in my home town there must be at least a dozen locally owned coffee shops but none of them has more than one location. Contrast that with the huge success of Starbucks (two in my town), which also started with just one shop and today has many thousands spread across the world.
Starbucks didn’t get hit with a singular bolt of “success” lightening. After some initial successes, I’m sure company leaders broke the process of expansion into many component parts, overcame the challenges of each, and then simplified this complex process into systems and processes designed to overcome those two initial challenges.
They took the complex and made it look simple.
Opinions are solely the writer's. Larry Galler, of Larry Galler & Associates, is a marketing and management consultant for small and mid-size companies. Get Larry’s Free Self Assessment: “A Quick Check Vision Tool for Business Owners.” Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Vision Assessment” in the subject line.