I’ve been in business for more years than I care to remember and after a while you get to spot the same issues coming around time and time again. Coming from an accountancy background those issues are often financial but, of course, the majority of business issues cut across most, if not all, areas of a business.

This blog series is based on challenges identified by myself and other small business owners. I will talk about ways to tackle the issues that 10 small business owners talk about from their own perspectives, using their own experience.

Do you recognise the Top Ten challenges we identified?

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  1. The economy. How to prosper whatever the economy throws at you.
  2. Famine or feast. Smoothing out fluctuations in demand.
  3. Debt burden. Planning your finances.
  4. Efficiency and staff management. How to deal with the issues and impacts.
  5. Overheads. Dealing with operation needs while maintaining profitability.
  6. Profitability. How to understand profitability.
  7. Processes. How to monitor and understand what works.
  8. Strategic Focus. Do you know your vision and have a plan to get there?  Click here to read
  9. Sensible decision making. How to make good evidence based decisions.
  10. Too close to your business that you can’t see the wood for the trees?  Click here to read

Top Ten Business ChallengesThe Top Ten Challenges for Businesses as they Grow?

Everyone likes lists. Admit it!

The way to pull readers to your blog is to discuss the top ten/best five/the greatest, etc., etc. I like lists and I’m sure you do too.

I’ve been in business for more years than I care to remember and after a while you get to spot the same issues coming round time and time again.

I’m going to be honest here. It’s not THE top ten (I’ve asked a lots of business people whose opinion I value for their thoughts and they came up with similar, but not exactly the same, lists), it’s not necessarily even MYtop ten because that judgement is clouded by which issues I’ve seen more of in the immediately preceding period of my business life. It is however Atop ten and they are the top ten that seem to be facing entrepreneurs at the time of writing.

I value feedback. I mean it – I crave feedback, without which I will never add to my own learning. If you think there is an area I’ve not covered, get in touch as I’m sure I will want to follow this up with another set once this ten is completed.

I’ve got a couple of borderline cases that could have made the cut this time and I’m sure I will want to cover next time out. Why not let me know areas you would like to see covered and I’ll see what I can add to the second list?

eBookI’m going to summarise the areas that will be covered by the series of posts, below. The intention is to publish around one a month with an eBook at the end drawing the whole narrative together in one place.

I’m not going to write ALL the topics myself – the clue’s in the business name The Outsourced Finance Director – just like in the day job where, if I want HR expertise I’ll bring in an expert in the field, I’m seeking to get entries outside my immediate proficiency, written by people who are experts in their field.

In this summary I’m not going to give answers – they will be highlighted (to an extent at least – there are a number, if not the bulk, of areas where there is no magic bullet, no panacea, just some thoughts that may help you on your journey – in the individual posts in the coming months).

They are not even going to be in the same order as the list below, although I do expect the eBook to have the summary/index in the same order as the contents! To do otherwise would be just a little too avant garde… possibly even for me.

The author lives and works in the south of the United Kingdom but has expertise over both import and export issues and I hope these matters will be relevant in most jurisdictions throughout the world.

There will of course be various issues of a legal and/or taxation nature that will change from country to country and maybe even by city/county/state but these areas are deliberately excluded from detailed consideration and you should seek an expert in these topics in your own jurisdiction before entering into any contract upon which you will need to rely.

Balancing CoinsI’ve worked for many years as an accountant but, over the years, I’ve discovered that businesses really DON’T get off on a set of statutory accounts and a tax return (with maybe one exception I have to say but he is a touch geek-y) and so I’ve always sought to give value to a client relationship – work with me and I’ll TRY and help you make more money/have a better lifestyle/etc., etc., etc.

Doesn’t always work. I had a coaching-style conversation with one prospective client a few years ago and at the end of our talk he’d decided to knock it on the head. It’s probably for the best, it was an awful franchise model and didn’t suit his demeanour but you do have to have the talk…

I’ve also had a business fail on me. The recession of 2007-08 was not kind and a business I was intimately involved with failed spectacularly just before Christmas and the directors’ personal guarantees cost me hundreds of thousands of £s. I’d like to say I learned all I know from the experience but it was horribly destructive, incredibly hurtful and it took me ages to get over making the whole of the staff redundant just a couple of weeks before Christmas. Never want to go there again.

So, here is “a” list of Top Ten Challenges, which are facing businesses, today, that can be addressed and managed with early intervention.

Don’t Just Cope … Take Control

  1. The economy is a fragile commodity, with the words recession and credit crunch putting fear into businesses large and small and of course the unknown detail of Brexit, which is now on everyone’s mind. Can you survive, nay prosper, whatever turns the economy may take?
  2. Famine or feast – often referred to as peaks and troughs can impact on your cash-flow and progression. Does your business suffer from feast and famine and can you plan your business to smooth the fluctuations if seasonality does have to be part of the cycle?
  3. Debt burden – can spiral out of control if not managed and without a planned repayment/self-sustaining solution in place. Do you understand what causes the fluctuations and what you can do to manage the ups and downs?
  4. Efficiency and staff management can have a real impact on your business growth. In every business there are pinch points. Do you understand where they are and how to mitigate their effect?
  5. Overheads – expensive premises, equipment and non-productive staff due to poor management. Or outside circumstances. It can’t be your bad management, can it? How can you run an efficient operation and balance ambience of operation against affordability?
  6. Profitability – how do you evaluate the things you do to ensure you are making the most out of your productivity to ensure your profits are up?
  7. Processes – do you have processes and procedures to monitor every aspect of your business and are your staff following these procedures?
  8. Strategic Focus – have you created your business plan to monitor progress and set deadlines and goals to ensure steady growth? Does your staff buy in to your vision? Do they even understand what your vision is? Do YOU even know what it is?  Click here to read
  9. Sensible decision making – do you have your finances available to you in real time to allow you to make informed decisions? Do you explore every avenue before committing or are they often knee jerk reactions on impulse?
  10. Too close to your business that you can’t see the wood for the trees?  Click here to read

So that’s the plan. I hope it will build into a manual of reference material and guidance that you can use on your business journey. Sign up for notifications direct to your inbox of the availability of the next episode in the saga. I’ll not use the details to spam you. That is a promise.

Undoubtedly some areas will overlap. If they do I will seek to put in place tags to take you to the relevant material but these will grow over the life of the project so my team will seek to backlink to sections already written.

It only remains for me to wish you well on your business journey.

Not everyone will make it; some will end up in a totally different place to where they intended to go but I hope in some small way I can help you on that journey.

Colin Bielckus
The OFD

Thanks to TBN Member, Colin Bielckus for allowing us to repost his blog, originally published here.