How Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Can Overcome 2019’s Small Business Challenges

What are the biggest challenges facing ecommerce business owners in 2019?

Created by Guidant Financial and LendingClub, Small Business Trends: 2019 surveyed more than 2,700 current and aspiring small business owners throughout the United States. What does the current state of small business look like for entrepreneurs? Among other findings, results of the survey cover what motivates entrepreneurs to start a business, financing methods, and challenges for small business owners.

Let’s back it up to the top challenges of 2019 for entrepreneurs. The survey reveals that there are seven challenges altogether. Three tied at 13%, while another two tied at 6% in categories related to “other” and managing/providing benefits. Excluding the final two 6% mentions, what are the five biggest challenges for small businesses today?

1. Lack of capital/cash flow (33%)

It’s rare to encounter a small business owner that never faced financial challenges with their businesses. Even small businesses with strong business plans have dealt with their fair share of issues. Everything from applying for a business loan to crunching numbers to ensure revenue remains on the up and up can be a constant struggle for entrepreneurs regardless of their stage in business.

How can this challenge be solved? The best advice I can offer is to double down and get creative. Stick to a budget if cash flow remains a concern. Pay off any remaining debt (if you have accumulated some) and try to avoid taking on more debt, especially if you are not sure you can pay it off quickly.

What does the "get creative" part of the sentence mean? Loans aren’t the only method for funding a business. Your business may qualify to receive certain federal small business grants. Scout out what’s available and apply for the most relevant grants.

Some small businesses may also consider crowdfunding as a financing option. However, keep in mind that crowdfunding is not the same as a grant. If you apply for and receive a grant, you’re essentially getting free money that never needs to be repaid again. Crowdfunding comes in two forms: rewards and equity. Determine which one is the best fit for your business and what you’re doing before setting up a campaign.

2. Marketing/advertising (15%)

Where does one begin in such a broad category? Maybe there is concern about SEO efforts or why email newsletters have a low open rate. Perhaps the small business lacks leads or a social media presence. Or—and this is often the most common response of all—the biggest small business challenge could be not having enough time or money to invest into proper marketing and advertising.

How can this challenge be solved? Figure out where to focus instead of taking on too much all at once. Outline the priorities for your business right now, and initiatives you’d like to tackle later. Ask yourself what you feel confident about handling and determine where you may need extra help.

3. Time management (13%)

Small business owners are in a tricky place when it comes to time management. Unlike working in a corporate space where the workday ends at 5 PM, entrepreneurs eat, breathe, and sleep business 24/7/365. The challenge is twofold—being as productive as possible during the workday and knowing when to unplug and recharge.

How can these challenges be solved? This answer will vary for every small business owner. That’s because there is no one size fits all approach. Some entrepreneurs will use an app like Todoist or RescueTime to stay on track. Others will declutter their workspace, wake up earlier, or set deadlines to work smarter instead of harder.  Find the time management hack that works for you, and stick to it.

4. Recruiting/retention of employees (13%)

According to CNBC, unemployment was under 4% in 2018. Recruiters and businesses are hiring, but struggle to find talented employees to join their teams—even for seasonal positions. Recruiting and retaining employees tends to be an ongoing issue for most small businesses, which face competition in bigger corporations that offer higher pay and perks.

How can this challenge be solved? Consider leveling up to become a socially responsible business. Talented employees want to work for companies passionate about making a difference and with values that align with their own. Figure out how you can bake good into your business model, what your mission is, and how your business can solve problems for consumers while giving back.

5. Administrative work (bookkeeping, payroll, etc.) (13%)

Small business owners are accustomed to wearing a lot of different hats—CEO, designer, social media expert, billing specialist. Administrative work, like bookkeeping and managing payroll, is often lumped into that role. The challenge is struggling to keep doing it all as the business grows. Or, if you were never sure how to handle certain aspects of these roles, training yourself to figure it out.

How can this challenge be solved? Get professional help! Consult a professional accountant or hire a part-time admin assistant to help out. This does go against the grain of my "budget" advice, but saving a few dollars won’t be worth it if you make mistakes that could cost your small business in the long run. Ask for help if you need it—you’ll be glad you did.