Whether you’re a high-level corporate executive or a new sole proprietor, you’re bound to encounter business problems at some point. While the exact problems your business will come up against will be specific to your industry and location, some of the most common issues small businesses deal with include:
- Improving brand awareness
- Finding customers
- Generating leads
- Hiring the right talent
- Planning finances accordingly
- Understanding client dependence
Learning how to solve these problems effectively as it relates to your business’s specific needs will take time. However, it will allow you to shift your business model when necessary to achieve measurable growth.
Let’s take an in-depth look at how to solve common small business problems effectively. We’ll cover the entire process step by step and look at each issue independently. That way, your business will be ready for anything.
The Problem-Solving Process
Unexpected situations can occur at any time. Though there are alternative solutions for predictable problems like logistics issues, some cases are not easily solvable without assistance or a clear understanding of the problem.
Once you develop the basics of problem-solving for your business, you can make adjustments as needed. Not every issue requires the same approach. However, the following steps will give you a solid foundation to build upon.
Define the Problem
Before you can solve a problem, you need to know what it is, or your solutions will be ineffective. Though you may feel tempted to quickly find and implement a solution to every situation that appears problematic, it’s best to take a step back to evaluate the issue first. Otherwise, you could waste time and resources treating symptoms of a problem instead of solving it.
For instance, say you have an influx of negative ratings online, you may attempt to bring the ratings back up by offering coupons and discounts to appease customers. However, negative ratings don’t explain the problem. They simply indicate that a problem is present.
To define that problem, you would need to inspect the customer reviews, not the ratings, to determine why customers are unsatisfied. Perhaps they like your low prices but don’t like your merchandise or service quality. By understanding the root of the issue, you can begin to make appropriate adjustments.
As you define your problems, consider the sustainability of your business model and your team’s effectiveness. Likewise, take a look at the current market trends and your business’s competition. Look beyond the surface of a problem.
Perform SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s a detailed analysis that assesses a business’s risk, performance, and competition using internal and external data. A SWOT analysis is a technique that helps business owners develop strategies that increase their chance of success and identify plans that could hinder the growth of their enterprises.
Sometimes problems create opportunities to grow a customer base or transform a perceived weakness into a strength. With a SWOT analysis, you will have data that includes multiple perspectives that you can use to solve an issue.
It will provide you with a quick breakdown of your business’s strengths and weaknesses to help you find potential threats and opportunities to use toward a viable solution.
Gain Market and Consumer Insight
Market trends fluctuate often, and target audiences can change over time. Though you may use market research and customer outreach during the early stages of your business, it’s best to continue those processes periodically. By continuing to learn about the current market and consumer needs, you will better understand the competitive landscape.
Customer input is one of the best tools at your disposal for solving business problems. Though criticisms can feel personal, they often include information that could benefit your business model. Learning what customers want and what they find displeasing will give you the data necessary to adjust your business plan.
Market research works the same way. Previous successful tactics and strategies may not work in the current industry climate. Collect as much data possible about your competition and customers as possible.
Consult With Team Members
Internal criticisms and suggestions are just as powerful as external data. Feedback from your employees and business leaders will help you find solutions to problems faster. Encourage your team to speak freely about ways they believe the business could improve a situation. Employees are a crucial aspect of solving business problems. They can provide insight into problems and possible resolutions that you may overlook.
Monitor Cash Flow
Solving business problems often requires finances for resources. Other times, the issue at hand actually is a lack of resources. In either case, pay close attention to your company’s finances and financial forecast.
If money is an issue, take a proactive stance instead of waiting until you’re out of capital. Banks are more likely to lend funds if a company is in good financial standing. Having enough financial breathing room will give you enough time to find and implement viable solutions.
Implement the Solution
Once you have the necessary data, use it to analyze the problem and find the best solutions to address it. Sometimes, a problem may have more than one fix, but it’s beneficial to have alternative solutions if one doesn’t work out according to plan.
It’s natural to feel hesitant about putting a plan to action within your business. There’s no guarantee that all solutions will work, but using relevant internal and external data alongside financial planning will help you make the best decision possible for your business.
Before you implement a solution, determine which metrics you need to track to monitor your progress. Performance indicators like cash flow, repeat customers, conversion rates, and consumer traffic sources can give you measurable goals to strive for after addressing a business issue.
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How to Solve Specific Business Problems
The first few years are critical to small businesses because of the high rate of failure. According to statistics from Innovation, Science, & Economic Development Canada, thousands of companies leave the marketplace each year. Roughly 96% of Canadian businesses with fewer than 99 employees survive a single year, but only 70% make it past five years.
While understanding the problem-solving process is the foundation you need to tackle business problems, there’s also some issue-specific information that may aid in your efforts. Here’s an overview of some of the best steps you can take to overcome the most common problems small business owners face:
Scaling is essential for every business because it sets the stage for creating stability and growth. It allows your company to thrive without hitting roadblocks that could affect its trajectory. Mindful scaling takes a considerable amount of early planning, funding, staffing, processes, technology, and partnerships.
For instance, if you push your company to grow quickly without having a full staff to accommodate orders and provide customer service, you will need to hire new candidates fast. However, quick hires can be a hindrance if the applicants have little to no experience or are improperly vetted. While they receive training, your current staff could become frustrated and overwhelmed, which can lead to high turnover and more new hires.
There’s no one way to scale a business because all companies and situations are different. What works for one enterprise may not work for another.
Instead, focus more on the relevant details that will help your business achieve and sustain steady growth. Plan for the expansion and make sure there is enough funding in place to accommodate it. Investing in automation technology or integrated systems can help you monitor progress, communicate with customers, improve sales management, and more.
