Part 2 of 3
What are the challenges that small businesses face today? And what prevents businesses from overcoming these challenges?
Most experts agree that most businesses face the following challenges: client dependency, founder dependency, fatigue and demotivation, staying relevant and updated with trends, money management issues, finding the balance between quality and growth. On the surface, many businesses share these challenges. But if we dig deeper, you’ll find that the root cause for these challenges differ for each business. With different root causes, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to a single challenge. Some of the challenges that businesses face are often symptoms of a deeper problem.
In the second of a three-part series, I will discuss the two challenges: fatigue and demotivation, and staying relevant and updated with trends, and explore the underlying reasons for why businesses face these challenges so that you can focus on addressing these underlying reasons. In doing so, you not only address the symptoms but eliminate the problem at the source.
Challenge 3: Fatigue and demotivation
The hours, the work, and the constant pressure to perform affect even the most passionate individuals. Many business owners—even successful ones—get stuck working much longer hours than they should. Moreover, they fear their business will stall in their absence, so they avoid taking any time away from work to recharge. This workaholism can trickle down to team members, and it becomes part of the culture.
When this happens, it’s easy for fatigue, burnout, and eventually, demotivation to set in. This doesn’t just affect business owners—it can spill over to team members as well.
Fatigue and demotivation can set in even outside of a workaholic culture. A micromanaging boss, the lack of clarity in employee expectations and performance deliverables, and the lack of tools, skills, or know-how to fulfill responsibilities are some of the sources of fatigue and demotivation.
Culture also contributes to fatigue. And one of the most contentious sources of fatigue is how businesses conduct meetings—particularly meetings that run too long, and that could have been resolved on email.
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos fixed the problem by requiring all meetings to begin with the silent reading of a “high standard” 6-page memo that details the scope and reason for the meeting. It sets the tone and goals for the meeting, ensuring that each hour spent is a productive one.
Experts believe that to solve fatigue, leaders need to learn how to manage stress in the organisation and support curtail stress and fatigue. However, the most effective way to manage fatigue and demotivation is to understand the factors that contribute to them and minimise these factors. It is also important to learn how to achieve balance—to know when to work, to know when to rest, and to know how to recover from stress and fatigue. Most importantly, leaders need to know when to cede control, to delegate tasks and responsibilities, and to trust the people that they work with to do what they were hired to do.
Challenge #4: Staying relevant and updated with trends
This challenge manifests itself in two ways. One is the challenge of having the right market intelligence. This means being able to keep up to date with changing market trends and consumer lifestyles. Second is the challenge of having the capacity to keep up with the trends. This means having the right know-how, skills, and tools to respond to changing trends.
Big companies like Zara, the Spanish retail brand owned by Inditex, heavily uses market intelligence and customer data to understand trends and to deliver what their customers want. They track sales data from stores across the world in real time. Their empowered sales staff also provide customer data, in the form of qualitative feedback, such as “customers don’t like the zipper” or “she wishes to have it in darker blue.”
This ability is not limited to large brands, however. Many small businesses don’t realise that they have an advantage over larger businesses in addressing the challenge of getting the right market intelligence. Because of their size, team members are often customer-facing, which means there are many opportunities to engage with their customers. This becomes an opportunity for small businesses to provide services that can be considered customised and personalised.
Addressing this challenge, therefore, entails doing one or more of the following:
- Engaging current customers, to understand not just their pain points but also to find ways to delight them.
- Making customer engagement and market research part of the responsibility of team members—and training them for it. This may also mean learning and improving observation skills.
- Making learning part of the culture—whether learning through formal channels such as taking formal courses or undergoing certifications, mentoring or cross-functional training. Encourage team members to learn on their own by reading up or participating in trade or industry organisations.
Many business owners and employees of small businesses experience fatigue and demotivation, which may be caused by a workaholic culture, micromanagement, or lack of structural clarity. Many also struggle with keeping up with trends and staying relevant, often because they think that they don’t have the right know-how, skills, and tools to understand or respond to changing trends.
In the next video, the third of the series, I will discuss the last two challenges that small business face: money management issues and finding a balance between growth and quality.