Are you an entrepreneur? If you are, then I believe you will be familiar with the pattern or business challenges faced when starting and building a business from scratch. If you are not an entrepreneur but you dream of becoming one someday, then I think you will find this article worthwhile.
Why am I writing on such a topic? I decided to write on the “10 business challenges every entrepreneur must face when building a business from scratch” to give entrepreneurs a glimpse of what to expect when they set out to start a new business venture. I am not writing to show my writing skills. Moreover, I am not a professional writer; I am an entrepreneur and investor to the core. I simply write to share my knowledge on building a business with anyone who is willing to learn.
This article is not meant to discourage or scare you from going into business. Instead, I wrote this article to prepare and highlight you on the business challenges to expect and how to handle them. Just as the popular saying goes:
“He that is prepared has half won the battle.”
Below are 10 Business Challenges Every Entrepreneur Must Face When Building a Business from Scratch:
1. Developing the Vision and Idea:
This is usually the first challenge faced by every entrepreneur. Finding the right business opportunity or creatively developing an idea is certainly not an easy task. I call “Envisioning the idea” the first true task of an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you must develop the ability to see what others cannot see. While others see problems, you must see opportunities.
But seeing opportunities is just the first task. The main challenge is going to be your ability to forge that opportunity into a business idea. I see this as a business challenge because the process of transforming opportunities into business plans is like trying to turn lead into gold. I call it the process of “Creating Value out Of Nothing.” If you are not an entrepreneur, you might not be familiar with the process. The process of:
– Identifying a problem – Seeing an opportunity in the problem – Coming up with a solution – Developing your opportunity into a business idea – Integrating your solution into the business plan
Another way “developing the vision and idea” will be a business challenge is that an entrepreneur must sometimes assume the role of a sorcerer. Let me explain in detail.
While others dwell in the past and present, an entrepreneur must envision and forecast the future. An entrepreneur must always be ahead of his time or else he might lose his relevance. He must have the ability to bring into present what is yet to be. Let me give you some practical illustrations:
In the late 70s and early 80s, while IBM saw increase in demand for their mainframe computers, Steve Jobs envisioned a personal computer in every home and Bill Gates envisioned the need for easy to use software for personal computers.
While everyone saw humans flying as an impossibility, the Wright brothers envisioned a flying machine.
Back in those days when cars were custom made and exclusively for the rich, Henry Ford envisioned affordable cars for the masses.
I believe with these few examples, my point is clear. Developing the vision and idea is the first true task of an entrepreneur.
2. Raising Capital:
After developing your idea, the next challenge you are going to face is the challenge of raising capital. As an entrepreneur, you are the only one who knows the idea to the core. You are the only one who knows the story of the future. Trying to convince investors about something that doesn’t exist is definitely a challenge.
There is more to raising capital than just simply asking for money. Most investors want to invest in already established businesses with minimal risk. When building a business from scratch, raising capital will definitely be a business challenge you must face.
To overcome this challenge, you must develop the ability to sell your idea and vision to potential investors. When I say “sell your ideas”, I mean improving your communication skill and your manner of presentation. In the game of raising capital, you must have a good story backed by a strong business plan. If you are interested in learning how to successfully raise capital, you can check other articles I have written.
3. Assembling a Team:
The third challenge you must face in the course of developing a business is assembling the right team. When I talk about a team, I am not talking about regular employees. I am talking about a “round table strategic business team” that will meet regularly to brainstorm on ways to grow your business.
As an entrepreneur, you are bound to have strengths and weaknesses. That is the more reason you need to assemble a strong team that will cover up for your weaknesses. A team is a necessity in your quest to build a business. Now finding a business team is just the first hurdle, transferring your passion and vision to your team is the real piece of cake.
You must strive to make sure your team sees the future you see. They must believe in your possibilities and must also be passionate about making that possibility a reality. If they can’t grasp your vision, if they can’t see they future with you, then they are not worthy being your team.
Your strategic business team should comprise your banker, financial advisor, accountant, attorney or legal adviser and any other specialist that will be of tremendous impact to your business. A question on your mind might be “how am I going to pay this team? My answer is I don’t know. You will have to figure it out yourself or better still, you can consider bringing them on board as partners.
4. Finding the Right Location:
You might feel that finding a good location is a piece of cake but I bet you that finding a good location at the right price is definitely not easy. I don’t have much to write on this but I feel it is worthwhile I bring it to your notice so you can prepare for it. The following are features you must consider before choosing a location. These features are subject to change with respect to the industry of your business:
– Suitable price – Easy access to raw materials – Good road network. – Basic amenities and infrastructures – Adequate Power supply – Easy access to cheap labour – Nearness to high traffic roads – Moderate state and federal tax – Favorable Government fiscal and monetary policy – Favorable federal and state laws. – Current economic policy and political situation.
5. Finding the Right Employees:
Most writers crank up the process of finding good employees as an easy task. They define finding an employee as simply presenting the job description and the right employee will surface. But I think it’s more than that.