Boosting Brand Awareness
Before you can start selling to customers, you need to have distinctive branding for your business. Branding helps the public understand exactly what your business is and what it offers. All major companies have successful branding, but small businesses sometimes struggle to find their niche in competitive markets.
Once you develop your brand, you need to spread awareness to make your company more recognizable to the public. Public relations professionals can help you gain a foothold in the market. They also have the expertise to provide tactical tips to help you build relationships in the industry and leverage social media and inbound marketing.
You can spread brand awareness by partnering with an established brand that relates to your industry. Co-marketing works in conjunction with organic marketing efforts to help you gain many new potential customers.
Managing a high-quality blog about your industry and related topics will bring attention to your company online. You can position yourself as an authority in your field, drive web traffic to your website, convert visitors into leads, and start an email list.
Every company needs to understand their target audience and what they need to do to attract that audience’s attention. That’s not an issue unique to small businesses. However, small enterprises often have problems gaining customers because they are not household names.
Many new companies try to garner attention by broadcasting their business wherever possible in the hopes that they will ultimately reach anyone and everyone willing to buy their products or services. That approach is ineffective. It’s better to target specific groups that are the most likely to patronize your business.
Think about who your products and services are for, including their demographics, income bracket, location, and more. With this data, you can craft your business’s buyer personas and develop marketing to target those groups specifically.
Marketing can consist of everything from pay-per-click ads that lead to persuasive and engaging landing pages to targeted interactions on social media. You’ll have a better chance of growing your customer base by focusing your attention and resources on people who will create business leads.
Finding customers is not a one-time project—it takes continuous work. You also want to make customers happy enough to continue using your products and services to create repeat business.
Developing high volume and high-quality business leads is the primary goal of a marketing team. You not only want to gain plenty of attention for your company, but you also want to convert that attention into paid services.
For instance, a professional-grade website can generate web traffic, but lead generation turns traffic into business calls, consultations, and purchases.
Your website is one of the biggest assets you have for your business—if you don’t have one, you need one. Most people these days find companies, products, and services online, so it’s necessary to have a robust online presence. The more engaging your website is, the more likely you will turn web visitors into paying customers.
To make your website more engaging, ensure that all content encourages guests to take some form of action to know what to do after visiting your site. Online contact forms, calls-to-action in blogs, and pop-ups for email subscriptions all contribute to lead generation.
However, bear in mind that an unprofessional or poorly designed website can hurt your company more than it helps. Take the time to work with professionals that can help you build a well-designed, mobile-friendly masterpiece.
Growing companies need a strong team of talented employees to assist with the company’s daily operations. However, some small businesses often struggle to fill positions with the best people because they accept people too quickly or fail to offer comprehensive hiring incentives.
Hiring and onboarding employees is a complex and expensive process. If you don’t hire the right people, your business could end up with a high turnover rate, leading to a lack of resources. Without a good staff, your company will suffer.
To fix that problem, don’t settle for applicants who appear to be decent potential employees on paper. Go above and beyond to find excellent applicants who have something to offer your business besides showing up on time.
Differentiate good candidates from excellent ones by creating an applicant persona for every position, similar to creating a buyer’s persona. Include traits for each persona that fit into your company culture. Next, attract worthwhile candidates by having something to offer employees, like group benefits, and make them interested in learning more about your company.
Having adequate resources will help you and your team handle your business’s daily operations and tend to customers. Resources include time, tools, staff, equipment, and more. When resources are scarce, that can put a damper on your company’s efficiency and strain employees.
A solid financial foundation is necessary for putting all critical resources in place. Unfortunately, revenue and margin play a significant role in budgets. Low income often leads to budget restrictions, which affect the quantity and quality of resources your business has for daily operations.
While it may seem necessary to make your company work within certain limitations, under-investing and overspending can make it challenging for your business to thrive. Financial planning is the best way to ensure that your business has sufficient funds for worthwhile purchases.
Monitor how much money leaves and enters your company with precise bookkeeping. Regulate how often and to what capacity you use your company credit card to prevent overspending. Hiring a small business accountant is beneficial because they can accurately analyze your company’s financial standing so that you make wise spending decisions.
If you’re lucky enough as a business owner to land a high-level customer who could account for more than half your income, you may feel like your business is a success. However, client dependence is a slippery slope. For your business to grow, you need a diverse customer base, which can be tricky if you rely primarily on one account—you know what they say about putting all your eggs in one basket—don’t.
Being dependent on a single customer for income can create a long-term issue because you will be more of an independent contractor than a business owner, even if you have paid employees on staff. The unintentional partnership is more beneficial to the customer because they will retain your services without adding you to their payroll.
You inherit all the risks because your business will be in serious trouble if the client leaves.
Address client dependence by providing service to every customer while continuing to grow your customer base. Even if the customer has a consistent need for your services or products, they could find what they need elsewhere at any time. Take a proactive approach to your company’s financial security by having a diverse client base to pick up the slack if the primary account dries up.
Include Your Team and Their Families in Long-Term Business Plans
As you work to improve your business plan and address business problems that currently affect the growth of your enterprise, consider all the ways you can keep your employees happy. The most successful business leaders have a team of hardworking, productive, and happy workers.
You can give them the boost they need by embracing technology, providing training, and helping them further their careers. Showing how much you care for and appreciate your employees by offering them a comprehensive group benefits package goes a long way to support their health, happiness, and overall well-being.
With group benefits, they can have quality supplemental insurance that extends far beyond the coverage provincial plans provide. As the owner of your company, you can take advantage of the coverage included in your group benefits plan too. Some options even offer tax benefits.
At Group Enroll, we can help you solve business problems effectively concerning group benefits for employees and their dependents. We have helped Canadian businesses of all sizes find the best possible coverage for the lowest possible rates from leading insurance providers. Our knowledgeable representatives are happy to make attracting and retaining top talent easier for your business.