Workflows & Processes

5 Small Business Challenges to Overcome in order to Succeed


Running a business is an incredibly rewarding experience, but we all know it’s not without its hurdles. There are a number of small business challenges to overcome in order to succeed, and they might not be what you first think!

Rather than focusing on how to win more clients, or increase your net profit, these are somewhat less practical challenges. The things that we can struggle with personally when running a business. Worrying that we’re not doing enough or that other business owners are doing things differently.

Here are five small business challenges I would encourage you to actively address, in order to have a happier and more successful relationship with your work!

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1. Saying no to what isn’t right

When first launching a business, it can be tempting to say yes to everything. After all, we need to pay the bills. But more so – isn’t it flattering, and exciting, that someone has chosen us to work with?

The truth is that your business is absolutely not the right fit for every client, and that’s not just okay; it’s exactly how it should be. Knowing your target customer or client is incredibly important. And when you do, you’ll get a strong gut feeling when a project isn’t the right fit.

Working with the wrong clients can not only be damaging for your business, but it can be a stressful experience! So learning to say no is one of the first small business challenges you should work on. Understand that it’s not just about if someone wants to work with you, but if you want to work with them!

It’s not rude, or ungrateful. Ultimately, passing on a project that you know isn’t in your wheelhouse, or that you don’t have the time to dedicate to, will leave both you and the client in a much better position.

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2. Setting boundaries for work/life balance

How often has your phone pinged with a message from a client at 10.30pm and you’ve thought, “I’m still up anyway, might as well read it…”?

When you consider that you potentially started working as early as 7 that morning, that’s a lot of hours in the day you’re accessible to your clients. And that can begin to interfere with your sleep, your family time and your creativity.

Having everything on our phones has made it increasingly difficult to set clear work/life boundaries. But, for the sake of your mental and physical health, this is one of those small business challenges you can only ignore for so long!

Choose one or two platforms for communication with clients. Set up a Slack or Teams chat, and let them know your notifications will be turned off after a certain time every day. Add a note to your email signature letting people know you will respond during working hours. In the event of an absolute emergency, let them know how to get in touch.

If you’re a night owl rather than an early bird, adjust these times to suit your working style. Just ensure that you set a clear boundary to ensure you aren’t focusing on work 16 hours a day!

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3. Allowing yourself time off

This is a big one. The irony is that many people choose to start their own business to gain more control over their spare time. And then, once they have that control, they hardly ever choose to take time off!

It can feel like a pressure cooker when you’re running a business on your own. You might feel like taking time away from your desk will result in everything falling apart. However, the opposite is actually true.

When you’re overworked and stretched too thin, your focus, your creativity and your drive can all suffer. This is about more than the daily boundaries we just discussed. This is about understanding that taking a holiday doesn’t mean you’re less passionate than the “24/7 hustlers” you see on social media.

Whether you’re lying on a beach or sitting on your couch watching your favourite show, a proper break is necessary. Not only does it allow you to appreciate everything you’ve worked for, but it will allow you to go back to work feeling refreshed and, likely, full of new ideas.

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4. Comparing yourself and your business

They say “comparison is the thief of joy” and it’s true. Something we can all be guilty of, and one of the most common small business challenges, is comparing ourselves to the competition.

I’ll let you in on a (not so well kept) secret. There is plenty of work to go around! And while it’s useful to analyse other businesses in your industry to help solidify your position, the idea that you’re constantly battling the competition just isn’t true.

Your business has something unique to offer and that is you. Your perspective, your experience and your personality. That automatically sets you apart from the others.

So rather than spending hours on social media counting their followers and panicking about the highlight reel they are presenting on Instagram, just focus on you. The more you work on your own branding, marketing and projects, the less time you’ll have to worry about what anyone else is doing. And, honestly, the more fun you’ll be able to have online with your business!

Struggling to create a strong brand? Here are my top tips on how to do it!

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5. Trying to do it all alone

Another one of the big appeals of working for yourself is not having to compromise or hand over control. This means that when you start out, it’s tempting to do it all alone.

Unfortunately, however, this is usually an unrealistic goal! Reaching out for help, whether it’s with marketing and design, or admin and accounts, can feel frustrating. As far as small business challenges go, this is one you really have to be kind to yourself in the process of overcoming!

Rather than seeing it as you losing control or failing at juggling all of the tasks you set out to take on, see it as a positive sign that your business is growing! The busier you get, the less time and energy you have to focus on the aspects of the work you aren’t passionate about.

So allow yourself to ask for help. Hire the right people to take on the tasks you’re not an expert in, and use your time to focus on doing what you love!


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
5 Ways to Beat Marketing Procrastination and Get Things Done
Small But Mighty – The Biggest Advantage of Small Businesses
What Does Success Mean to You and Your Small Business?
10 Things I’ve Learned by Running My Own Small Business

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.