Those who are really business owners know how difficult it is to find a hardworking, trustworthy employee. Most employees want to work less and get paid more. Finding a good employee who will be passionate about delivering his or her services is quite difficult.
Employees are your representatives to your customers and the outside world. They are a reflection of your business culture and ethics. If an employee of yours is bad or rude to your customers, it is going to portray a bad image of your company. So you must be careful when hiring employees. Remember the golden rule of business; “Hire slow and fire fast.”
6. Finding Good Customers:
The sixth business challenge you will face is the challenge of finding good customers. Note the keyword “good customers.” When in the process of building a business from scratch, you will come to find out that there are good customers and bad customers.
You must really be on guard for bad customers. Good customers are really hard to find. A good customer will be loyal to your company and will be willing to forgive you if you make a mistake and apologize. A good customer will try to do the right thing that will benefit both himself and the company mutually.
A bad customer will always look for loopholes in the company’s policy to exploit and make some few gains. Bad customers will always try to exploit the company’s goodwill and look for ways to rip off the company. Bad customers are responsible for bad debts.
Good customers build your business and bad customers will always try to liquidate your business. Just as you fire employees, you must also be prepared to fire bad customers without hesitation. In the game of trying to find a new customer, always remember the customer that sued McDonald’s to court claiming the coffee was too hot.
7. Overcoming Competition:
Competition is the next challenge you will face. Most individuals see competition as a plague but I see competition as a good challenge. I see competition as a benchmark for creativity, the main engine for innovation and quality products at great prices. Without competition, there will be no innovation and without innovation, the world will be stagnant.
I see competition as a welcomed challenge and I want you to do the same. Competition keeps us on our toes and drives us to constantly improve our products and services. But you must be warned. Competition can make your business lose its relevance in the eye of your customers so you must always be on guard. At this point, I leave you with a quote:
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” – Robert Kiyosaki
8. Unforeseen Challenges and Expenses:
Just as a sailor prepares for unexpected storm, just as a pilot is always on the watch for unpredictable bad weather and thunderstorms, so must an entrepreneur be prepared for what ever comes. Unexpected challenges can come in the form of:
– Unexpected law suits – Inconsistent government policy – Not being able to make payroll –
Unpaid bills and taxes – Unexpected resignation of staff from sensitive office – Bad debts from customers – Loss of market share – Dwindling working capital – Inadequate stock or inventory
These challenges, if not handled properly can ruin your plan to build a successful business from scratch. Another challenge you must expect is an unforeseen increase in business expenses. If not handled properly, it might result in constant negative cash flow and eventually, the business failure.
9. Keeping Up With Industrial Changes and Trends:
Change in trends is really a business challenge you must be prepared for. Trends have made and broken lot of businesses. I know a lot of profitable businesses that have been wiped out by slight industrial changes and trends. A typical example is the Dot com trend, where many industrial based businesses were wiped out by new web based dot com companies.
When the Dot com era began, business owners were left with only two options. Either they join the dot com train or they get crushed by the dot com train.
Seasoned entrepreneurs know that trend is always a friend and are always willing to swiftly adjust their business with the current trend. Keeping your eyes open to spot trends is really a challenge but the big task will be your ability to quickly use the trend to your advantage.
10. Exiting the Business:
“In the world of business and investing, your exit is more important than your entry. A good thumb of rule is this; exit before you enter.” – Robert Kiyosaki
When building a business from scratch, you are going to face the business challenge of determining your exit strategy. Just as the quote above states, you have to plan your exit strategy before you even start the business. Most entrepreneurs run their business without any plans to exit and even if they have an exit strategy, they find it difficult to implement it.
Before starting a business, it is advisable to always plan your exit. There are benchmarks you can use to determine your exit from the business. Most smart entrepreneurs will use this benchmark as a target and once this specific target is reached, they exit the business.
Examples of such benchmarks are:
– Annual sales – Annual Turnover – Asset Base – Market Saturation – Customer base or number of users. This is more applicable to dot com companies.
Now when it comes to exiting the business, there are three exit strategies you can apply.
The exit strategies are:
Turning over the business to professional managers: When your business reaches a certain stage of maturity, you can exit by turning it over to professional managers. In this case, the business still belongs to you but you are not involved with its day to day affairs. You will have to give up administrative role to assume the role of a watchdog. When you exit in this manner, you will have more free time to look into other projects or retire.
Selling the business privately: In this case, you are exiting the business by selling it to a private investor. In the business world, it is called M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions). After the sale and transfer of assets is complete, you have nothing to do with the business again.
Taking the company public: The unique thing about this type of exit strategy is that while you are selling your business (in form of shares) to public investors, you still own and control the business.
Please before you apply any of these exit strategy, I will advise you consult with your attorney or legal adviser. But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide the exit strategy you want to apply. Always remember “your exit is more important than your entry.”